The History of the Incas may be the best
description of Inca life and mythology to survive Spanish
colonization of Peru. Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, a well-educated
sea captain and cosmographer of the viceroyalty, wrote the document
in Cuzco, the capital of the Inca Empire, just forty years after
the arrival of the first Spaniards. The royal sponsorship of the
work guaranteed Sarmiento direct access to the highest Spanish
officials in Cuzco. It allowed him to summon influential Incas,
especially those who had witnessed the fall of the Empire.
Sarmiento also traveled widely and interviewed numerous local lords
(curacas), as well as surviving members of the royal Inca
families. Once completed, in an unprecedented effort to establish
the authenticity of the work, Sarmiento's manuscript was read,
chapter by chapter, to forty-two indigenous authorities for
commentary and correction.
The scholars behind this new edition (the first to be published
in English since 1907) went to similarly great lengths in pursuit
of accuracy. Translators Brian Bauer and Vania Smith used an early
transcript and, in some instances, the original document to create
the text. Bauer and Jean-Jacques Decoster's introduction lays bare
the biases Sarmiento incorporated into his writing. It also
theorizes what sources, in addition to his extensive interviews,
Sarmiento relied upon to produce his history. Finally, more than
sixty new illustrations enliven this historically invaluable
document of life in the ancient Andes.
Subjects: History, Archaeology
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