Saturday 9 March 2013

Old New World News: The Great Inca Rebellion That Nobody Knew About for 400 years!

If this is old hat for you, feel free to browse the Subversive Archaeologist for something you didn't know before. BUT, for you who, like me, were one of the last people on the planet to still think that Pizarro and a couple of hundred treasure hunters single-handedly [well, I guess that would be 200 handedly] brought down the Inca Empire, read on and feast on the video embedded here, courtesy of the United States Public Broadcasting System.

This film, The Great Inca Rebellion, tells the story of two Peruvian archaeologists who undertook excavation of a huge Inca cemetery on the outskirts of Lima, and who, in the early 2000s found compelling evidence for events that one had only imagined must have occurred during Pizzaro's rape of the Inca Empire. Instead of a couple of hundred swashbuckling Spaniards overthrowing the Inca and his empire, Pizarro and his men did so with the willing assistance of those groups who had fallen under the thumb of the aforementioned Inca, Atahualpa

They say that history is written by the victors. In this case you might even want to say that history was rewritten over and over again by the victors, to such a degree that the hired help just disappeared from everyone's consciousness, leaving Pizarro making bank to the detriment of the 'heathens.' 

And so, when it came time for the archaeologists to interpret what they were seeing in the most-recent stratigraphic position in this cemetery, they needed to think well 'outside the box' of history. If you were previously unaware of this work, you'll be as impressed as I was by the detective work, even before the forensic ringers from the States appear on the scene.

This is a story about some present-day and archaeological 'local heroes.' Prepare to be impressed and heartened by the outcome. The bastards who razed the Inca Empire didn't do it without some serious assistance. [Much, it turns out, as in the case of Hernán Cortés, who ransacked the Aztecs ONLY with the help of a multitude of disaffected nearby peoples that had been previously conquered by Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin (A.K.A. Montezuma or Moctezuma) c. 1466--29 June 1520.]

Watch The Great Inca Rebellion on PBS. See more from NOVA. Or view at YouTube

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  1. The most important person for the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica was...Jeronimo de Aguilar. Why? Well he had been shipwrecked and landed on the Maya coast where he lived for half a dozen years, learned the language and so when Cortes's men "rescued" him he was able to translate for them as they gathered the sympathetic anti-Aztec peoples. There were also translators for Pizarro, I understand.

    There is a great paper on Peru: Cahill, D. (2008). Advanced Andeans and backward Europeans: structure and agency in the collapse of the Inca empire. In P. McAnany & N. Yoffee (Eds.), Questioning Collapse: human resilience, ecological vulnerability, and the aftermath of Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


  2. Hi Rob, thank you for this. I tried to cover a lot of this ground in a review of Myths of the Spanish Conquest – Indigenous Allies & Politics of Empire, which included a discussion of this film and used the Cahill article cited by Iain above. I've now updated that with a link back to your review!

  3. Hi, Jason.
    Thanks for the link to your review, Jason. It well repays the read. But I'm a little concerned by your magnanimity in calling my hasty and superficial introduction a 'review.' How will I ever be able to trust your judgement again! ;-)
    Thanks for dropping by. See you around the 'tubes.'


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