Friday, June 15, 2012

Books Read - Book 23 - Cochineal Red, Travels through Ancient Peru

Cochineal Red, TravelsThrough Ancient Peru by Hugh Thompson
Books Read - Cochineal Red, TravelsThrough Ancient Peru
by Hugh Thompson
June 2012

Anyone can find a ruin in the jungle, but it can take a lifetime to understand what you have found

~ John Hemming, in the book Cochineal Red by Hugh Thompson ~

I wished I had read this book before I went to Peru.  My experience would have been all the richer for the understanding I have gained about Peru’s history and cultures. Now that I see Peru with new eyes, I want to return even more than ever.

expected a memoir by an archeologist to be dry and academic, but Cochineal Red is far from being dull…..on the contrary, it is a very enjoyable and interesting account of Hugh Thomson’s travels in Peru to find Llactapata and his quest to understand the Inca and pre-Columbian cultures, a quest spanning more than a quarter of a century, and which took him on many journeys throughout Peru.

Most tourists have heard of Machu Picchu, the famous landmark in Peru. But directly opposite Machu Picchu, across the valley, stands Llactapata, a lesser known site, but to the Incas it is probably a more important site than Machu Picchu.

The first chapters describes how Hugh Thompson and his team found Llactapata after a failed attempt some years back. Later chapters takes us to Caral, the pyramids of the Moche, the Nasca Lines, the Temple of the Sun on Lake Titicaca and a pilgrimage on foot to the glaciers far above the Sinakara Valley where the Qoyllurit’i festival…..with representatives from tribes all over Peru, from the mountains to the amazon jungle….reaches its climax and the crucifix known as El Senor de Tayankani, or Lord of Qoyllurit’i, is returned to its shrine high across the mountains
The book ends with a return to Llactapata and the realization of the importance of astronomy to the Inca’s, in particular the group of stars known to us as the “Seven Sisters”, by which the Inca’s could foretell four months in advance what the weather was going to be like, and whether it was going to be a good harvest that year.

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