Classical Dialogues: Killing Mummies–On Inka Epistemology and Imperial Power by Terence D’Altroy

As part of its Classical Dialogues series, the Classical Studies Graduate Program CLST at Columbia University is pleased to welcome Terence D’Altroy, Loubat Professor of American Archaeology in the Department of Archaeology at Columbia University. On Friday December 4, 9-11am, Professor D’Altroy will discuss his recent article “Killing Mummies: On Inka Epistemology and Imperial Power.” Location: Schermerhorn Hall 934, Columbia University. Please see below Terence D’Altroy’s abstract:


The simultaneous close of the last Inka dynastic war and the Spanish invasion of the Andes were punctuated by two moments of iconoclasm – the incineration of two royal mummies, one by the Inkas and one by the Spaniards. Neither action was wanton, but they require radically different explanations. The Christians were most concerned with blasphemy and diabolical utterance, while explaining the Andean act requires exploring their concepts of vitality, death, landscape, and causality. This paper focuses on the latter topic, examining what the Inkas thought they were accomplishing by destroying the living icon of a deified ancestor.

In its Classical Dialogues series, the interdepartmental Classical Studies Graduate Progam CLST at Columbia University invites authors of recent work in ancient studies that is exemplary for the kind of study that CLST aims to foster. All faculty and students at Columbia and beyond are cordially invited. CLST students are required to read carefully at least one chapter or article in advance and prepare questions and comments for discussion.

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