Peruvian Archaeology

Production Date: 
Lyman Judson, Ph.D.
Unknown male narrator
Run Time: 
Pan-American Union

Establishing shot: Opens with chart detailing cultural/historical periods of early Peru.  Includes:  Nomadic Tribes, Chavin Period, Early Period, Middle Period, Late Period, and Inca Empire Period, and ends with Spanish Conquest in 1532.  First live-action shot is a long shot of the Andes with group of people walking along gravel road in the foreground.


Named locations: Lake Titicaca (5:03); Chan Chan (5:32); Cusco (6:36, 7:10); Temple of the Sun (7:15); Saksaywaman (7:46); Machu Picchu (8:26).
Major themes covered: Discusses various cultural histories of Inca and pre-Inca Peru.  The film’s archaeological perspective uses artifacts like pottery and architectural ruins like those of Machu Picchu and Saksaywaman to construct such histories. 

Native activities shown: 

Unidentified indigenous peoples’ activities depicted in the film: young boy molding clay pot (3:27)*; women passing some sort of garland with big clumps of what looks like wool, perhaps spooling thread? (7:44); man herding llamas (8:03); young boy climbing projecting stone steps (8:25)*; women climbing stairs (9:20).

*note: there is no visual evidence to support the idea that either one of these young boys is indigenous, but their activity has been included here in case it may be of interest.

Mochica activities implied or alluded to in the film: using pottery to depict daily life and culture (2:28);

Inca activities implied or alluded to in the film: expansion of the Inca empire (6:40); building Temple of the Sun (Inticancha/Koricancha) without mortar (7:17); frequently visiting Saksaywaman (7:45); Inca use of terrace/ “staircase” agriculture (8:10);

Other moments of interest: Hiram Bingham talks about his 1912 expedition (8:42).

Individuals Named: None.
Native language spoken: None

Print Resources:

Benson, Elizabeth P. The Mochica: A Culture of Peru. New York: Praeger, 1972.

     *Extensive study looks at myths, architecture, and livelihood of Mochica culture.  Includes examples of pottery like the kind discussed in this film, and a wide variety of illustrations and graphics.

Bingham, Hiram. Machu Picchu, a Citadel of the Incas. New York: Hacker Art Books, 1979.

     *Includes Hiram Bingham’s original report on the discovery and excavation of Machu Picchu.  Presents findings and details of 1911, 1912, and 1915 expeditions and excavations.

Blasco, Bosqued M. C, and Gómez L. J. Ramos. Cerámica Nazca. Valladolid: Seminario Americanista de la Universidad de Valladolid, 1980.

      *Informative Spanish-language book describes archaeological efforts to preserve Nazca pottery.  Includes many examples of Nazca pottery along with pictures.

Burger, Richard L, and Lucy C. Salazar. Machu Picchu: Unveiling the Mystery of the Incas. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.

      *More recent and oft-cited collection of studies of Machu Picchu.  Includes chapters on Bingham’s discovery of Machu Picchu, the significance of Machu Picchu as an Inca royal estate, and the contemporary issues revolving around Machu Picchu.

Fenninger, Tomas.  “The Extraordinary Striated Outcrop at Saqsaywaman, Peru.” Geography Society of America Bulletin.  89.4 (1978): 494-503.   

      *Provides a geologist’s perspective on the unique andesite rocks used in construction of Saqsaywaman.

Malpass, Michael A. Daily Life in the Inca Empire. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1996. 

      *Provides broad overview of ancient Inca way of life.  According to the Handbook of Latin American Studies review, Malpass “Looks at everyday life in the Inca empire, based on current research. Reconstructs Inca way of life using information on life-cycle events, food and drink, dress and ornaments, recreation, religious rituals, the calendar, and the labor tax.”

Miller, Virginia E. The Role of Gender in Precolumbian Art and Architecture. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1988.

       *Collection of papers presented at the 45th International Congress of Americanists, in Bogotá, Colombia, July, 1985.  Includes studies of representations of femininity in pre-Columbian and Mochica pottery, gender and sexuality, and the Pachamama.

Moseley, Michael E, and Kent C. Day. Chan Chan, Andean Desert City. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982.

     *Academic volume collects various essays about Chan Chan in order to give a comprehensive study of the site.  Includes essays exploring the design, architecture and chamber-rooms of Chan Chan.

Niles, Susan A. The Shape of Inca History: Narrative and Architecture in an Andean Empire. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1999.

     *Explores connection between history/historical narrative and architecture in Inca society, with special emphasis on time of Huayna Capac’s reign.  From the book jacket: “Susan Niles considers the ways in which the Inca concept of history informed their narratives, rituals, and architecture. Using sixteenth-century chronicles of Inca culture, legal documents from the first generation of conquest, and field investigation of architectural remains, she strategically explores the interplay of oral and written histories with the architectural record and provides a new and exciting understanding of the lives of the royal families on the eve of conquest.

Rowe, John H, and Dorothy Menzel. Peruvian Archaeology: Selected Readings. Palo Alto, CA: Peek Publications, 1967.

      *Anthology contains studies on Chavin, Mochica, Nazca, Chimu and Tiahuanaco cultures.  Covers significance of various artifacts and objects, like pottery and whistling jars, and also the archaeological sites where those artifacts were found, like Huaca Prieta.

Wright, Kenneth R, and Zegarra A. Valencia. Machu Picchu: A Civil Engineering Marvel.  Reston, VA: American Society of Civil Engineers, 2000.

     *Thorough exploration of various engineering aspects of Machu Picchu.  Includes chapters on hydraulic engineering, irrigation, construction of stone walls, and others.  Concludes with a civil engineering tour of Machu Picchu.

Online Resources:

British Museum page on Incas:

Short article gives broad overview of Inca life, economics, politics, and religion.  Includes snippet on Inticancha (Coricancha) and links to Inca artifacts housed at the museum.

UNESCO World Heritage Site page on Machu Picchu:

Multimedia page presents information on the history and cultural significance of Machu Picchu among the Incas.  Also includes variety of links to other informative pages.

UNESCO World Heritage Site “City of Cuzco” page:

Multimedia page includes a wide variety of cultural and historical information about Cuzco, Peru.  Discusses historical and architectural encounters between Inca and Spanish peoples as they are manifested in the city of Cuzco.

UNESCO World Heritage Site on Chan Chan:


Multimedia page provides history and description of Chan Chan, along with discussion of

endangerment of the site and efforts to protect and preserve it.

Official Municipality of Cuzco government website:

Spanish-language site features current events and news items for Cuzco.

Peruvian government site for Chan Chan:

Thorough multimedia Spanish-language site includes information on history, cultural significance, and present-day conservation efforts.  Also includes information on Chimu culture.

Discover Peru page on Mochica pottery:

Brief overview of Mochica and Inca pottery discusses various practical and ceremonial uses of pottery, with a few insights into the production of the pottery and the intention of the designs on the pottery.

Smithsonian article on Chan Chan:

Informative page includes history of Chan Chan, beginning with its significance as Chimu metropolis and seat of Chimu empire, and continuing through Inca conquest.  Discusses contemporary concerns about erosion at Chan Chan that threatens to wipe the site out of existence.  Links to photo gallery.


--Adam Iddings, 2013