An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links
to Mythologies, Fairy Tales & Folklore,
Sacred Arts & Traditions

Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.




Andean Peoples:
Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia & northern Chile


Peru & Neighboring Countries
Map from Lonely Planet

Author's Note:

The Andean origin myths begin with Lake Titicaca on the border between Bolivia and Peru.  So we too will begin there, high on the Andean plateau, 12,500 feet above the sea, where blue waters, rock and winds all touch and intermingle.....

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca's Island of the Sun
(From The Mountain Institute: also see below)

This is an excellent 8-page excerpt by Alan Kolata from his book, Valley of the Spirits: a Journey into the Lost Realm of the Aymara (1996).  It is a well written, carefully researched report on variant versions of the origination myth of the creator god, Viracocha, who rose from the waters of Lake Titicaca and from there designed all of creation.  If you love lore, don't miss this one.

This brief, but beautifully photographed (images are clickable) site on Lake Titicaca's Island of the Sun comes from West Virginia's prestigious The Mountain Institute (some of their work is sponsored by the National Geographic Society):

Deified by the Tiahuanaco culture, Titicaca is still honored today as a sacred site connected to Viracocha, the Inca creator deity associated with mountain cults and water.

A link will take you to another of their Andean projects, the Huascaran National Park.  (Another link takes you to the Institute's home page, if you're interested in their impressive work with worldwide sacred mountains.)

UCLA's Institute of Archaeology sponsors a large number of brief "capsule" pages devoted to the archaeological work of its researchers.  This short page looks at recent work being done by Dr. Chip Stanish at a site inhabited by the Tiwanaku (400-1000 AD) near the northern shore in the Lake Titicaca Basin of highland Peru and Bolivia.  Other sites in the region "span more than six millennia of human occupation."  The page offers a great bibliography of Stanish's published papers; several are online.....[continued below]

.... "Islands of the Sun and the Moon" is Dr. Stanish's separate website on the islands of Lake Titicaca.  Here, he looks at the ancient Tiwanaku and Aymara kingdoms, which pre-dated the Incas by many centuries.  The site is illustrated with fine photos (some are clickable).  In his "Archaeological Summary" section, you'll find a beautifully detailed, very lengthy account of the region's history, lore, sanctuaries, priests, priestesses, peoples, and traditions.  His travel page offers highly specific advice about traveling to such a remote region (e.g., under Etiquette: "Toilet paper should be burnt after use
and waste should be buried").  There is also an excellent bibliography. (See directly below for ancient Tiwanaku ceramics.)

Tiwanaku Vases
(Dr. Chip Stanish: see directly above for his website)

This site is on the Aymara people in the Late Titicaca region.  It's fairly dry and technical, but the data is sound and there are fine references at the end.

More accessible is this home page for the Aymara, an ancient people who lived in the region of Lake Titicaca and who first domesticated the potato, which in its wild form is native to that region -- the Aymara had more than 200 varieties.  A brief overview is found on this home page but if you click on "Full story..." at the end of this overview, you'll find a useful paper giving many more details.  The home page also offers good links to the Aymara language and culture.  The site is in both English and Spanish.
(Flaw:  it's a Geocities site, which means an ad pops up everytime you move to a new page.  Just click on the "X" in the top right corner of each ad to get rid of it.  You can also simply scroll down the page, and it'll disappear, but then you'll be left with a slew of tiny icons at the bottom of your screen that will later need to be clicked on and "closed," individually.)

This is an illustrated site about Lake Titicaca -- it begins with a large map of the lake and its islands; it also has fine, large photos, including one of an ancient Tiahuanaco temple.  There's useful data on the island peoples, the Aymara-speaking Urus, a people who make reed boats (they helped Thor Heyerdahl) and who were unfortunately "despised and neglected" by the Incas, the Spaniards, and every Peruvian government since then.  (The site is another one hosted by Geocities -- since it's a long page, there's only a single ad at the beginning, which is easily gotten rid of.)

"Lake Titicaca and the Floating Islands of the Uros" is a series of detailed, wonderful (clickable) photos of the human-made reed islands (see above) inhabited by the Uros (or Urus) people.  Many Peruvian sites feature tourist photos, but what makes this site by Andrys Basten so exceptional is the high quality of the photos as well as the fact that she weaves in literate, carefully researched commentary with related press releases by free lance journalists and her own gentle, funny experiences as a tourist.  This creates an unusually fine experiential dimension.  I came away with a vivid sense that I had been there too, interacting with these patient indigenous peoples and their shaky, watery realm.  (Note: Basten's site offers an easy-to-navigate index [click at the bottom of her page]; from there you can explore Colca Canyon, Arequipa, Ollantaytambo, Cuzco, and Pisac.  Her Machu Picchu section is separately listed below.)

The Incas & Earlier Andean Peoples

"EarthMother" [see directly below]
Contemporary wall-hanging (reproducing ancient textiles and sculpture)
by Lydia Ruyle
For details plus six more of Ruyle's vibrant Pachamamas, see Labyrinthina.

This is a brief two-line entry on Pachamama from "Encyclopedia Mythica."  If you click on her consort's name, Pachacamac, you'll go to an eerie myth involving his neglect of creation, and what happens as a result.

This page based on University of Michigan data and art also looks at the mythology around Pachamama, the Earth-mother of the Andean peoples.  The site has a three-tiered structure, one for beginners, one for intermediate levels, one for advanced -- this creates annoying redundancies, but the page is brief, handsome, and worth a look regardless. (Note: sometimes it's impossible to get through to this site; at other times, even when it's online, it won't load properly.  Be patient.)

This site by Dennis E. Ogburn from the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara looks at two Incan origin myths and the founding of Cuzco.  One myth looks at the cave of Pacariqtambo, south of Cuzco;  the other looks at Lake Titicaca.  (Related links explore general overviews of various topics.)

Most travel companies offer brief information on a given area's history and culture, but none of them, in my experience, offer anything as grand as this page from International Expeditions.  Against a muted "old map" background, this site is one long and wonderfully inclusive page on Peruvian history, lore, and culture (e.g., how the bone-flute originated; a list of deities; human sacrifice; clothing and jewelry; the calendar).  The actual data in each section tends to be brief, but the number of topics touched upon is huge.  (Note: the page can be quirky about loading -- be patient.)

More comprehensive than the preceding site is this wonderful one -- it's divided into a great many pages on widely varied subjects, including Incan religion (see below for a direct link), the religious significance of coca leaves (see below for a direct link), Incan architecture, lithic technology, city planning, road building, the condor's importance, llamas and other cameloids, and various Incan sites, including Cuzco (Qosqo) and Machu Picchu.  There are only a few photos (accessible only through hypertext) but the writing is thoughtful, detailed and an obvious labor of love by Vicente Goyzueta, an author and native of Peru.

This is another page by Vicente Goyzueta, this time on "Inkan Religion."  It is rich and detailed.

"Initiation of Machu Picchu"
oil on linen, 84"x 96"(1992)
Copyright (c) by Judy Jashinsky
[Permission Pending]

The artist's comments

"The young man is given his first coca leaf.
Chewing the leaf helps him be a man in balance.
(The coca leaf is to cocaine what rye bread is to rye whiskey.)"

My comments

South American plants like coca and tobacco were native to specific eco-systems and used in a sacred, ritual way by generations of people who had grown up sharing that same distinctive eco-system, including its storms, altitude, water, soil, and sunlight.  These peoples understood that certain plants were divinely-given portals into the sacred, not escapes from reality.

One of the tragedies of the New World is that these sacred plants were ignorantly usurped by conquerers from alien ecosystems and turned into sources, not of the sacred, but of addiction, misery, and crime.  This has gravely threatened a fragile balance that will take enormous cooperation between many peoples, both indigenous and Western, if the balance is ever to be restored.

This is Vicente Goyzueta's lucid, thoughtful, disturbing essay on indigenous spiritual, oracular, and medicinal use of coca leaves, and how the Spaniards dealt with coca's existence when they enslaved these peoples and forced them to work in their mines.  (For another excellent related link on the history and religious use of coca in the Andes of Bolivia, see: Bolivia Coca Trade.  This link also discusses the troubling environmental damage being done today by pesticides and the chemicals used to convert coca to cocaine.)

This is another of Goyzueta's fine essays, this time on Incan agriculture, its religious roots, and the amazingly varied plants that originated in this region, including maize (cultivated about 1000 years earlier than in Mexico), potatoes, peanuts, squash, pumpkins, lima beans, and many spices.

The Loka Institute of Amherst, MA presents a scholarly paper, "Science, Andean Wisdom, and Other Ways of Knowing," by Marcie Abramson Sclove.  It's a plain, no frills site, but I found the data both exciting and moving.  Sclove looks at the attitudes of indigenous Andean farmers toward their land, crops, and all other humans.  Here's an excerpt, worth quoting in full:

....The farmers do not view the West as dominant; they approach Western ideas from an equal and self-assured position.  They liken colonialism to the challenges of hail or pests in the fields.  Again Grillo explains:

"When frost or hail falls in the fields of our peasant   communities, it is because some of us have disturbed the harmony of the world with our incorrect conduct.  Similarly, the arrival of the Spanish invaders is due to a perturbance in the harmony of our own world.  To free ourselves from colonialization we have to recuperate our own harmony.  Then it will be impossible to colonize us, just as a healthy and      strong person, in whom life flows fully, illness cannot   penetrate.  It is not a question of acting directly against the invader, because while we remain perturbed another can always come and invade us." [2]

This diological stance with respect to Western influences is identical to the Andeans' way of interacting with all other human cultures, as well as with all non-human beings.  In their world view, relationships among people are not privileged over relationships between humans and the stars, rivers, plants, and animals.  It is through nurturing and letting oneself be nurtured--through dialogue and reciprocity--that the world exists.


The author at Machu Picchu, September 1975
[Photo by Dorothy Jenks]

This is an entry level approach to Peru's most famous site, "A Home in the Clouds: Machu Picchu."  Hypertext will take you to more details on various aspects.  It comes from "" (formerly the Mining Company).

This is a rich, lengthy, detailed paper by Vicente Goyzueta on the history, geography, and archaeology of Machu Picchu.  Click on the hypertext throughout for photos of the temples and other ruins.

This is an engaging series of stunning Machu Picchu photos and evocative descriptions by Andrys Basten (see above under Lake Titicaca), who had long wished to go to Peru and take photographs.  After seeing a NOVA repeat on the Incas in 1997, she and a friend spontaneously left three weeks later.  Andrys captures the magic of the place and, as with her Lake Titicaca section, really makes you feel as if you're right there with her, especially when a bad fall curtails the rest of her adventure.  She generously includes links to photos by others when they help to clarify her comments.

This site, recommended to me by Andrys Basten (see above), features 12 clickable thumbnails of Karl Grobl's photography, all of Peruvians, except for the last two, which are stunning views of Machu Picchu.  Especially noteworthy is one in which a pocket of clouds emerged out of nowhere, floating eerily below the mountainous heights of Machu Picchu.

This is a beautiful, somberly lit 132K. photo of Machu Picchu -- no text, just the sheer beauty of this single photo.  It might take 40-60 seconds to fully load, but it's worth the wait.  The balance between the solitary tree at the bottom and the terraces stretching up to the moody skyscape is thrilling.  Andrys Basten (see above) sent me this link.  We obviously share the opinion that it's impossible to have too many good photos of Machu Picchu!


From Traditional Andean Textiles site
(see directly below)

This site has only minimal text on traditional Andean textiles, but it offers hypertext links to several nice photos (see directly above), as well as links to an alpaca breeder in New England and an importer of textiles from Bolivia.

Except for a clumsily animated llama at the top of the page, the rest of this site is very attractive and well designed.  It comes from the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, Peru, a special project of Cultural Survival in Cambridge, MA.  It offers a number of excellent photos of traditional, brightly colored textiles (see below) as well as intriguing data.  The Center's purpose " to help preserve and celebrate Andean textiles and assist their makers in carrying on a tradition practiced for more than 2000 years."

This is a tantalizingly brief page by Dr. Cathy Lynn Costin of UCLA's Institute of Archaeology.  Her highland Peru project is to "investigate the effects of Inka conquest and imperial incorporation on the indigenous Wanka population of the Yanamarca Valley."  There are several photos as well as a summary of her conclusions, which include the fact that the textile "tax burden fell largely on the female population."  (If the topic grips you, you might e-mail the author directly for updates on papers in journals or elsewhere.)

This site by Jorge Ruiz, a native Ecuadorian, looks at Inca culture in terms of its pottery, gold, and masonry.  There are many beautiful photos of art (not all are yet identified).  There is also a fine section on the history of the Incans in Ecuador.

This is a lovely, well written little page on Andean music by Marcelo Villacres....

....This illustrated site, again by Villacres, continues with fascinating data on wind and percussion instruments from the Andes.

Moche Toad Vessel
1-300 AD
Courtesy of  The Barakat Gallery
[Note: click on "Certificate of Authenticity" for further data]

This is another tantalizingly brief page from UCLA's Institute of Archaeology. This time it's on Dr. Glenn Russell's work with ceramic art and musical instruments at a Peruvian Moche site (600-800 AD).  (Again, if the topic grips you, you might e-mail the author directly for updates on papers in journals or elsewhere.)

Chavin Terracotta Feline
900-500 BCE
Courtesy of  The Barakat Gallery
[Note: click on "Certificate of Authenticity" for further data]

This is a lengthy, detailed, well documented paper by Jennifer Glass on     "Metalsmithing in Peru: from the Chavin to the Inca."  Of special interest is the religious significance of metals to various Andean cultures from the Chavin in 1200 B.C.E. to the Incas twenty-six centuries later.


Chinchero Woven Belt:
Toad Figure (associated with rain, growth, and altered states)
From the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, Peru [see above]

This site from the University of Pennsylvania Press looks at their books on South America.  Most are on Peru although a few cover other countries.  The choices are excellent and you can order on-line.

Much more to come -- please be patient


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Text and Design:
Copyright 1999 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.

Page begun 25 June 1999, 2am-ish; put online 10 July 1999
Latest update: 24 July 1999