Peruvians - Arthur H. Noll

The Civilization of the Peruvians

The Golden Peruvian Age.—The times of Huayna Capac were undoubtedly the Golden Age of the Peruvians and present to best advantage the opportunity for our study of what is often very carelessly called their civilization. We would speak more accurately if we called it a study of their culture, or of their institutions.

How much of the culture of the Peruvians was an inheritance from the Piruas it would be impossible to say. However, inasmuch as they were the only American aborigines that ever domesticated any other animal than the dog; and as they had produced several highly cultivated varieties of maize, and had developed the potato from its wild state and produced a great number of edible varieties, it is assumed that the process of this development must have begun considerably back of the time of Manco Capac. The llama was developed from the same stock with the wild guanaco, and was in the time of Huayna Capac a very useful beast of burden, though never used for riding, nor for any other draft purposes than in plowing. It yielded a coarse wool also. It is, to-day, as thoroughly domesticated as the cow or sheep in other countries. The alpaca was developed from the stock of the wild vicunya for its yield of fine, soft wool, and it has actually become so thoroughly domesticated that it is unable to live without man's care. Neither the llama nor the alpaca were cultivated for their milk. The guanaco and the vicunya are, to-day, as wild as the chamois, and refuse to recognize any kinship with the llama and alpaca, and we are assured that such a complete revolution in the nature of these animals could only have taken place through centuries of cultivation.

So with regard to the cultivation of maize, cotton and the potato. The latter was introduced into Europe from Peru in the latter part of the sixteenth century and was very slow in coming into general favor there. The high state of perfection to which the Peruvians brought it implies the lapse of considerable time since they began to work upon its wild form.

In cultivating such vegetables the Peruvians practiced irrigation on a large scale and enriched their soil by the use of guano brought from the islands of the Pacific. As we have seen, it is this careful and methodical tillage of the soil, with the use of domesticated animals for other purposes than hunting, that marks the arrival of the Peruvians at the middle period of barbarism. They must have reached this status at a much earlier date than any other known native people of either American continent.

This cultivation of the soil must be called horticulture rather than agriculture. Nature had not been profuse in the provision of arable land, and the Peruvians were of necessity exceedingly economical of what they had. They built their houses upon the rocky hills, and the deserts or sides of barren cliffs were used for burial-places in order that no spot of cultivable land should be used for any other purpose than for the raising of such vegetable productions as they found useful for the support of life.

By artificial means more cultivable lands were created. The mountain sides were terraced up for thousands of feet, and earth was brought in baskets on the shoulders of men and laid upon the bare rocks, until, by the patient labor of years, garden spots were made. And without any knowledge of iron; or of any labor-saving implements, they applied irrigation more successfully and more extensively than any other people. Many of their canals, reservoirs and terraced gardens have been allowed to crumble by their Spanish successors; yet modern Peru is living largely upon the half-ruined fragments of the mighty works wrought by aborigines who were in the middle status of barbarism.

Private property in land did not exist. All belonged to the tribe and was from time to time allotted to the kins. Each kin received a portion of land called a topu, which was sufficient to produce enough for the support of the members of the kin. All lands capable of being cultivated within easy reach of each settlement were divided into three parts. One was devoted to the Sun, or to the support of the tribal religion; one was devoted to the Inca, who was thus supported out of the common tribal property; the third part was devoted to the people at large. Every person was obliged to work, all males being divided into classes according to age and strength, and suitable labor was assigned to each. Turns were taken at the irrigation works according to fixed rules. By this community of interest in the products of toil store houses became necessary, and scarcity in one section was made up from the plenty in others.

This horticulture was carried on by means of the crudest kind of implements. Iron mines were in existence in the Andes, but the Peruvians knew not how to work the ore. Their use of copper was as a stone, to be wrought as they had in their Stone Age worked flint and other stone into axes and spearheads. Their ploughs were made of hard wood, and were dragged through the ground by men, possibly sometimes by the llamas. Yet, with all their successful domestication of animals, the Peruvians knew no pastoral life. There was no such property in animals as that which rendered Abraham, the great patriarch of the book of Genesis, rich. The llamas and alpacas were the common tribal possession, as was the land and apparently everything else.

The Arts.—The Peruvians had developed the art of spinning cotton and the long hair of the alpaca to a high degree of excellence; the dying of the yarn to perfection; and their skillful weaving of the figured cloths and tapestry furnished employment to a great number of people, owing to the quality and variety of the fabrics for which there was demand. Many of the fabrics they produced were of double cloth, showing the same colors and patterns on both sides. Some of them were decorated with embroidered designs, in which they made free use of feathers. They made a pleasing selection of the colors they used, and among the ornaments they applied were geometrical figures repeated in long lines after the manner of the Greeks. Peculiar to the decorators of the Peruvian fabrics was the conventional treatment of the human figure, of birds, fishes and animals. It is somewhat curious that the beautiful flora of the country was altogether absent as an element of their decoration. They wove coarser cloth of llama wool, and still coarser fabrics of animal sinews and aloe fiber.

The art of the weaver was influenced by the dress of the people. We are fortunate in having some description of the dress of the Inca, which probably differed from the dress of the common people only in the character of the ornaments it carried. This dress consisted of a shirt of cotton, a tunic of the same material dyed in patterns, and a mantle of fine vicunya wool woven and dyed. There were certain rich ornaments of gold by which some of these garments were adorned. The special insignia of the Inca's office consisted of the llantu, or crimson fringe around the forehead, and the black and white wing feathers of the Andean vulture, the two together forming what was known as the sacred head-dress. He carried in his hand usually something like a wand or mace, perhaps a weapon, to indicate his military character.

In times of war the warriors wore head-dresses to designate the tribes to which they belonged. One tribe wore a puma's head; another adopted macaw feathers; still another, deer's antlers; still another, falcon's wing feathers. The Peruvian defensive weapons were the hualcanca, (shield), and the umachucu  (helmet), and sometimes a breastplate. The helmet usually took the form of a most hideous mask, imitating some ferocious beast, and was, perhaps, intended more for the purpose of terrifying the beholder than for protecting the head of the wearer. Masks which have been found in graves were probably such as had been worn in religious ceremonials.

Pottery.—The art of pottery reached its highest period among the Peruvians about the fourteenth century, when the designs exhibited a considerable play of fancy. Many of the vases made at this period were molded into forms to represent animals and vegetable products, evidently to be used as conopas, (household gods). Others were made in imitation of different portions of the human body; or were made double, triple or quadruple, with a single neck branching from below. Some were intended to be interred with the dead. Others were for household use. Some exhibit an appreciation of the beautiful, while others are made purposely grotesque in form. That the Peruvians were not devoid of a sense of humor is evident from the number of vessels they made, from which the contents flowed out from a most unexpected portion, probably for the perpetration of a practical joke. Other vessels were so constructed as to give forth a not unmusical sound, as the air or water passed through them. These were probably for some use in the temples.

Metal Work.—Gold was plentiful and was obtained by the placer method. Silver was likewise obtained but not by mining. The beauty of these metals was appreciated and they were regarded as belonging to the gods, or to the Inca, who was the child of the Sun. Innumerable dishes, vases and implements were made of these precious metals, as well as personal ornaments for the use of the Inca. These were probably made by hammering the metal into the required shape, though there is evidence that there were Peruvian workmen who had a knowledge of the difficult art of casting copper. Metal vessels have been discovered which, upon analysis, have been found to contain a combination of copper, tin, silver and gold.

It is unfortunate that little of the gold and silver work of the Peruvians has been preserved to exhibit the art of their gold and silversmiths. The Spanish conquerors valued the precious metals only as standards of wealth. Perhaps from the promptness with which they reduced to ingot all the various artistic productions which came into their hands, it is implied that they were not much more beautiful in the form in which they first received them.

Metal workers were required for the production of the stamped or chased ceremonial breast-plates and chains in use at the religious feasts; also to fashion vessels for use in the temples and for the Inca; and to forge the arms of the warriors. Among the last named was the chumps, a weapon peculiar to the Peruvians. It consisted of a long club, having a star-shaped head of copper. It was heavy enough to require both hands to wield it.

Architecture.—The interesting ruins found in Peru are divisible into two classes—those which prove the existence of the Piruas, and those which are the remains of the later occupants of the land. The former merit somewhat particular notice because of their relation to the buildings of the later period. They are to be found at Tiahuanuco, on a plain near Lake Titicaca, at an elevation of 12,900 feet above the level of the Pacific. The site is sometimes called "The Thibet of the New World." The ruins cover an area of more than a square mile, and are the remains of many small and several large structures. The latter were built of very large stones, some of them twenty-five feet long, fourteen feet wide and more than six feet thick. They are of fine red sandstone, or of hard basalt, which must have been brought from some place at considerable distance from Tiahuanuco. These immense blocks of stone are fitted together so accurately that a knife-blade can scarcely be inserted between them. Neither mortar nor cement was used to keep the stones in place, but they were secured in some instances by mortised joints, or by copper dowels, traces of which still exist. The larger structures have been named the Temple, the Fortress, the Hall of Justice, and the Palace, from fancied resemblances to edifices for such purposes elsewhere.

The so-called "Temple" forms a rectangle of 338 by 445 feet, defined by lines of erect stones, partly shaped by art, standing fifteen feet apart. A wall of uncut stones built between them supports a platform of earth eight feet above the surrounding level. The erect stones are paneled, the sides and edges being slightly cut away, leaving projections of about an inch and a half, as though intended to receive slabs. The Temple seems to be the most ancient of all the structures of Tiahuanuco. The stones composing it are rough and frayed by time and long exposure to the elements. Although constituting the most elaborate single monument among the ruins, and notwithstanding that the erect stones of its portal are the most striking of their kind, the structure shows signs of antiquity discoverable in none of its kindred monuments. Its vast area could never have been roofed over. It is not infrequently compared to the stone circles in Avebury (England), in Brittany and elsewhere, but there is no conclusive evidence of the purpose of the builders in either case.

The fortress is an artificial mound of earth, 620 feet long by 150 feet wide and 50 feet high, the sides being terraced. On its summit are sections of foundations of rectangular buildings. On its slopes lie blocks of stone sculptured with portions of elaborate designs.

The so-called Hall of Justice consists of a rectangle, 420 feet long by 370 feet wide, defined by a wall of cut stones supporting a platform of earth in which is enclosed a sunken area. What is called the Palace is a platform of well-cut blocks of stone, about 240 feet long by 160 feet wide, held together by means of copper clamps, with traces of an exterior corridor. On the eastern side of this stone platform there are three groups of seats cut in stone. One of the groups is divided into seven compartments. Between the central and side groups were monolithic doorways. One of these doorways stands at the entrance of an ancient burial mound, about three hundred feet long by sixty-seven feet wide and twenty feet high. The doorway (or gateway, as it is more generally called), is the most remarkable of the Tiahuanuco monuments. It is formed of a block of stone originally cut with precision, though now broken and somewhat defaced. It is eighteen inches thick, thirteen feet wide and stands seven feet out of the ground. An opening is made in it four feet six inches high and two feet nine inches wide. Above this opening is a sculptured design, partly in low and partly in very high relief. On the reverse side of the doorway the design consists of a frieze and cornice. The designs on both sides appear to be symbolical of primitive Nature-worship.

There are indications, chiefly in the partially sculptured stones on the sides of the so-called fortress terrace, that the buildings at Tiahuanuco were never completed as they were intended to be. The erect stones are of admirable workmanship; the long sections of foundations with piers and portions of stairways, the blocks of stone with moldings, cornices and niches, are cut with geometrical precision. The masses of stone partially hewn all imply some gigantic plan in the minds of the builders, upon which the work was arrested by some cause not now known. The Titicaca Basin is sterile and unfitted for the support of a large population. It is consequently conjectured that the buildings were intended for some religious or ceremonial purpose.

Two styles are apparent in the architecture of the later Peruvians as exhibited by the remains. The earliest is imitative of the cyclopean work of the Piruas, though on a smaller scale. Walls are built of polygonal-shaped stones with rough surfaces, but the stones are of reduced size. In the later style the stones are laid in regular courses. The ruins show pyramidal structures, usually terraced on the sides of natural elevations, and stone circles, probably open-air temples devoted to Sun worship, in shape symbolizing the Sun, and being provided with upright columns intended to show the time of the equinoxes; buildings requiring the exercise of considerable engineering skill. Yet there is no evidence that any of the Peruvians, early or late, ever grasped the principle of the arch in building. A few openings in their walls, which appear to be arched at the top, may have been cut after the same was completed.

They had no way of uniting timbers excepting by tying them with cords of aloe fibers. The sculptural ornaments of the buildings assumed a conventional form, with crude attempts to represent the condor, the serpent and the face of the Sun, on the front walls of their temples and on the gateways to their cemeteries. Nor did they ever devise any covering for their buildings other than thatch. The roofs were sometimes peaked, even in a region where rains were infrequent. Nor were they able to build bridges across the ravines which interrupted their travel through the country, excepting those suspension bridges made of withes, and upholding a single log or two, and swaying in the wind, or as any one crossed over.

This inability to build bridges would seem to contradict the story that is told of their magnificent military roads leading out from Cuzco to all parts of the Incariate. As the Peruvians had no wheeled vehicles, and no draft animals, such roads as are described would be of no value to them. Modern travelers do not usually find any remains of these roads. Humboldt, indeed, observed them in northern Peru, but this was the last region to become subject to the Cuzcans, and that but a short time before the subjugation of the Peruvians to the Spaniards. Would it not have been strange for the Cuzcans to have built roads in this region when the other parts of the Incariate were destitute of them? Whatever may have been seen by Humboldt in the way of roads must have been of European construction. That the Peruvians had a rapid and very efficient system of posts is not at all unlikely, inasmuch as running and carrying burdens were matters in which all Indians were especially trained, in the chase and in war, even in their nomadic state. The roads they required were trails worn into footpaths.

The Temple of the Sun.—The Temple of the Sun at Cuzco was probably the greatest of their structures to come under the observation of Europeans. It was called Curicancha, a Quichua word meaning "court of gold." It was two hundred and ninety feet long by fifty-two feet wide, was enriched by the spoils of war for two centuries or more and was richly decorated with gold. The fortress of Sacsahuaman has been pronounced "without comparison the grandest monument of an ancient civilization in the New World. Like the Pyramids and the Coliseum, it is imperishable."

We have already seen that it is claimed by modern archaeologists to be the work of the Piruas. Early Spanish writers claimed to have heard the tradition that it was begun in the time of Yupanqui Pachacutec and that it was unfinished in the time of Huayna Capac. It may be that in the time of these later Incas work was resumed upon the foundations laid by the Piruas, which led, as we have surmised, Manco Capac to lay the foundations of Cuzco at that place. The stones of the Sacsahuaman are unhewn, are often quite irregular in shape and very unequal in size, and fit together so as to retain their places without the use of mortar. Some of them are of huge size—fourteen to sixteen and a half feet in length, and from six to twelve feet in width. Tradition states that these huge stones were dragged to their places by twenty thousand Indians by means of stout cables. One huge monolith was left to one side and not employed in the building, and is known as the "Tired Stone," because "it became tired and could not reach its place." Not unlikely the Peruvian workmen made use of the inclined plane in their transportation of immense stones.

Other Great Ruins.—A study of some of the ruins in other parts of the country would be interesting. About eight degrees south of the equator, in the valley of Chimu, about two miles from the coast, near a town founded by the Spaniards in 1535, and named Trujillo, are some ruins which are among the most remarkable in Peru. The ruins "consist of a wilderness of walls, forming great enclosures, each containing a labyrinth of ruined dwellings and other edifices." One of the enclosed spaces is usually called the "Palace," which, in view of what we have already seen, is a misnomer. The so-called "Palace" ruins embrace about thirty-two acres. The walls surrounding the enclosure are double and sufficiently heavy to resist the attacks of light artillery. These walls are at the base fifteen feet thick in some cases and gradually diminish as they rise, and are but three feet thick at the top. They are of varying height, the highest from thirty to forty feet. They are of adobe.

Within the enclosure are three open spaces or courts of considerable size, and a number of cross-walls dividing the remaining space into smaller courts. Around the sides of each of these courts are the ruins of houses grouped with the utmost regularity. "Some are small as if for watchmen or people on guard; others are relatively spacious, reaching the dimensions of twenty-five by fifteen feet inside the walls. These walls are usually about three feet thick and about twelve feet high. The roofs were not flat, but, as shown by the gables of the various buildings, sharply pitched, so that although rain may not have been frequent, it was, nevertheless, necessary to provide for its occurrence. Each apartment was completely separated from the next by partitions reaching to the very peak of the general roof. There are no traces of windows, and light and air were admitted into the apartment only by the door."

The Chimu ruins are characterized by a number of similar enclosures, some of them three or four times the size of the one above mentioned. And it is generally concluded that Chimu was the seat of a powerful tribe which finally succumbed to the Cuzcans, and that each of these enclosures was the home or communal residence of a gens of the tribe. The only adequate explanation of architecture, such as these ruins imply, is to be found in what we have seen of the social organization of the Indians.

All the buildings at Chimu were protected, on one side at least, by a heavy wall, several miles of which were standing in the past century. From this wall at intervals cross-walls extended inward, thus enclosing large areas which were never built upon. These were evidently tracts devoted to gardens, cultivated by the common labor of the gens or tribe for the sustenance of such gens or tribe. Near one end of the so-called "Palace" enclosure is a court, containing a mound, which is deserving of especial mention. The mound is known as a huaca, which is a general name among the Peruvians for a sacred object of any kind. The construction of this mound, like many other artificial mounds found in Chimu and in other parts of Peru, is curious. It consists of a large group of rooms filled with clay. In one of the Chimu huacas  large numbers of gold vessels have been found, and it is not improbable that in others treasures are concealed, though it is supposed that the majority of huacas  are burial-mounds. Burial in huacaswas the custom of the coast tribes generally in disposing of their dead. In the central regions the bodies of the dead were frequently mummified. Huacas  abound in the coast region and are often of great size, having an area at the base, in some cases, of more than seven acres, and containing masses of human bodies arranged in strata showing that the huacas  have been used as burial-places for a long series of years. Some of the huacas  are surmounted by chulpas  (towers), which constitute another characteristic architectural feature of Peru. Treasure hunters have penetrated the sides of the most famous of the huacas, which consist of rooms, and have found numerous large, painted chambers built in successive diminishing stages, ascended by zigzag stairways and stuccoed over and painted in bright colors. It is supposed that the Cuzcans, after the conquest of the tribe making use of such a pyramidal structure, filled up its chambers with earth and recast the edifice with a thick layer of adobe.

The Chimu people, as were all the coast tribes of Peru, were supposed to be advanced in the art of the potter and in that of the metal worker, and also in their architectural decoration. They ornamented the inner walls of their edifices with stucco in patterns. They also, in laying up their adobe walls, permitted some of the bricks to project from the surface of the wall in geometrical patterns. Because of these, one of the passage ways at Chimu, about fifty feet wide and twice that in length, is called the Hall of the Arabesques. The patterns resemble those found upon the textile fabrics of the Peruvians.

A short distance south of where the Spaniards built in the sixteenth century the city of Lima, are to be found the ruins of Pachacamac, where once stood the sanctuary of the deity of that name. A huaca  at this place is supposed to have been regarded with such sacred awe that it was the object of pilgrimages for thousands of years from all parts of the country. It was evidently considered a great privilege to be buried there. It at least furnishes evidence that the spot has been the abode of man for a long time. The temple has passed through many changes in its long history. The structure of a very early period was destroyed and its ruins covered a cemetery once lying at its foot. A large temple was erected covering the same site and new terraces were added in front. A temple was standing there in the early half of the Sixteenth Century, as we shall have occasion to see in a subsequent chapter.

Religion.—The Peruvians were never monotheistic. They were primarily Sun worshipers, but they also worshiped the moon, the stars, (especially Venus,) and dedicated temples to thunder and lightning, to the rainbow, and to various objects in Nature the elements, the winds, the earth, the air, great mountains and rivers, which impressed them by their sublimity and power, and which were regarded as inferior deities of local, or, it might be, of individual interest. For the Peruvians had their household gods, (conopas), and each kin had its tutelary deity, who, under their totemistic system, stood in the relation of ancestor to it. In addition to all these, in the case of the conquest of a tribe, the tribal gods were among the spoils of war, and the removal of these local deities to Cuzco in a manner constituted that place a religious community.

It is sometimes alleged that the religion of the Peruvians was advancing toward the acknowledgment of a Supreme God, the Creator and Ruler of the Universe. But all that they held regarding the deity, known as Uira Cocha, in no way interfered with the worship paid by them to the other deities. Uira Cocha was sometimes known as Illatiosi, which means Eternal Light, (and might apply to the Sun); sometimes as Pachacamac, which means Ruler of the World. He was described as a creator of all living things. Temples were dedicated to him, and the festival of Capac Raymi was held in his honor in the middle of the year, which, in a country south of the equator, answers to our midwinter—December 22 to January 22—at the period of the summer solstice.

Capac Raymi was a thanksgiving for the harvest and one of four great festivals having reference to the Sun. Praises were offered to the sun, moon and stars; there were solemn dances from the Temple of the Sun at Cuzco, and feasting and rejoicing for many days. Animal sacrifices were offered. Some writers declare, while others as positively deny, that a child or maiden was sacrificed at this feast. This was scarcely possible in the Golden Age of which we are writing, for the Cuzcans are said to have prohibited such sacrifices in the tribes which they conquered. It was furthermore contrary to the religious ideas of the Peruvians, whose sacred ceremonies were for thanksgiving and not for expiation. Animals were offered in sacrifice, as has been said, and some of the writers, who assert that human sacrifices were offered, may have been misled by the words used for young and adult llamas, and by the fact that the youths offering these animals gave them their own names.

This religion, with its complicated ritual and numerous festival ceremonies, presupposes some sort of religious order qualified to perform all of its religious functions. The religion of the Indians is usually known as "medicine," and what answers to the priests of other religions, is the shaman  or "medicine-man." This is because he performs by incantation or religious rite whatever is done for the relief of the sick. It is also usual to connect his office in some way with that of the tribal chiefs and to regard the head chief as high priest. We are told, however, that the Uillac Umu was the high priest of the Cuzcans, and that under him there were various officers charged with different details of the wonderfully complicated system of worship.

One class of "medicine-men," we are told, made it their special business to bring lovers together. They may have been wizards, however, rather than recognized officers of the Peruvian religious system, for their work seems to have been very similar to that of the African voodoo. They prepared talismans made from the roots of certain plants, or from feathers, and introduced them secretly, if possible, into the clothes or beds of those whose inclinations were to be won. Sometimes hairs of the person whose love was sought were used, or else highly colored birds from the forest, or their feathers only, were employed. They also sold to the lovers a stone which they said could be found only in places that had been struck by lightning mostly black agates, with white veins—and these medicine-men prepared infallible and irresistible love-potions.

Precisely what healing arts were practiced by the medicine-men in Peru is unknown. But one of the most curious things revealed by search among the remains of the ancient Peruvians are a number of skulls upon which trephining has been practiced. This was in some cases upon the skulls of the dead, for the purpose, doubtless, of obtaining amulets and charms, always in demand among superstitious primitive people. Later on trephining was practiced upon those whose lives were deemed useless, that is, upon living captives—for what purpose is a puzzling question, but possibly in search of knowledge of the spiritual or mental parts of man, or for purposes of experiment. The reader will remember that it is only in relatively modern times that, as a very bold experiment, trephining has been practiced among the most advanced of civilized races.

The elaborate religion of the Peruvians seems not to have inculcated a very high moral sense among them, according to our ideas. In earlier times the union of the sexes was voluntary, unregulated, save by the general Indian law which prohibited marriage within the kin or outside of the tribe. It was accompanied by barbarous usages, many of which survive among some of the uncivilized tribes of South America to the present day.

The later marriages seem to have been founded upon no sentiment of love, and women were treated among them as slaves. Upon the women devolved much of the agricultural work and all of the domestic duties. The "Sun virgins," often referred to as being maintained in the temples and as indicating a high regard for moral purity among the Peruvians, were really maintained as concubines for the Incas, or for the priests, and made the temples nurseries of immorality rather than teachers of morality. It was one of the functions of the kin to regulate the marriage of all its members. The law that there must be no intermarriages within the kin is conclusive as to the impossibility of the Inca being compelled to marry his sister, though he might have married his niece. The Peruvians had no laws prohibiting polygamy. Their marriage ceremony was a very simple one.

That the Peruvians believed in spiritual existence and in the resurrection of the dead is evidenced by their practice of embalming their dead. They buried with the dead various broken articles and often face-masks, which had been used in war or in religious dances.

The amautes, or learned, men were undoubtedly connected with the religion of the Peruvians, and their principal duty it was to preserve the traditions of the tribes. It is said there were yaravecs  (bards) who reduced these traditions to rhythmical sentences, or to poetical form, and recited them at their public festivals. This constituted a sort of "literature" for a people who had no knowledge of letters, as we shall see. More properly, they constituted the folk lore of the people.

It is said that the Peruvians had many musical instruments, and certain it is that dancing was an important element of their religious ceremonies. And inasmuch as, in 1781, a Spanish judge prohibited the performance of certain Indian dramas, it is supposed that the ancient Peruvians had something like dramatic representations. They may easily have been quite equal to the mediaeval miracle plays in England. One of their dramas is said to survive to this time under the title of "Ollantay" and is based upon events in the time of Yupanqui Pachacutec. In its present form it shows that Spanish editors and playwrights have been at work upon it. Many Indian games still in vogue in Peru may be traced back to the greater religious festivals of the Peruvians.

The Quipus—The Peruvians, as we have thus described them, had reached the highest degree of culture of any people on either continent of the Western Hemisphere. But in one respect they fell far short of the earliest stage of civilization; short indeed of the Aztecs, who had a system of picture-writing by which to record events and convey their ideas to others. The Peruvians had not advanced to the practice of the art of writing. It is said that there are a few pictographs to be found among the remains of their temples, but they were probably no more than symbols of some of the mysteries of their religion. They brought, however, the cord system of mnemonics to the greatest perfection of any known people. The ropes by which they kept their records were called quipus, (from the Quichua word quipu, meaning a knot). They were often of great length and of varied thickness. From the main ropes depended smaller ones, distinguished by colors appropriate to the subjects of which the knots treated: white for silver, yellow for gold, red for soldiers, green for corn, parti-colored when the subject treated of required sub-division. The dependent cords had other cords hanging from them upon which exceptions were noted.

In their system of numeration one knot meant ten; a double knot one hundred; two single knots, side by side, meant twenty; two double knots, two hundred. The position of the knots on the string and their forms were significant, so that the quipus  were capable of conveying other information besides that of numbers. Yet the art of reading the quipus  must have been a difficult one to acquire. It was practiced by special functionaries called quipucamayocuna, or knot-officers. These appear to have been able to expound their own records only, and when quipus  were sent from one tribe to another, the tribal quipucamayocuna  was compelled to travel with it to read and explain its meaning. It seems, therefore, that the quipus  were simply aids to memory, "about on a par with Robinson Crusoe's notched calendar, or the chalked tally of an illiterate tapster." They had no value as historical records.