The Last Days of the Incas

Kim MacQuarrie, Author . Simon & Schuster $30 (522p) ISBN 978-0-7432-6049-7

With vivid and energetic prose, Emmy Award–winner and author MacQuarrie (From the Andes to the Amazon ) re-creates the 16th-century struggle for what would become modern-day Peru. The Incas ruled a 2,500–mile-long empire, but Spanish explorers, keen to enrich the crown and spread the Catholic Church, eventually destroyed Inca society. MacQuarrie, who writes with just the right amount of drama ("After the interpreter finished delivering the speech, silence once again gripped the square"), is to be commended for giving a balanced account of those events. This long and stylish book doesn't end with the final 1572 collapse of the Incas. Fast-forwarding to the 20th century, MacQuarrie tells the surprisingly fascinating story of scholars' evolving interpretations of Inca remains. In 1911, a young Yale professor of Latin American history named Hiram Bingham identified Machu Picchu as the nerve center of the empire. Few questioned Bingham's theory until after his death in 1956; in the 1960s Gene Savoy discovered the real Inca center of civilization, Vilcabamba. Although MacQuarrie dedicates just a few chapters to modern research, the archeologists who made the key discoveries emerge as well-developed characters, and the tale of digging up the empire is as riveting as the more familiar history of Spanish conquest. B&w illus., maps. (May 29)

Reviewed on: 03/26/2007
Release date: 05/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
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