Review: Ancestors of the Incas

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Long before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, the Incans created an empire that extended 3000 miles up and down modern-day Peru. They built a complex civilization, great fortresses, and more than 20,000 miles of paved highway. More than 10 million people lived in the Incan Empire at its height. 

Ancestors of the Incas is a large (12 in. x 9 in.) beautiful paperback that explores the origins of the Incansand includes information on theirsave daily lives. It also covers the arrival of the Spanish, brought to the towering Andes Mountains by their quest for gold, and the war that ensued.

The copious full-color photographs of artifacts and scenes of the Andes make Ancestors of the Incas a great coffee-table piece. Though much of the legendary Incan gold was melted down by the Spanish, some of their work survived, and examples can be seen in the book. 

For sheer information value, a less picture-laden book might be a better purchase, but the civilization really comes alive with Ancestors of the Incas. Of particular interest, is a section on their medical practices in which trepanation, or the surgical removal of portions of living skull, is discussed. The surgery was practiced by Incan shamans to cure such afflictions as epilepsy, head injuries, and headaches. A surprising number of patients survived the surgery.

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