Pre-Columbian Society of Washington DC

The Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, D.C. (PCSWDC), is an educational organization dedicated to furthering knowledge and understanding of the peoples of the Americas before the time of Columbus. Founded in 1993, the Society provides a forum for the exchange of information regarding these pre-Columbian cultures between academic professionals and interested members of the public.

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Stones Who Love Me: miniatures and animation in the Andes by Catherine J. Allen, PhD, The George Washington University, Emerita.

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

NOTE: Photo ID is required to enter the building.

The meeting will start with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture will begin at 7:15 pm.

15th – 16th Century Inca votive container from the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.

15th – 16th Century Inca votive container from the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.

In the year 1620 Pablo de Arriaga published an instruction manual for rural priests charged with the “extirpation of idolatries” in the Andes.  In it he warned that the practices most difficult to discover and destroy were those carried on quietly and privately within individual households.  Some of these practices centered on conopas, small stones in the shapes of, llamas, alpacas, maize or potatoes.  Far from being rooted out, these practices continue in many Quechua- and Aymara-speaking communities, where certain small stone objects – variously called inqaychu, inqa, illa and qonopa, -- encapsulate the well-being of their human possessors.   Described as “living ones” and “loving ones,” they are thought to be intrinsically connected to powerful Places that control the vitality and reproduction of herd animals and crops.  Drawing on the author’s own ethnographic research and other data from the Cuzco region of Peru, this presentation explores the animacy of these stones and compares them with other living stones that populate the Andean landscape.  Most of these are people and animals transformed at moments/places of crisis; all undergo a change in dimension at the moment of petrification – some into tiny talismans like inqaychus, others into gigantic boulders, hills, and even mountains.   My analysis focuses on these shifts of dimensionality and enclosure in relation to the animacy of the Andean cosmos.   

CATHERINE J. ALLEN is a cultural anthropologist with an abiding interest in the relationship between the Andean present and the Pre-Columbian past.  Her publications include articles on Pre-Columbian iconography as well as The Hold Life Has: Coca and Cultural Identity in an Andean Community; Foxboy: Intimacy and Aesthetics in Andean Stories; and Condor Qatay: Anthropology in Performance. She is Professor Emerita at George Washington University, where for over thirty years she taught courses on South American ethnography, anthropological theory, and the anthropology of art.

Earlier Event: November 1

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