The stone is normally no work of art while in the driveway,
but may be so when on display in an art museum.
—nelson goodman, Ways of Worldmaking
Coming to Terms with Inka Rocks
In the South American Andes, in the fifteenth and early sixteenth cen-
turies, the Inka (Inca) framed, carved, sat on, built with, revered, fed,
clothed, and talked to certain rocks. This book is about some of these
rocks, and what they meant to the people who forged various kinds of re-
lationships with them. Here we reckon primarily with pre-Hispanic Inka
perspectives on stone, as they are articulated in and through the rocks
themselves, as well as in Andean stories about stone.1 Even so, as an art
historian I am mindful that much of Inka rockwork—extant since the fif-
teenth century and still sitting in plain view—has just recently been rec-
ognized and talked about as “art” (plate 1). Although many readers will
concur that the rocks discussed here are indeed prodigious works of art,
and I would not argue against them, this book is not about Inka rocks as
art, for the Inka’s culture of stone was not guided primarily by aesthetic
criteria. However, changing assessments of Inka rockwork, from Spanish
colonization to the present, and the implications of those changing as-
sessments influence our present considerations. Thus, while I devote the
most attention to the meaning of stone within Inka signifying systems, I
also note the non-Andean notions that have shaped current understand-
ings of Inka rockwork.2
Like Andean indigenes today, the pre-Hispanic Inka knew well, named,
and communicated with many natural topographic features.3 Mountains,
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