Talk abstract details

Astronomical events and their political significance in three Inca founding myths
Rita Fink


Presented study analyzes the astronomical information in three Inca myths: world creation, emergence of the Inca ancestors from a sacred cave and the victory over the Chancas, which transformed the Incas from a small polity into an empire. The mythical descriptions are interpreted in light of Incaic methods of solar observation.

Inca myth of creation tells about a journey of the sun's creator Viracochan from Tiahuanaco, in the high plateau of today's Bolivia, to the Pacific coast in today's Ecuador. It is demonstrated that his path, an oblique line stretching from south-east (December solstice sunrise) to north-west (June solstice sunset), creates a spatio-temporal axis, along which various mentioned locations correspond to specific moments of the solar year. Comparison with the mythical journey of the Inca ancestors supports elements of this interpretation.

Incas' victory over the Chancas was preceded by solar visions experienced by their ruler and was achieved with the miraculous help of the solar deity. It is demonstrated that the mythicized account of the war follows the spatio-temporal scheme of the creation myth, associating successive stages of the conflict with specific moments of the year. Comparison of the myths enables the identification of several Inca solar deities and reveals the native perception of the solar year as the sun's transition through various life stages from infancy to old age and rebirth.