Academic journal article Comparative Civilizations Review

Warriors of the Clouds: A Lost Civilization in the Upper Amazon of Peru

Academic journal article Comparative Civilizations Review

Warriors of the Clouds: A Lost Civilization in the Upper Amazon of Peru

Article excerpt

Keith Muscutt, Warriors Of The Clouds: A Lost Civilization in the Upper Amazon of Peru University of New Mexico Press, 1998

Dr. Muscutt fell in love with the Chachapoya of the northern Andes Mountains of Peru, sometimes called the "Cloud People." So he visited the area almost every year for over 20, documenting significant architectural ruins of what he came to believe was a civilization distinct from the Incans who had conquered them shortly before smallpox and other diseases spreading ahead of the Spanish invaders wiped out many of both of these peoples in the mid-1500's. Muscutt writes that the "last indigenous Chachapoya leader of any importance," a man named "Guaman," died in 1551.

Muscutt documents this over eight chapters that start with describing Kuelap, the largest city and "Citadel of the Chachapoya," a description of early Andean Civilizations in general and how they interacted, detailed exploration of the Chachapoya ruins that have been discovered in the modern era, a comparison with modern communities still living there, and commentary supporting Muscutt's claim that this otherwise relatively small group of mid-highland Andean peoples deserves the title of "civilization."

Here he runs into a perennial problem for civilizationalists, our lack of any consensus definition of what qualities are required for that august designation. Most agree that the presence of cities is essential, and that at least some monumental architecture typically exists. But others have many other criteria, and Dr. Muscutt selects one of the broader definitions in his preface where he declares that "civilization is community." That is a sweet definition philosophically, but minimalist, and would result in thousands of ancient communities being considered to be civilizations. …

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