A former professor of physics shares the fruits of his retirement travel through a multilayered exploration of the remnants of an ancient Incan civilization.
Koschmieder’s academic career (Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering/Univ. of Texas at Austin) was focused on fluid mechanics, a branch of science concerned with the properties of liquids in motion. An unlikely prelude to studying ancient Incan civilization, but the author was strongly affected by his travel in Peru seeking remnants of that once great civilization. Through extensive use of drawings and photographs Koschmieder captures a sense of Incan history, social and religious structures, art and architecture through these images of a lost Incan world. These images are supplemented with extensive quotes from chroniclers tied to Spanish conquistadors of four centuries ago. Koschmieder has an eye for telling details; he’s fascinated by knoblike protuberances extending from the massive stone blocks that comprise much of the remnants of the Incan kingdoms. In quoting the Jesuit Acosta’s sympathetic writing about the “good order and reason” of the Incan people, the author adds they need also to be credited for “their fine sense of beauty.” One minor weakness is the writing’s lack of verve. Rarely does the prose transcend a rather impersonal, scholarly tone, although the author’s passion for the Inca shows in the amount of careful research that went into this well-considered account. When the somewhat academic tone is dropped, as in one thrilling passage that describes a statue of a musician simultaneously playing a flute and drumming, the author writes forcefully: “I have seen with my own eyes a member of an Indian band perform in this fashion.”
Other than one quibble about the flat writing style, Koschmieder has delivered a masterfully composed, appealing overview of ancient Incan culture.