BEYOND THE ANDES: My Search for the Origins of Pre-Inca Civilization by Pino Turolla

BEYOND THE ANDES: My Search for the Origins of Pre-Inca Civilization

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Pop scholarship, pedestrian adventure. Turolla presents himself as a scientist seeking to demonstrate the radical notions that 1) Indian peoples have inhabited the Amazon Basin of South America for at least 30,000 years; and 2) that it is from these societies that the high civilizations of the Andes and the Pacific Coast arose. But he mangles the historical record when he takes the date 12,000 B.C., which most pre-historians offer as the earliest certain date for human presence in the New World, and makes it seem as if they claim it for the earliest possible date for entry. (The latter is generally given as 30-40,000 B.C.) And when he portrays himself as the lonely defender of the lowlands-to-highlands/coast theory of South American pre-history, he simply ignores the major work of Donald W. Lathrap (Illinois-Urbana), who has argued this hypothesis since the 1960s. Turolla is correct in insisting that considerable work needs to be done on Amazonian prehistory, but he hardly seems the one to do it. The book, however, deals much more with his adventures, and the mysteries he encounters, than with his research. And here it fails dismally. The adventures are reported in such unselective detail, and Turolla's ""gee whiz"" attitude towards mystery is so pervasive, that the reader is neither entertained nor enlightened. Peter Mathiesson has written better of the physical feel of traveling through the Amazon; and Michael Harner and even Carlos Castenada have provided substantially richer accounts of the ""mysterious"" world of Amer-Indian ""magic."" This is essentially an amateur scientist's Victorian travelogue without the elegance of Victorian language.

Pub Date: March 5th, 1980
Publisher: Harper & Row