November 10, 2012 Anne Tiballi, PhD: "Virgins of the Sun: Sex and Purity in Late Prehispanic and Colonial Peru"

      When the Spanish arrived in the Andes in 1532, they encountered a cultural entirely unlike any they had seen before. The chronicles produced after the Conquest represent the efforts of Spanish, mestizo, and Andean writers to describe and understand Inka food, religion, social organization, and history. The Catholic heritage of the Spanish heavily influenced their interpretation of Andean customs, especially their depiction of the aqllakuna, the Virgins of the Sun. This highly-esteemed class of women produced fine cloth and performed religious rituals for the Inka state. The chronicles portray the aqlla in the guise of Catholic nuns, placing a heavy emphasis on their virginity, chastity and cloistered lives. Considering that the sexual depravity of Andean people was a common theme among certain chroniclers, the presence of an Inka institution based on perpetual chastity seems curious. This paper examined the influence of the colonial Catholic project in the Andes, comparing it to ethnohistoric and archaeological evidence of Andean sexual practice, to reveal an alternative interpretation of the aqllakuna and the Inka notion of ‘purity’.

     Dr. Anne Tiballi recently received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Binghamton University, under the direction of Dr. William Isbell. She performed her dissertation research on the archaeological materials from the Cemetery of the Sacrificed Women, Pachacamac, Peru, at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. She has worked with textile collections from several coastal Andean sites, including Huayuri, Cerrillos, and Casa Vieja in the Ica Valley. Dr. Tiballi currently serves as Director of Archaeological Textile Studies for the California Institute for Peruvian Studies, and is a consulting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

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