Australian Institute of Physics

South Australian Branch

AIP-SA Public Lecture

Ancient Andean Astronomy

Dr. David Dearborn
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The Australian Academy of Science's 1998 Selby Fellow

Wed 13th May at 7.30pm in the
Flentje Lecture Theatre, University of Adelaide

Dr. David Dearborn, the Australian Academy of Science's 1998 Selby Fellow (left) congratulates the Bragg Medal prize winner Damian Fung during the AIP-SA public lecture on Ancient Andean Astronomy.


The Inca were the children of the Sun, and rulers of the known world. Their empire, Tiahuantinsuyu, was one of the greatest states ever to develop in the Americas, and they asserted their right to rule it through their position as children of Inti, the Sun god. Inca religion and cosmology developed from a broader Andean view which associated powerful anima with individual mountains, caves, springs, rivers, and rocks, to form shrines called huacas. The Inca, however, placed paramount importance on the sun, moon, and stars and held themselves to be direct descendants of the sun. Conquered peoples were not asked to abandon their own rites and huacas, but were required to acknowledge the superiority of the sun and serve his descendants, the Inca.

As Cuzco evolved from a mountain hamlet to an imperial capital, the Inca needed to develop an increasingly complex social structure to govern their new territories. Spanish accounts of large Inca ceremonies include mentions of ritual onbservations of the sun using a system of solar horizon markers around Cuzco. We now have evidence of such solar markers at the birthplace of the sun, Titicaca, but what other types of observations were made? How accurate were their observations, and what did they learn from them about the world? More importantly, how was this sky watching activity integrated into the Inca imperial system?

Biography: David Dearborn is a remarkable individual! He researches three diverse areas: stars, archaeoastronomy, and weapons. All are of immense interest to the public. David has presented public lectures for the Californian Academy of Science, high schools, Native American colleges, as well as during his visits to South America. He wrote the ``Stellar Evolution'' entry for the McMillan Encyclopedia of Physics, and also the ``Archaeoastronomy'' entry for the Van Nostrand Reinhold Encyclopedia of Planetary Sciences, as well as a humorous article on Stonehenge for the Journal of Irreproducible Results, a book on archaeastronomy, and numerous astronomy research papers. David is not the stereotypical academic: he is usually seen in jeans and denim jacket, frequently on his Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Notes: David Dearborn is the 1998 Selby Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. This is a joint University of Adelaide Science Faculty / AIP meeting sponsored by the AAS. The AIP Bronze Bragg medal will be presented at this meeting.

Members are invited to have dinner prior to the lecture from 6pm onwards in the Equinox restaurant in the Union building at the University of Adelaide. Bookings, which are helpful but not essential, should be made by noon on Wed. 13th May with the AIP-SA Secretary or with Ms. Tanya Weir on (08) 8303 5996.

Page prepared by:
Dr. Derek B. Leinweber
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