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The Religion of Ancient Peru

The religion of the ancient Peruvians had obviously developed in a much shorter time than that of the Mexicans. The more ancient character inherent in it was displayed in the presence of deities many of which were little better than mere totems, and although a definite monotheism or worship of one god appears to have been reached, it was not by the efforts of the priestly caste that this was achieved, but rather by the will of the Inca Pachacutic, who seems to have been a monarch gifted with rare insight and ability-a man much after the type of the Mexican Nezahualcoyotl.

In Inca times the religion of the people was solely directed by the state, and regulated in such a manner that independent theological thought was permitted no outlet. But it must not be inferred from this that no change had ever come over the spirit of Peruvian religion. As a matter of fact sweeping changes had been effected, but these had been solely the work of the Inca race, the leaders of which had amalgamated the various faiths of the peoples whom they had conquered into one official belief.


Garcilasso el Inca de la Vega, an early Spanish writer on matters Peruvian, states that tradition ran that in ante-Inca times every district, family, and village possessed its own god, each different from the others. These gods were usually such objects as trees, mountains, flowers, herbs, caves, large stones, pieces of jasper, and animals. The jaguar, puma, and bear were worshipped for their strength and fierceness, the monkey and fox for their cunning, the condor for its size and because several tribes believed themselves to be descended from it. The screech-owl was worshipped for its beauty, and the common owl for its power of seeing in the dark. Serpents, particularly the larger and more dangerous varieties, were especially regarded with reverence.

Although Payne classes all these gods together as totems, it is plain that those of the first class-the flowers, herbs, caves, and pieces of jasper-are merely fetishes. A fetish is an object in which the savage believes to be resident a spirit which, by its magic, will assist him in his undertakings. A totem is an object or an animal, usually the latter, with which the people of a tribe believe themselves to be connected by ties of blood and from which they are descended. It later becomes the type or symbol of the tribe.


Lakes, springs, rocks, mountains, precipices, and caves were all regarded by the various Peruvian tribes as paccariscas-places whence their ancestors had originally issued to the upper world. The paccarisca was usually saluted with the cry, "Thou art my birthplace, thou art my life-spring. Guard me from evil, O Paccarisca!" In the holy spot a spirit was supposed to dwell which served the tribe as a kind of oracle. Naturally the paccarisca was looked upon with extreme reverence. It became, indeed, a sort of life-centre for the tribe, from which they were very unwilling to be separated.

Worship of Stones

The worship of stones appears to have been almost as universal in ancient Peru as it was in ancient Palestine. Man in his primitive state believes stones to be the framework of the earth, its bony structure. He considers himself to have emerged from some cave-in fact, from the entrails of the earth. Nearly all American creation-myths regard man as thus emanating from the bowels of the great terrestrial mother. Rocks which were thus chosen as paccariscas are found, among many other places, at Callca, in the valley of the Yucay, and at Titicaca there is a great mass of red sandstone on the top of a high ridge with almost inaccessible slopes and dark, gloomy recesses where the sun was thought to have hidden himself at the time of the great deluge which covered all the earth. The rock of Titicaca was, in fact, the great paccarisca of the sun itself.

We are thus not surprised to find that many standing stones were worshipped in Peru in aboriginal times. Thus Arriaga states that rocks of great size which bore some resemblance to the human figure were imagined to have been at one time gigantic men or spirits who, because they disobeyed the creative power, were turned into stone. According to another account they were said to have suffered this punishment for refusincr to listen to the words of Thonapa, the son of the creator, who, like Quetzalcoad or Manco Ccapac, had taken upon himself the guise of a wandering Indian, so that he might have an opportunity of bringing the arts of civilisation to the aborigines. At Tiahuanaco a certain group of stones was said to represent all that remained of the villagers of that place, who, instead of paying fitting attention to the wisc counsel which Thonapa the Civiliser bestowed upon them, continued to dance and drink in scorn of the teachings he had brought to them.

Again, some stones were said to have become men, as in the old Greek creation-legend of Deucalion and Pyrrha. In the legend of Ccapac Inca Pachacutic, when Cuzco was attacked in force by the Chancas an Indian erected stones to which he attached shields and weapons so that they should appear to represent so many warriors in hiding. Pachacutic, in great need of assistance, cried to them with such vehemence to come to his help that they became men, and rendered him splendid service.


Whatever was sacred, of sacred origin, or of the nature of a relic the Peruvians designated a huaca, from the root huacan, to howl, native worship invariably taking the form of a kind of howl, or weird, dirge-like wailing. All objects of reverence were known as huacas, although those of a higher class were also alluded to as viracochas. The Peruvians had, naturally, many forms of huaca, the most popular of which were those of the fetish class which could be carried about by the individual. These were usually stones or pebbles, many of which were carved and painted, and some made to represent human beings. The llama and the ear of maize were perhaps the most usual forms of these sacred objects. Some of them had an agricultural significance. In order that irrigation might proceed favourably a huaca was placed at intervals in proximity to the acequias, or irrigation canals, which was supposed to prevent them leaking or otherwise failing to supply a sufficiency of moisture to the parched maize-fields. Huacas of this sort were known as ccompas, and were regarded as deities of great importance, as the foodsupply of the community was thought to be wholly dependent upon their assistance. Other huacas of a similar kind were called chichics and huancas, and these prcsided over the fortunes of the maize, and ensured that a sufficient supply of rain should be forthcoming. Great numbers of these agricultural fetishes were destroyed by the zealous commissary Hernandez de Avendaño.

The Mamas

Spirits which were supposed to be instrumental in forcing the growth of the maize or other plants were the mamas. We find a similar conception among many Brazilian tribes to-day, so that the idea appears to have been a widely accepted one in South American countries. The Peruvians called such agencies "mothers," adding to the generic name that of the plant or herb with which they were specially associated. Thus acsumama was the potato-mother, quinuamama the quinua-mother, saramama the maize-mother, and cocamama the mother of the coca-shrub. Of these the saramama was naturally the most important, governing as it did the principal source of the food-supply of the community. Sometimes an image of the saramama was carved in stone, in the shape of an car of maize. The saramama was also worshipped in the form of a doll, or huantay. sara, made out of stalks of maize, renewed at each harvest, much as the idols of the great corn-mother of Mexico were manufactured at each harvest-season. After having been made, the image was watched over for three nights, and then sacrifice was done to it. The priest or medicine-man of the tribe would then inquire of it whether or not it was capable of existing until that time in the next year. If its spirit replied in the affirmative it was permitted to remain where it was until the following harvest. If not it was removed, burnt, and another figure took its place, to which similar questions were put.

The Huamantantac

Connected with agriculture in some degree was the Huamantantac (He who causes the Cormorants to gather themselves together). This was the agency responsible for the gathering of sea-birds, resulting in the deposits of guano to be found along the Peruvian coast which are so valuable in the cultivation of the maize-plant. He was regarded as a most beneficent spirit, and was sacrificed to with exceeding fervour.


The huaris, or "great ones," were the ancestors of the aristocrats of a tribe, and were regarded as specially favourable toward agricultural effort, possibly because the land had at one time belonged to them personally. They were sometimes alluded to as the "gods of strength," and were sacrificed to by libations of chicha. Ancestors in general were deeply revered, and had an agricultural significance, in that considerable tracts of land were tilled in order that they might be supplied with suitable food and drink offerings. As the number of ancestors increased more and more land was brought into cultivation, and the hapless people had their toil added to immeasurably by these constant demands upon them.


The huillcas were huacas which partook of the nature of oracles. Many of these were serpents, trees, and rivers, the noises made by which appeared to the primitive Peruvians-as, indeed, they do to primitive folk all over the world-to be of the quality of articulate speech. Both the Huillcamayu and the Apurimac rivers at Cuzco were huillca oracles of this kind, as their names, "Huillca-river " and "Great Speaker," denote. These oracles often set the mandate of the Inca himself at defiance, occasionally supporting popular opinion against his policy.

The Oracles of the Andes

The Peruvian Indians of the Andes range within recent generations continued to adhere to the superstitions they had inherited from their fathers. A rare and interesting account of these says that they "admit an evil being, the inhabitant of the centre of the earth, whom they consider as the author of their misfortunes, and at the mention of whose name they tremble. The most shrewd among them take advantage of this belief to obtain respect, and represent themselves as his delegates. Under the denomination of mohanes, or agoreros, they are consulted even on the most trivial occasions. They preside over the intrigues of love, the health of the community, and the taking of the field. Whatever repeatedly occurs to defeat their prognostics, falls on themselves; and they are wont ta pay for their deceptions very dearly. They chew a species of vegetable called piripiti, and throw it into the air, accompanying this act by certain recitals and incantations, to injure some, to benefit others, to procure rain and the inundation of the rivers, or, on the other hand, to occasion settled weather, and a plentiful store of agricultural productions. Any such result, having been casually verified on a single occasion, suffices to confirm the Indians in their faith, although they may have been cheated a thousand times. Fully persuaded that they cannot resist the influence of the piripiri, as soon as they know that they have been solicited in love by its means, they fix their eyes on the impassioned object, and discover a thousand amiable traits, either real or fanciful, which indifference had before concealed from their view. But the principal power, efficacy, and it may be said misfortune of the mohanes consist in the cure of the sick. Every malady is ascribed to theit enchantments, and means are instantly taken to ascertain by whom the mischief may have been wrought. For this purpose, the nearest relative takes a quantity of the juice of floripondium, and suddenly falls intoxicated by the violence of the plant. He is placed in a fit posture to prevent suffocation, and on his coming to himself, at the end of three days, the mohane who has the greatest resemblance to the sorcerer he saw in his visions is to undertake the cure, or if, in the interim, the sick man has perished, it is customary to subject him to the same fate. When not any sorcerer occurs in the visions, the first mohane they encounter has the misfortune to represent his image." [Skinner, State of Peru, p. 275]

Lake-Worship in Peru

At Lake Titicaca the Peruvians believed the inhabitants of the earth, animals as well as men, to have been fashioned by the creator, and the district was thus sacrosanct in their eyes. The people of the Collao called it Mamacota (Mother-water), because it furnished them with supplies of food. Two great idols were connected with this worship. One called Copacahuana was made of a bluish-green stone shaped like a fish with a human head, and was placed in a commanding position on the shores of the lake. On the arrival of the Spaniards so deeply rooted was the worship of this goddess that they could only suppress it by raising an image of the Virgin in place of the idol. The Christian emblem remains to this day. Mamacota was venerated as the giver of fish, with which the lake abounded. The other image, Copacati (Serpent-stone), represented the element of water as embodied in the lake itself in the form of an image wreathed in serpents, which in America are nearly always symbolical of water.

The Lost Island

A strange legend is recounted of this lake-goddess. She was chiefly worshipped as the giver of rain, but Huaina Ccapac, who had modern ideas and journeyed through the country casting down huacas had determined to raise on an island of Lake Titicaca a temple to Yatiri (The Ruler), the Aymara name of the god Pachacamac in his form of Pachayachachic. He commenced by raising the new shrine on the island of Titicaca itself. But the deity when called upon refused to vouchsafe any reply to his worshippers or priests. Huaina then commanded that the shrine should be transferred to the island of Apinguela. But the same thing happened there. He then inaugurated a temple on the island of Paapiti, and lavished upon it many sacrifices of llamas, children, and precious metals. But the offended tutelary goddess of the lake, irritated beyond endurance by this invasion of her ancient domain, lashed the watery waste into such a frenzy of storm that the island and the shrine which covered it disappeared beneath the waves and were never thereafter beheld by mortal eye.

The Thunder God of Peru

The rain-and-thunder god of Peru was worshipped in various parts of the country under various names. Among the Collao he was known as Con, and in that part of the Inca dominions now known as Bolivia he was called Churoquella. Near the cordilleras of the coast he was probably known as Pariacaca, who expelled the huaca of the district by dreadful tempests, hurling rain and hail at him for three days and ni hts in such quantities as to form the great lake of Pariacaca. Burnt llamas were offered to him. But the Incas, discontented with this local worship, which by no means suited their system of central government, determined to create one thunder-deity to whom all the tribes in the empire must bow as the only god of his class. We are not aware what his name was, but we know from mythological evidence that he was a mixture of all the other gods of thunder in the Peruvian Empire, first because he invariably occupied the third place in the triad of greater deities, the creator, sun, and thunder, all of whom were more or less amalgamations of provincial and metropolitan gods, and secondly because a great image of him was erected in the Coricancha at Cuzco, in which he was represented in human form, wearing a headdress which concealed his face, symbolic of the clouds, which ever veil the thunder-god's head. He had a special temple of his own, moreover, and was assigned a share in the sacred lands by the Inca Pachacutic. He was accompanied by a figure of his sister, who carried jars of water. An unknown Quichuan poet composed on the myth the following graceful little poem, which was translated by the late Daniel Garrison Brinton, an enthusiastic Americanist and professor of American archæology in the University of Pennsylvania:

Bounteous Princess,

Lo, thy brother

Breaks thy vessel

Now in fragments.

From the blow come

Thunder, lightning,

Strokes of lightning;

And thou, Princess,

Tak'st the water,

With it rainest,

And the hail or

Snow dispensest,



It will be observed that the translator here employs the name Viracocha as if it were that of the deity. But it was merely a general expression in use for a more than usually sacred being. Brinton, commenting upon the legend, says: "In this pretty waif that has floated down to us from the wreck of a literature now for ever lost there is more than one point to attract the notice of the antiquary. He may find in it a hint to decipher those names of divinities so common in Peruvian legends, Contici and Illatici. Both mean 'the Thunder Vase,' and both doubtless refer to the conception here displayed of the phenomena of the thunderstorm." Alluding to Peruvian thunder-myth elsewhere, he says in an illuminating passage: "Throughout the realms of the Incas the Peruvians venerated as maker of all things and ruler of the firmament the god Ataguju. The legend was that from him proceeded the first of mortals, the man Guamansuri, who descended to the earth and there wedded the sister of certain Guachimines, rayless ones or Darklings, who then possessed it. They destroyed him, but their sister gave birth to twin sons, Apocatequil and Piguerao. The former was the more powerful. By touching the corpse of his mother he brought her to life, he drove off and slew the Guachimines, and, directed by Ataguju, released the race of Indians from the soil by turning it up with a spade of gold. For this reason they adored him as their maker. He it was, they thought, who produced the thunder and the lightning by hurling stones with his sling. And the thunderbolts that fall, said they, are his children. Few villages were willing to be without one or more of these. They were in appearance small, round stones, but had the admirable properties of securing fertility to the fields, protecting from lightning, and, by a transition easy to understand, were also adored as gods of fire as well material as of the passions, and were capable of kindling the dangerous flames of desire in the most frigid bosoms. Therefore they were in great esteem as love-charms. Apocatequil's statue was erected on the mountains, with that of his mother on one hand and his brother on the other. 'He was Prince of Evil, and the most respected god of the Peruvians. From Quito to Cuzco not an Indian but would give all he possessed to conciliate him. Five priests, two stewards, and a crowd of slaves served his image. And his chief temple was surrounded by a very considerable village, whose inhabitants had no other occupation but to wait on him.'" In memory of these brothers twins in Peru were always deemed sacred to the lightning.

There is an instance on record of how the huillca could refuse on occasion to recognise even royalty itself. Manco, the Inca who had been given the kingly power by Pizarro, offered a sacrifice to one of these oracular shrines. The oracle refused to recognise him, through the medium of its guardian priest, stating that Manco was not the rightful Inca. Manco there. fore caused the oracle, which was in the shape of a rock, to be thrown down, whereupon its guardian spirit emerged in the form of a parrot and flew away. It is probable that the bird thus liberated had been taught by the priests to answer to the questions of those who came to consult the shrine. But we learn that on Manco commanding that the parrot should be pursued it sought another rock, which opened to receive it, and the spirit of the huillca was transferred to this new abode.

The Great God Pachacamac

Later Peruvian mythology recognised only three gods of the first rank, the earth, the thunder, and the creative agency. Pachacamac, the great spirit of earth, derived his name from a word pacha, which may be best trans, lated as "things." In its sense of visible things it is equivalent to "world," applied to things which happen in succession it denotes "time," and to things connected with persons "property," especially clothes. The world of visible things is thus Mamapacha (Earth-Mother), under which name the ancient Peruvians worshipped the earth. Pachacamac, on the other hand, is not the earth itself, the soil, but the spirit which animates all things that emerge therefrom. From him proceed the spirits of the plants and animals which come from the earth. Pachamama is the motherspirit of the mountains, rocks, and plains, Pachacamac the father-spirit of the grain-bearing plants, animals, birds, and man. In some localities Pachacamac and Pachamama were worshipped as divine mates. Possibly this practice was universal in early times, gradually lapsing into desuetude in later days. Pachamama was in another phase intended to denote the land immediately contiguous to a settlement, on which the inhabitants depended for their food-supply.

Peruvian Creation-Stories

It is easy to see how such a conception as Pachacamac, the spirit of animated nature, would become one with the idea of a universal or even a partial creator. That there was a pre-existing conception of a creative agency can be proved from the existence of the Peruvian name Conticsi-viracocha (He who gives Origin, or Beginning). This conception and that of Pachacamac must at some comparatively early period have clashed, and been amalgamated probably with ease when it was seen how nearly akin were the two ideas. Indeed, Pachacamac was alternatively known as Pacharurac, the "maker" of all things-sure proof of his amalgamation with the conception of the creative agency. As such he had his symbol in the great Coricancha at Cuzco, an oval plate of gold, suspended between those of the sun and the moon, and placed vertically, it may be hazarded with some probability, to represent in symbol that universal matrix from which emanated all things. Elsewhere in Cuzco the creator was represented by a stone statue in human form.


In later Inca days this idea of a creator assumed that of a direct ruler of the universe, known as Pachayachachic. This change was probably due to the influence of the Inca Pachacutic, who is known to have made several other doctrinal innovations in Peruvian theology. He commanded a great new temple to the creator-god to be built at the north angle of the city of Cuzco, in which he placed a statue of pure gold, of the size of a boy of ten years of age. The small size was to facilitate its removal, as Peruvian worship was nearly always carried out in the open air, In form it represented a man with his right arm elevated, the hand partially closed and the forefinger and thumb raised, as if in the act of uttering the creative word. To this god large possessions and revenues were assigned, for previously service rendered to him had been voluntary only.

Ideas of Creation

It is from aboriginal sources as preserved by the first Spanish colonists that we glean our knowledge of what the Incas believed the creative process to consist. By means of his word (ñisca) the creator, a spirit, powerful and opulent, made all things. We are provided with the formulæ of his very words by the Peruvian prayers still extant: "Let earth and heaven be," "Let a man be; let a woman be," "Let there be day," "Let there be night," "Let the light shine." The sun is here regarded as the creative agency, and the ruling caste as the objects of a special act of creation.

Pacari Tampu

Pacari Tampu (House of the Dawn) was the place of origin, according to the later Inca theology, of four brothers and sisters who initiated the four Peruvian systems of worship. The eldest climbed a neighbouring mountain, and cast stones to the four points of the compass, thus indicating that he claimed all the land within sight. But his youngest brother succeeded in enticing him into a cave, which he sealed up with a great stone, thus imprisoning him for ever. He next persuaded his second brother to ascend a lofty mountain, from which he cast him, changing him into a stone in his descent. On beholding the fate of his brethren the third member of the quartette fled. It is obvious that we have here a legend concocted by the later Inca priesthood to account for the evolution of Peruvian religion in its different stages. The first brother would appear to represent the oldest religion in Peru, that of the paccariscas, the second that of a fetishistic stone worship, the third perhaps that of Viracocha, and the last sun-worship pure and simple. There was, however, an "official" legend, which stated that the sun had three sons, Viracocha, Pachacamac, and Manco Ccapac. To the last the dominion of mankind was given, whilst the others were concerned with the workings of the universe. This politic arrangement placed all the power, temporal and spiritual, in the hands of the reputed descendants of Manco Ccapac the Incas.

Worship of the Sea

The ancient Peruvians worshipped the sea as well as the earth, the folk inland regarding it as a menacing deity, whilst the people of the coast reverenced it as a god of benevolence, calling it Mama-cocha, or Mother-sea, as it yielded them subsistence in the form of fish on which they chiefly lived. They worshipped the whale, fairly common on that coast, because of its enormous size, and various districts regarded with adoration the species of fish most abundant there. This worship can have partaken in no sense of the nature of totemism, as the system forbade that the totem animal should be eaten. It was imagined that the prototype of each variety of fish dwelt in the upper world, just as many tribes of North American Indians believe that the eponymous ancestors of certain animals dwell at the four points of the compass or in the sky above them. This great fish-god engendered the others of his species, and sent them into the waters of the deep that they might exist there until taken for the use of man. Birds, too, had their eponymous counterparts among the stars, as had animals. Indeed, among many of the South American races, ancient and modern, the constellations were called after certain beasts and birds.


The Aymara-Quichua race worshipped Viracocha as a great culture hero. They did not offer him sacrifices or tribute, as they thought that he, being creator and possessor of all things, needed nothing from men, so they only gave him worship. After him they idolised the sun. They believed, indeed, that Viracocha had made both sun and moon, after emerging from Lake Titicaca, and that then he made the earth and peopled it. On his travels westward from the lake he was sometimes assailed by men, but he revenged himself by sending terrible storms upon them and destroying their property, so they humbled themselves and acknowledged him as their lord. He forgave them and taught them everything, obtaining from them the name of Pachayachachic. In the end he disappeared in the western ocean. He either created or there were born with him four beings who, according to mythical beliefs, civilised Peru. To them he assigned the four quarters of the earth, and they are thus known as the our winds, north, south, east, and west. One legend avers they came from the cave Pacari, the Lodging of the Dawn.

Sun-Worship in Peru

The name "Inca" means "People of the Sun," which luminary the Incas regarded as their creator. But they did not worship him totemically-that is, they did not claim him as a progenitor, although they regarded him as possessing the attributes of a man. And here we may observe a difference between Mexican and Peruvian sun-worship, For whereas the Nahua primarily regarded the orb as the abode of the Man of the Sun, who came to earth in the shape of Quetzalcoatl, the Peruvians looked upon the sun itself as the deity. The Inca race did not identify their ancestors as children of the sun until a comparatively late date. Sun-worship was introduced by the Inca Pachacutic, who averred that the sun appeared to him in a dream and addressed him as his child. Until that time the worship of the sun had always been strictly subordinated to that of the creator, and the deity appeared only as second in the trinity of creator, sun, and thunder. But permanent provision was made for sacrifices to the sun before the other deities were so recognised, and as the conquests of the Incas grew wider and that provision extended to the new territories they came to be known as "the Lands of the Sun, the natives observing the dedication of a part of the country to the luminary, and concluding therefrom that it applied to the whole. The material reality of the sun would enormously assist his cult among a people who were too barbarous to appreciate an unseen god, and this colonial conception reacting upon the mother-land would undoubtedly inspire the military class with a resolve to strengthen a worship so popular in the conquered provinces, and of which they were in great measure the protagonists and missionaries.

The Sun's Possessions

In every Peruvian village the sun had considerable possessions. His estates resembled those of a territorial chieftain, and consisted of a dwelling-house, a chacra, or portion of land, flocks of llamas and pacos, and a number of women dedicated to his service. The cultivation of the soil within the solar enclosure devolved upon the inhabitants of the neighbouring village, the produce of their toil being stored in the inti-huasi, or sun's house. The Women of the Sun prepared the daily food and drink of the luminary, which consisted of maize and chicha. They also spun wool and wove it into fine stuff, which was burned in order that it might ascend to the celestial regions, where the deity could make use of it. Each village reserved a portion of its solar produce for the great festival at Cuzco, and it was carried thither on the backs of llamas which were destined for sacrifice.

Inca Occupation of Titicaca

The Rock of Titicaca, the renowned place of the sun's origin, naturally became an important centre of his worship. The date at which the worship of the sun originated at this famous rock is extremely remote, but we may safely assume that it was long before the conquest of the Collao by the Apu-Ccapac-Inca Pachacutic, and that reverence for the luminary as a war-god by the Colla chiefs was noticed by Tupac, who in suppressing the revolt concluded that the local observance at the rock had some relationship to the disturbance. It is, however, certain that Tupac proceeded after the reconquest to establish at this natural centre of sun-worship solar rites on a new basis, with the evident intention of securing on behalf of the Incas of Cuzco such exclusive benefit as might accrue from the complete possession of the sun's paccarisca. According to a native account, a venerable colla (or hermit), consecrated to the service of the sun, had proceeded on foot from Titicaca to Cuzco for the purpose of commending this ancient seat of sun-worship to the notice of Tupac. The consequence was that Apu-Ccapac-Inca, after visiting the island and inquiring into the ancient local customs, re-established them in a more regular form. His accounts can hardly be accepted in face of the facts which have been gathered. Rather did it naturally follow that Titicaca became subservient to Tupac after the revolt of the Collao had been quelled. Henceforth the worship of the sun at the place of his origin was entrusted to Incas resident in the place, and was celebrated with Inca rites. The island was converted into a solar estate and the aboriginal inhabitants removed. The land was cultivated and the slopes of the hills levelled, maize was sown and the soil consecrated, the grain being regarded as the gift of the sun. This work produced considerable change in the island. Where once was waste and idleness there was now fertility and industry. The harvests were skilfully apportioned, so much being reserved for sacrificial purposes, the remainder being sent to Cuzco, partly to be sown in the chacras, or estates of the sun, throughout Peru, partly to be preserved in the granary of the Inca and the huacas as a symbol that there would be abundant crops in the future and that the grain already stored would be preserved. A building of the Women of the Sun was erected about a mile from the rock, so that the produce might be available for sacrifices. For their maintenance, tribute of potatoes, ocas, and quinua was levied upon the inhabitants of the villages on the shores of the lake, and of maize upon the people of the neighbouring valleys.

Pilgrimages to Titicaca

Titicaca at the time of the conquest was probably more frequented than Pachacamac itself. These two places were held to be the cardinal shrines of the two great huacas, the creator and the sun respectively. A special reason for pilgrimage to Titicaca was to sacrifice to the sun, as the source of physical energy and the giver of long life; and he was especially worshipped by the aged, who believed he had preserved their lives.

Then followed the migration of pilgrims to Titicaca, for whose shelter houses were built at Capacahuana, and large stores of maize were provided for their use. The ceremonial connected with the sacred rites of the rock was rigorously observed. The pilgrim ere embarking on the raft which conveyed him to the island must first confess his sins to a huillac (a seaker to an object of worship); then further confessions were required at each of the three sculptured doors which had successively to be passed before reaching the sacred rock. The first door (Puma-puncu) was surmounted by the figure of a puma; the others (Quenti-puncu and Pillco-puncu) were ornamented with feathers of the different species of birds commonly sacrificed to the sun. Having passed the last portal, the traveller beheld at a distance of two hundred paces the sacred rock itself, the summit glittering with gold-leaf. He was permitted to proceed no further, for only the officials were allowed entry into it. The pilgrim on departing received a few grains of the sacred maize grown on the island. These he kept with care and placed with his own store, believing they would preserve his stock. The confidence the Indian placed in the virtue of the Titicaca maize may be judged from the prevalent belief that the possessor of a single grain would not suffer from starvation during the whole of his life.

Sacrifices to the New Sun

The Intip-Raymi, or Great Festival of the Sun, was celebrated by the Incas at Cuzco at the winter solstice. In connection with it the Tarpuntaita-cuma, or sacrificing Incas, were charged with a remarkable duty, the worshippers journeying eastward to meet one of these functionaries on his way. On the principal hill-tops between Cuzco and Huillcanuta, on the road to the rock of Titicaca, burnt offerings of llamas, coca, and maize were made at the feast to greet the arrival of the young sun from his ancient birthplace. Molina has enumerated more than twenty of these places of sacrifice. The striking picture of the celebration of the solar sacrifice on these bleak mountains in the depth of the Peruvian winter has, it seems, no parallel in the religious rites of the ancient Americans. Quitting their thatched houses at early dawn, the worshippers left the valley below, carrying the sacrificial knife and brazier, and conducting the white llama, heavily laden with fuel, maize, and coca leaves, wrapped in fine cloth, to the spot where the sacrifice was to be made. When sunrise appeared the pile was lighted. The victim was slain and thrown upon it. The scene then presented a striking contrast to the bleak surrounding wilderness. As the flames grew in strength and the smoke rose higher and thicker the clear atmosphere was gradually illuminated from the east. When the sun advanced above the horizon the sacrifice was at its height. But for the crackling of the flames and the murmur of a babbling stream on its way down the hill to join the river below, the silence had hitherto been unbroken. As the sun rose the Incas marched slowly round the burning mass, plucking the wool from the scorched carcase, and chanting monotonously: "O Creator, Sun and Thunder, be for ever young! Multiply the people; let them ever be in peace!"

The Citoc Raymi

The most picturesque if not the most important solar festival was that of the Citoc Raymi (Gradually Increasing Sun), held in June, when nine days were given up to the ceremonial. A rigorous fast was observed for three days previous to the event, during which no fire must be kindled. On the fourth day the Inca, accompanied by the people en masse, proceeded to the great square of Cuzco to hail the rising sun, which they awaited in silence. On its appearance they greeted it with a joyous tumult, and joining in procession, marched to the Golden Temple of the Sun, where llamas were sacrificed, and a new fire was kindled by means of an arched mirror, followed by sacrificial offerings of grain, flowers, animals, and aromatic gums. This festival may be taken as typical of all the seasonal celebrations. The Inca calendar was purely agricultural in its basis, and marked in its great festivals the renewal or abandonment of the labours of the field. Its astronomical observations were not more advanced than those of the calendars of many American races otherwise inferior in civilisation.

Human Sacrifice in Peru

Writers ignorant of their subject have often dwelt upon the absence of human sacrifice in ancient Peru, and have not hesitated to draw comparisons between Mexico and the empire of the Incas in this respect, usually not complimentary to the former. Such statements are contradicted by the clearest evidence. Human sacrifice was certainly not nearly so prevalent in Peru, but that it was regular and by no means rare is well authenticated. Female victims to the sun were taken from the great class of Acllacuna (Selected Ones), a general tribute of female children regularly levied throughout the Inca Empire. Beautiful girls were taken from their parents at the age of eight by the Inca officials, and were handed over to certain female trainers called mamacuna (mothers). These matrons systematically trained their protégées in housewifery and ritual. Residences or convents called aclla-huasi (houses of the Selected) were provided for them in the principal cities.

Methods of Medicine-Men

A quaint account of the methods of the medicinemen of the Indians of the Peruvian Andes probably illustrates the manner in which the superstitions of a barbarian people evolve into a more stately ritual.

"It cannot be denied," it states, "that the mohanes [priests] have, by practice and tradition, acquired a knowledge of many plants and poisons, with which they effect surprising cures on the one hand, and do much mischief on the other, but the mania of ascribing the whole to a preternatural virtue occasions them to blend with their practice a thousand charms and superstitions. The most customary method of cure is to place two hammocks close to each other, either in the dwelling, or in the open air: in one of them the patient lies extended, and in the other the mohane, or agorero. The latter, in contact with the sick man, begins by rocking himself, and then proceeds, by a strain in falsetto, to call on the birds, quadrupeds, and fishes to give health to the patient. From time to time he rises on his seat, and makes a thousand extravagant gestures over the sick man, to whom he applies his powders and herbs, or sucks the wounded or diseased parts. If the malady augments, the agorero, having been joined by many of the people, chants a short hymn, addressed to the soul of the patient, with this burden: 'Thou must not go, thou must not go.' In repeating this he is joined by the people, until at length a terrible clamour is raised, and augmented in proportion as the sick man becomes still fainter and fainter, to the end that it may reach his ears. When all the charms are unavailing, and death approaches, the mohane leaps from his hammock, and betakes himself to flight, amid the multitude of sticks, stones, and clods of earth which are showered on him. Successively all those who belong to the nation assemble, and, dividing themselves into bands, each of them (if he who is in his last agonies is a warrior) approaches him, saying: 'Whither goest thou? Why dost thou leave us? With whom shall we proceed to the aucas [the enemies]?' They then relate to him the heroical deeds he has performed, the number of those he has slain, and the pleasures he leaves behind him. This is practised in different tones while some raise the voice, it is lowered by others and the poor sick man is obliged to support these importunities without a murmur, until the first symptoms of approaching dissolution manifest themselves. Then it is that he is surrounded by a multitude of females, some of whom forcibly close the mouth and eyes, others envelop him in the hammock, oppressing him with the whole of their weight, and causing him to expire before his time, and others, lastly, run to extinguish the candle, and dissipate the smoke, that the soul, not being able to perceive the hole through which it may escape, may remain entangled in the structure of the roof. That this may be speedily effected, and to prevent its return to the interior of the dwelling, they surround the entrances with filth, by the stench of which it may be expelled.

Death by Suffocation

"As soon as the dying man is suffocated by the closing of the mouth, nostrils, &c., and wrapt up in the covering of his bed, the most circumspect Indian, whether male or female, takes him in the arms in the best manner possible, and gives a gentle shriek, which echoes to the bitter lamentations of the immediate relatives, and to the cries of a thousand old women collected for the occasion. As long as this dismal howl subsists, the latter are subjected to a constant fatigue, raising the palm of the hand to wipe away the tears, and lowering it to dry it on the ground. The result of this alternate action is, that a circle of earth, which gives them a most hideous appearance, is collected about the eyelids and brows, and they do not wash themselves until the mourning is over. These first clamours conclude by several good pots of masato, to assuage the thirst of sorrow, and the company next proceed to make a great clatter among the utensils of the deceased: some break the kettles, and others the earthen pots, while others, again, burn the apparel, to the end that his memory may be the sooner forgotten. If the defunct has been a cacique, or powerful warrior, his exequies are performed after the manner of the Romans: they last for many days, all the people weeping in concert for a considerable space of time, at daybreak, at noon, in the evening, and at midnight. When the appointed hour arrives, the mournful music begins in front of the house of the wife and relatives, the heroical deeds of the deceased being chanted to the sound of instruments. All the inhabitants of the vicinity unite in chorus from within their houses, some chirping like birds, others howling like tigers, and the greater part of them chattering like monkeys, or croaking like frogs. They constantly leave off by having recourse to the masato, and by the destruction of whatever the deceased may have left behind him, the burning of his dwelling being that which concludes the ceremonies. Among some of the Indians, the nearest relatives cut off their hair as a token of their grief, agreeably to the practice of the Moabites, and other nations. . . .

The Obsequies of a Chief

"On the day of decease, they put the body, with its insignia, into a large earthen vessel, or painted jar) which they bury in one of the angles of the quarter, laying over it a covering of potter's clay, and throwing in earth until the grave is on a level with the surface of the ground. When the obsequies are over, they forbear to pay a visit to it, and lose every recollection of the name of the warrior. The Roamaynas disenterre their dead, as soon as they think that the fleshy parts have been consumed, and having washed the bones form the skeleton, which they place in a coffin of potter's clay, adorned with various symbols of death, like the hieroglyphics on the wrappers of the Egyptian mummies. In this state the skeleton is carried home, to the end that the survivors may bear the deceased in respectful memory, and not in imitation of those extraordinary voluptuaries of antiquity, who introduced into their most splendid festivals a spectacle of this nature, which, by reminding them of their dissolution, might stimulate them to taste, before it should overtake them, all the impure pleasures the human passions could afford them. A space of time of about a year being elapsed, the bones are once more inhumed, and the individual to whom they belonged forgotten for ever." [Skinner, State of Peru, pp. 271 et seq.]

Peruvian Myths

Peru is not so rich in myths as Mexico, but the following legends well illustrate the mythological ideas of the Inca race:

The Vision of Yupanqui

The Inca Yupanqui before he succeeded to the sovereignty is said to have gone to visit his father, Viracocha Inca. On his way he arrived at a fountain called Susur-pugaio. There he saw a piece of crystal fall into the fountain, and in this crystal he saw the figure of an Indian, with three bright rays as of the sun coming from the back of his head. He wore a hauiu, or royal fringe, across the forehead like the Inca. Serpents wound round his arms and over his shoulders. He had ear-pieces in his ears like the Incas, and was also dressed like them. There was the head of a lion between his legs, and another lion was about his shoulders. Inca Yupanqui took fright at this strange figure, and was running away when a voice called to him by name telling him not to be afraid, because it was his father, the sun, whom he beheld, and that he would conquer many nations, but he must remember his father-in his sacrifices and raise revenues for him, and pay him great reverence. Then the figure vanished, but the crystal remained, and the Inca afterwards saw all he wished in it. When he became king he had a statue of the sun made, resembling the figure as closely as possible, and ordered all the tribes he had conquered to build splendid temples and worship the new deity instead of the creator.

The Bird Bride

The Canaris Indians are named from the province of Canaribamba, in Quito, and they have several myths regarding their origin. One recounts that at the deluge two brothers fled to a very high mountain called Huacaquan, and as the waters rose the hill ascended simultaneously, so that they escaped drowning. When the flood was over they had to find food in the valleys, and they built a tiny house and lived on herbs and roots. They were surprised one day when they went home to find food already prepared for them and chicha to drink. This continued for ten days. Then the elder brother decided to hide himself and discover who brought the food. Very soon two birds, one Aqua, the other Torito (otherwise quacamayo birds), appeared dressed as Canaris, and wearing their hair fastened in the same way. The larger bird removed the Ilicella, or mantle the Indians wear, and the man saw that they had beautiful faces and discovered that the bird-like beings were in reality women. When he came out the bird-women were very angry and flew away. When the younger brother came home and found no food he was annoyed, and determined to hide until the bird-women returned. After ten days the quacamayos appeared again on their old mission, and while they were busy the watcher contrived to close the door, and so prevented the younger bird from escaping. She lived with the brothers for a long time, and became the mother of six sons and daughters, from whom all the Canaris proceed. Hence the tribe look upon the quacamayo birds with reverence) and use their feathers at their festivals.


Some myths tell of a divine personage called Thonapa, who appears to have been a hero-god or civilising agent like Quetzalcoatl. He seems to have devoted his life to preaching to the people in the various villages, beginning in the provinces of Colla-suya. When he came to Yamquisupa he was treated so badly that he would not remain there. He slept in the open air, clad only in a long shirt and a mantle, and carried a book. He cursed the village. It was soon immersed in water, and is now a lake. There was an idol in the form of a woman to which the people offered sacrifice at the top of a high hill, Cachapucara. This idol Thonapa detested, so he burnt it, and also destroyed the hill. On another occasion Thonapa cursed a large assembly of people who were holding a great banquet to celebrate a wedding, because they refused to listen to his preaching. They were all changed into stones, which are visible to this day. Wandering through Peru, Thonapa came to the mountain of Caravaya, and after raising a very large cross he put it on his shoulders and took it to the hill Carapucu, where he preached so fervently that he shed tears. A chief's daughter got some of the water on her head, and the Indians, imagining that he was washing his head (a ritual offence), took him prisoner near the Lake of Carapucu. Very early the next morning a beautiful youth appeared to Thonapa, and told him not to fear, for he was sent from the divine guardian who watched over him. He released Thonapa, who escaped, though he was well guarded. He went down into the lake, his mantle keeping him above the water as a boat would have done. After Thonapa had escaped from the barbarians he remained on the rock of Titicaca, afterwards going to the town of Tiya-manacu, where again he cursed the people and turned them into stones. They were too bent upon amusement to listen to his preaching. He then followed the river Chacamarca till it reached the sea, and, like Quetzalcoatl, disappeared. This is good evidence that he was a solar deity, or man of the sun, who, his civilising labours completed, betook himself to the house of his father.

A Myth of Manco Ccapac Inca

When Manco Ccapac Inca was born a staff which had been given to his father turned into gold. He had seven brothers and sisters, and at his father's death he assembled all his people in order to see how much he could venture in making fresh conquests. He and his brothers supplied themselves with rich clothing, new arms, and the golden staff called tapac-yauri (royal sceptre). He had also two cups of gold from which Thonapa had drunk, called tapacusi. They proceeded to the highest point in the country, a mountain where the sun rose, and Manco Ccapac saw several rainbows. which he interpreted as a sign of good fortune, Delighted with the favouring symbols, he sang the song of Chamayhuarisca (The Song of Joy). Manco Ccapac: wondered why a brother who had accompanied him did not return, and sent one of his sisters in search of him, but she also did not come back, so he went himself, and found both nearly dead beside a huaca. They said they could not move, as the huaca, a stone, retarded them. In a great rage Manco struck this stone with his tapac-yauri. It spoke, and said that had it not been for his wonderful golden staff he would have had no power over it. It added that his brother and sister had sinned, and therefore must remain with it (the huaca) in the lower regions, but that Manco was to be "greatly honoured." The sad fate of his brother and sister troubled Manco exceedingly, but on going back to the place where he first saw the rainbows he got comfort from them and strength to bear his grief.

Coniraya Viracocha

Coniraya Viracocha was a tricky nature spirit who declared he was the creator, but who frequently appeared attired as a poor ragged Indian. He was an adept at deceiving people. A beautiful woman, Cavillaca, who was greatly admired, was one day weaving a mantle at the foot of a lucma tree. Coniraya, changing himself into a beautiful bird, climbed the tree, took some of his generative seed, made it into a ripe lucma, and dropped it near the beautiful virgin, who saw and ate the fruit. Some time afterwards a son was born to Cavillaca. When the child was older she wished that the huacas and gods should meet and declare who was the father of the boy. All dressed as finely as possible, hoping to be chosen as her husband. Coniraya was there, dressed like a beggar, and Cavillaca never even looked at him. The maiden addressed the assembly, but as no one immediately answered her speech she let the child go, saving he would be sure to crawl to his father. The infant went straight up to Coniraya, sitting in his rags, and laughed up to him. Cavillaca, extremely angry at the idea ot being associated with such a poor, dirty creature, fled to the seashore. Coniraya then put on magnificent attire and followed her to show her how handsome he was, but still thinking of him in his ragged condition she would not look back. She went into the sea at Pachacamac and was changed into a rock. Coniraya, still following her, met a condor, and asked if it had seen a woman. On the condor replying that it had seen her quite near, Coniraya. blessed it, and said whoever killed it would be killed himself. He then met a fox, who said he would never meet Cavillaca, so Coniraya told him he would always retain his disagreeable odour, and on account of it he would never be able to go abroad except at night, and that he would be hated by every one. Next came a lion, who told Coniraya he was very near Cavillaca, so the lover said he should have the power of punishing wrongdoers, and that whoever killed him would wear the skin without cutting off the head, and by preserving the teeth and eyes would make him appear still alive; his skin would be worn at festivals, and thus he would be honoured after death. Then another fox who gave bad news was cursed, and a falcon who said Cavillaca was near was told he would be highly esteemed, and that whoever killed him would also wear his skin at festivals. The parrots, giving bad news, were to cry so loud that they would be heard far away, and their cries would betray them to enemies. Thus Coniraya blessed the animals which gave him news he liked, and cursed those which gave the opposite. When at last he came to the sea he found Cavillaca and the child turned into stone, and there he encountered two beautiful young daughters of Pachacamac, who guarded a great serpent. He made love to the elder sister, but the younger one flew away in the form of a wild pigeon. At that time there were no fishes in the sea, but a certain goddess had reared a few in a small pond, and Coniraya emptied these into the ocean and thus peopled it. The angry deity tried to outwit Coniraya and kill him, but he was too wise and escaped. He returned to Huarochiri, and played tricks as before on the villagers.

Coniraya slightly approximates to the Jurupari of the Uapès Indians of Brazil, especially as regards his impish qualities. [See Spence, article "Brazil" in Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics vol. ii.]

The Llama's Warning

An old Peruvian myth relates how the world was nearly left without an inhabitant. A man took his llama to a fine place for feeding, but the beast moaned and would not eat, and on its master questioning it, it said there was little wonder it was sad, because in five days the sea would rise and engulf the earth. The man, alarmed, asked if there was no way of escape, and the llama advised him to go to the top of a high mountain, Villa-Coto, taking food for five days. When they reached the summit of the hill all kinds of birds and animals were already there. When the sea rose the water came so near that it washed the tail of a fox, and that is why foxes' tails are black! After five days the water fell, leaving only this one man alive, and from him the Peruvians believed the present human race to be descended.

The Myth of Huathlacuri

After the deluge the Indians chose the bravest and richest man as leader. This period they called Purunpacha (the time without a king). On a high mountain-top appeared five large eggs, from one of which Paricaca, father of Huathiacuri, later emerged. Huathiacuri, who was so poor that he had not means to cook his food properly, learned much wisdom from his father, and the following story shows how this assisted him. A certain man had built a most curious house, the roof being made of yellow and red birds' feathers. He was very rich, possessing many llamas, and was greatly esteemed on account of his wealth. So proud did he become that he aspired to be the creator himself; but when he became very ill and could not cure himself his divinity seemed doubtful. Just at this time Huathiacuri was travelling about, and one day he saw two foxes meet and listened to their conversation. From this he heard about the rich man and learned the cause of his illness, and forthwith he determined to go on to find him. On arriving at the curious house he met a lovely young girl, one of the rich man's daughters. She told him about her father's illness, and Huathiacuri, charmed with her, said he would cure her father if she would only give him her love. He looked so ragged and dirty that she refused, but she took him to her father and informed him that Huathiacuri said he could cure him. Her father consented to give him an opportunity to do so. Huathiacuri began his cure by telling the sick man that his wife had been unfaithful, and that there were two serpents hovering above his house to devour it, and a toad with two heads under his grinding-stone. His wife at first indignantly denied the accusation, but on Huathiacuri reminding her of some details, and the serpents and toad being discovered, she confessed her guilt. The reptiles were killed, the man recovered, and the daughter was married to Huathiacuri.

Huathiacuri's poverty and raggedness displeased the girl's brother-in-law, who suggested to the bridegroom a contest in dancing and drinking. Huathiacuri went to seek his father's advice, and the old man told him to accept the challenge and return to him. Paricaca then sent him to a mountain, where he was changed into a dead llama. Next morning a fox and its vixen carrying a jar of chicha came, the fox having a flute of many pipes. When they saw the dead llama they laid down their things and went toward it to have a feast, but Huathiacuri then resumed his human form and gave a loud cry that frightened away the foxes, whereupon he took possession of the jar and flute. By the aid of these, which were magically endowed, he beat his brother-in-law in dancing and drinking.

Then the brother-in-law proposed a contest to prove who was the handsomer when dressed in festal attire. By the aid of Paricaca Huathiacuri found a red lion-skin, which gave him the appearance of having a rainbow round his head, and he again won.

The next trial was to see who could build a house the quickest and best. The brother-in-law got all his men to help, and had his house nearly finished before the other had his foundation laid. But here again Paricaca's wisdom proved of service, for Huathiacuri got animals and birds of all kinds to help him during the night, and by morning the building was finished except the roof. His brother-in-law got many llamas to come with straw for his roof, but Huathiacuri ordered an animal to stand where its loud screams frightened the llamas away, and the straw was lost. Once more Huathiacuri won the day. At last Paricaca advised Huathiacuri to end this conflict, and he asked his brother-in-law to see who could dance best in a blue shirt with white cotton round the loins. The rich man as usual appeared first, but when Huathiacuri came in he made a very loud noise and frightened him, and he began to run away. As he ran Huathiacuri turned him into a deer. His wife, who had followed him, was turned into a stone, with her head on the ground and her feet in the air, because she had given her husband such bad advice.

The four remaining eggs on the mountain-top then opened, and four falcons issued, which turned into four great warriors. These warriors performed many miracles, one of which consisted in raising a storm which swept away the rich Indian's house in a flood to the sea.


Having assisted in the performance of several miracles, Paricaca set out determined to do great deeds. He went to find Caruyuchu Huayallo, to whom children were sacrificed. He came one day to a village where a festival was being celebrated, and as he was in very poor clothes no one took any notice of him or offered him anything, till a young girl, taking pity on him, brought him chicha to drink. In gratitude Paricaca told her to seek a place of safety for herself, as the village would be destroyed after five days, but she was to tell no one of this. Annoyed at the inhospitality of the people, Paricaca then went to a hill-top and sent down a fearful storm and flood, and the whole village was destroyed. Then he came to another village, now San Lorenzo. He saw a very beautiful girl, Choque Suso, crying bitterly. Asking her why she wept, she said the maize crop was dying for want of water. Paricaca at once fell in love with this girl, and after first damming up the little water there was, and thus leaving none for the crop, he told her he would give her plenty of water if she would only return his love. She said he must get water not only for her own crop but for all the other farms before she could consent. He noticed a small rill, from which, by opening a dam, he thought he might get a sufficient supply of water for the farms. He then got the assistance of the birds in the hills, and animals such as snakes, lizards, and so on, in removing any obstacles in the way, and they widened the channel so that the water irrigated all the land. The fox with his usual cunning managed to obtain the post of engineer, and carried the canal to near the site of the church of San Lorenzo. Paricaca, having accomplished what he had promised, begged Choque Suso to keep her word, which she willingly did, but she proposed living at the summit of some rocks called Yanacaca. There the lovers stayed very happily, at the head of the channel called Cocochallo, the making of which had united them; and as Choque Suso wished to remain there always, Paricaca. eventually turned her into a stone.

In all likelihood this myth was intended to account for the invention of irrigation among the early Peruvians, and from being a local legend probably spread over the length and breadth of the country.


The advance in civilisation attained by the peoples of America must be regarded as among the most striking phenomena in the history of mankind, especially if it be viewed as an example of what can be achieved by isolated races occupying a peculiar environment. It cannot be too strongly emphasised that the cultures and mythologies of old Mexico and Peru were evolved without foreign assistance or intervention, that, in fact, they were distinctively and solely the fruit of American aboriginal thought evolved upon American soil. An absorbing chapter in the story of human advancement is provided by these peoples, whose architecture, arts, graphic and plastic, laws and religions prove them to have been the equals of most of the Asiatic nations of antiquity, and the superiors of the primitive races of Europe, who entered into the heritage of civilisation through the gateway of the East. The aborigines of ancient America had evolved for themselves a system of writing which at the period of their discovery was approaching the alphabetic type, a mathematical system unique and by no means despicable, and an architectural science in some respects superior to any of which the Old World could boast. Their legal codes were reasonable and founded upon justice; and if their religions were tainted with cruelty, it was a cruelty which they regarded as inevitable, and as the doom placed upon them by sanguinary and insatiable deities and not by any human agency.

In comparing the myths of the American races with the deathless stories of Olympus or the scarcely less classic tales of India, frequent resemblances and analogies cannot fail to present themselves, and these are of value as illustrating the circumstance that in every quarter of the globe the mind of man has shaped for itself a system of faith based upon similar principles. But in the perusal of the myths and beliefs of Mexico and Peru we are also struck with the strangeness and remoteness alike of their subject-matter and the type of thought which they present. The result of centuries of isolation is evident in a profound contrast of "atmosphere." It seems almost as if we stood for a space upon the dim shores of another planet, spectators of the doings of a race of whose modes of thought and feeling we were entirely ignorant.

For generations these stories have been hidden, along with the memory of the gods and folk of whom they tell, beneath a thick dust of neglect, displaced here and there only by the efforts of antiquarians working singly and unaided. Nowadays many well-equipped students are striving to add to our knowledge of the civilisations of Mexico and Peru. To the mythical stories of these peoples, alas! we cannot add. The greater part of them perished in the flames of the Spanish autos-de-fé. But for those which have survived we must be grateful, as affording so many casements through which we may catch the glitter and gleam of civilisations more remote and bizarre than those of the Orient, shapes dim yet gigantic, misty yet many-coloured, the ghosts of peoples and beliefs not the least splendid and solemn in the roll of dead nations and vanished faiths.


Brutal Ancient Torture and Punishments

Methods of Middle Ages Torture

There were many methods of torture which were practiced during the Medieval era of the Middle Ages:

  • Ripping out teeth / nails

  • Beating

  • Blinding

  • Boiling

  • Bone breaking

  • Branding and Burning

  • Castration

  • Choking

  • Cutting

  • Disfigurement

  • Dislocation

  • Drowning

  • Flagellation, whipping and beating

  • Flaying

  • Roasting

  • Genital mutilation

  • Limb/finger removal

  • Starvation

  • Tongue removal

There was even a torture which used tickling as a method to inflict suffering. Other tortures included the compression of the limbs by special instruments, or by ropes, injection of water, vinegar, or oil, into the body of the accused, application of hot pitch, and starvation, were the processes used in tortures.

Instruments or devices of Middle Ages Torture
The instruments or devices used in Medieval torture of the Middle Ages included some of the following terrible tools or machines:

  • Boot or Spanish boot

  • Branding Irons

  • Brank

  • The Collar

  • Drunkards Cloak

  • Ducking stools

  • Foot press

  • Foot screw

  • The Gossip's Bridle or the Brank

  • Heretic's fork

  • The Maiden

  • Pillory

  • Rack

  • Scavenger's daughter

  • Scold's bridle

  • Stocks

  • Thumbscrew

  • The Wheel

Middle Ages Torture and Execution
A skilled torturer would use methods, devices and instruments to prolong life as long as possible whilst inflicting agonising pain. However, the customs of the Medieval period dictated that many prisoners were tortured before they were executed in order to obtain additional information about their crime or their accomplices. There were many forms of torture and execution. The execution method itself was part of the torture endured by prisoners. These final methods of torture and execution included the following methods:

  • Torture and execution by Fire

  • The Sword or the Axe

  • Mechanical force

  • Quartering

  • The Wheel

  • The Fork

  • The Gibbet

  • Spiking

  • Dismembering

Middle Ages Torture Chambers and Dungeons
The torture chambers were located in the lower parts of castles. The entrances to many torture chambers were accessed through winding passages which served to muffle the agonising cries of torture victims from the normal inhabitants of the castle. internal government of prisons. Torture chambers and dungeons were often very small some measured only eleven feet long by seven feet wide in which from ten to twenty prisoners were often incarcerated at the same time.

Middle Ages Torture was condemned in 866
The barbarous custom of punishment by torture was on several occasions condemned by the Church. As early as 866, we find, from Pope Nicholas V's letter to the Bulgarians, that their custom of torturing the accused was considered contrary to divine as well as to human law: "For," says he, "a confession should be voluntary, and not forced. By means of the torture, an innocent man may suffer to the utmost without making any avowal; and, in such a case, what a crime for the judge! Or the person may be subdued by pain, and may acknowledge himself guilty, although he be not so, which throws an equally great sin upon the judge." Despite this, and other please, the practise of torturing victims continued. Medieval Torture was a freely accepted form of punishment in the Middle Ages and was only abolished in England in 1640.

Wooden wedges were forced underneath the toenails to help urge a confession from the criminal. The toenails often became infected and other tortures were applied if this was not enough for confession.

This scissor type instrument was used to slice the tongue up after the victims mouth was forced open.

The copper boot was placed around the foot of the victim and filled to the brim with molten lead causing first degree burns.

The sprinkler was filled with molten metal and dripped on the stomach, back, and other body parts of the victim.

During the water torture, the victims nostrils were pinched shut and fluid was poured down his throat. Intstead of water, sometimes vinegar, urine, or urine and a combination of diarrhea were forced down the throat.

The thumbscrew was simple placed on the thumb and tighten until it crushed the thumb. The tool was also used on toes.

These toothed bars squeezed the victim's testicles til they were destroyed.

The victim was placed on the Spanish donkey and then had extremely heavy weights tied to his or her legs until the force was so great that it destroyed the are between the legs.

The Foot Press slowly squeezed the naked foot between the iron plates lined with sharp spikes to crush the bones of the foot.

The Scottish Boot was placed around the ankle of the victim and then wedges were forced into the ankle.

The name breast ripper explains itself.

The pear was a metal object that is shoved inside the mouth anal cavity and vagina. Once in place the screw at the end was turned and the pear opened up inside the cavity. This caused much damage and lead to death.

The victim was bound on an oblong wooden frame with a roller at each end. If the victim refused to answer questions, the rollers were turned until the victim's joints were pulled out of their sockets.

The branks were a mask that had a metal piece that goes in your mouth. The mouth piece has spikes on it, which unable you to talk.

The Juda Cradle is a horrible torture. The victim is hung above a cone pyramid type object and then is lowered upon it. the sharp tip of the cone or pyramid is forced into the area between the legs.

The head crusher simply crushed your head.

The whirligig was not that bad of a torture. It just span the victim til they puked.

The cat's paw was a short pole with a pitch fork at one end. It was used to tear the the flesh of the victim.

The heretic fork was a two sided prong that went between your chin and your chest. You could not talk with instrument in place and it was very painful.

The chair of spikes was a chair of spikes. The victim would sit in the chair and weights would be applied onto the victim forcing his body into the metal spikes.


CRUX (σταυρός, σκόλοψ), an instrument of capital punishment, used by several ancient nations, especially the Romans and Carthaginians. The words σταυρόω and σκολοπίζω are also applied to Persian and Egyptian punishments, but Casaubon (Exer. Antibaron. xvi.77) doubts whether they describe the Roman method of crucifixion. From Seneca (Cons. ad Marc. xx, Epist. xiv.1) we learn the latter to have been of two kinds, the less usual sort being rather impalement than what we should describe by the word crucifixion, as the criminal was transfixed by a pole, which passed through the back and spine and came out at the mouth.

The cross was of several kinds; one in the shape of an X, called crux Andreana, because tradition reports St. Andrew to have suffered upon it; another was formed like a T, as we learn from Lucian (Judic. Vocal. xii), who makes it the subject of a charge against the letter.

The third, and most common sort, was made of two pieces of wood crossed, so as to make four right angles. It was on this, according to the unanimous testimony of the fathers who sought to confirm it by Scripture itself (Lips. De Cruce, i.9), that our Saviour suffered. The punishment, as is well known, was chiefly inflicted on slaves, and the worst kind of malefactors . The manner of it was as follows:

The criminal, after sentence pronounced, carried his cross to the place of execution; a custom mentioned by Plutarch (De Tard. Dei Vind. ἕκαστος τῶν κακούργων ἐκφέρει τὸν αὐτοῦ σταυρόν), and Artemidorus (Oneir. ii.61), as well as in the Gospels. From Livy and Valerius Maximus , scourging appears to have formed a part of this, as of other capital punishments among the Romans. The scourging of our Saviour, however, is not to be regarded in this light, for, as Grotius and Hammond have observed, it was inflicted before sentence was pronounced the criminal was next stripped of his clothes and nailed or bound to the cross. The latter was the more painful method, as the sufferer was left to die of hunger. Instances are recorded of persons who survived nine days. It was usual to leave the body on the cross after death. The breaking of the legs of the thieves, mentioned in the Gospels, p371was accidental, because by the Jewish law, it is expressly remarked, the bodies could not remain on the cross during the Sabbath-day. (Lipsius, De Cruce; Casaubon, Exer. Antibaron. xvi.77.)

Crucifixion is the act of nailing, binding or impaling a living victim or sometimes a dead person to a cross, stake or a tree, whether for executing the body or for exposing the corpse. Crucifixion was intended to serve as both a severe punishment and a frightful deterrent to others. It was unanimously considered the most horrible form of death.

The cross (Greek stauros; Latin crux) was originally a single upright stake or post upon which the victim was either tied, nailed or impaled. This simple cross was later modified when horizontal crossbeams of various types were added. Scholars are not certain when a crossbeam was added to the simple stake, but even in the Roman period the cross would at times only consist of a single vertical stake. In many cases, especially during the Roman period, the execution stake became a vertical pole with a horizontal crossbar placed at some point, and although the period of time at which this happened is uncertain, what is known is that this simple impalement became known as crucifixion. Whether the victim was tied, nailed or impaled to the stake, the same Greek words were still used to describe the procedure.

A primitive form of crucifixion on trees had long been in use, and such a tree was also known as a cross (crux). Different ideas also prevailed concerning the material form of the cross, and it seems that the word had been frequently used in a broad sense. The Latin word crux was applied to the simple pole, and indicated directly the nature and purpose of this instrument, being derived from the verb crucio, "to torment", "to torture." The practice of crucifixion was finally abolished in 337 by Constantine I out of respect for Jesus Christ, whom he believed died on the cross.


Perhaps one of the best examples of the variation of crucifixion in the form of impaling the enemies comes from the times of the Assyrian ruler Shalmaneser III (859 BCE - 824 BCE). Figures 1 and 2 show people being impaled by a stake through their private parts and chests, respectively.

Figure 1: Shalmaneser III's campaign in north Syria: town of Dabigu (top), impaled inhabitants of Syrian town (below). Also notice that the inhabitants have been impaled by a stake through their private parts.

Figure 2: Attack of the walls of a town by a seige-engine supported by bowmen protected by shields. The bodies of the three townsmen are impaled outside the wall. Here the stake went through the chest.

The famous account for the evidence of the Assyrian crucifixion, often repeated in the scholarly literature, is that of Assyrian king Ninus who had the Median king Pharnus crucified.

ὁ δὲ ταυτ́ης βασιλεὺς Φαρνος παραταξάμενος ἀξιολόγω δυνάμει καὶ λειφθείς, τω̂ν τε στρατιωτω̂ν τοὺς πλείους ἀπέβαλε καὶ αὐτὸς μετὰ τέκνων ἑπτὰ καὶ γυναικὸς αἰχμάλωτος ληφθεὶς ἀνεσταυρώθη.

ho de tautis basileus Parnos parataxamenos axiologo dunamei kai leiphtheis, tôn te stratiotôn tous pleious apebale kai autos peta teknon epta kai gunaikos aichmalotos lêphtheis anestaurôthi.

And the king of this country, Pharnus, meeting him in battle with a formidable force, was defeated, and he both lost the larger part of his soldiers, and himself, being taken captive, along with his seven sons and wife, and crucified.

The English translation uses the word "crucified" which is the translation of the Greek word anestaurôthi from the verb anastauroô meaning "to impale". This word is now usually translated to mean "impale" in the literature. It should be noted, however, that it is believed that the report of Diodorus has no historical value. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that the example of crucifixion given in early Assyrian times was nothing but impalement. In spite of the evidence of crucifixion or impalement in the Code of Hammurabi and in Assyria, many authors wrongly refer to Herodotus' (5th century BCE) writings as the source to claim that the earliest references of crucifixion comes from Persia.


Herodotus was born in Halicarnassus, Anatolia not long after 480 BCE and died some time between 430-420 BCE. Herodotus refers to the stake as a method of execution, but also gives an example of a victim being nailed on a board. We will discuss a few instances where he mentions impalement in his Histories.

διαλυθέντος δὲ του̂ Μηδικου̂. στρατεύματος αἰσχρω̂ς, ὡς ἐπύθετο τάχιστα ὁ ̓Αστυάγης, ἔφη ἀπειλέων τῳ̂ Κύρῳ "ἀλλ' οὐδ' ὣς Κυ̂ρός γε χαιρήσει." τοσαυ̂τα εἰ̂πας πρω̂τον μὲν τω̂ν Μάγων τοὺς ὀνειροπόλους, οἵ μιν ἀνέγνωσαν μετει̂ναι τὸν Κυ̂ρον, τούτους ἀνεσκολόπισε, μετὰ δὲ ὥπλισε τοὺς ὑπολειφθέντας ἐν τῳ̂ ἄστεϊ τω̂ν Μήδων, νέους τε καὶ πρεσβύτας ἄνδρας. ἐξαγαγὼν δὲ τούτους καὶ συμβαλὼν τοι̂σι Πέρῃσι ἑσσώθη, καὶ αὐτός τε ̓Αστυάγης ἐζωγρήθη καὶ τοὺς ἐξήγαγε τω̂ν Μήδων ἀπέβαλε.

dialuthentos de tou Mêdikou. strateumatos aischrôs, hôs eputheto tachista ho Astuagês, ephê apeileôn tôi Kurôi "all' oud' hôs Kuros ge chairêsei." tosauta eipas prôton men tôn Magôn tous oneiropolous, hoi min anegnôsan meteinai ton Kuron, toutous anasklopise, meta de hôplise tous hupoleiphthentas en tôi asteï tôn Mêdôn, neous te kai presbutas andras. exagagôn de toutous kai sumbalôn toisi Perêisi hessôthê, kai autos te Astuagês ezôgrêthê kai tous exêgage tôn Mêdôn apebale.

Thus the Median army was foully scattered. Astyages, hearing this, sent a threatening message to Cyrus: "that even so he should not go unpunished"; and with that he took the Magians who interpreted dreams and had persuaded him to let Cyrus go free, and impaled them; then he armed the Medes who were left in the city, the youths and the old men. Leading these out, and encountering the Persians, he was worsted: Astyages himself was taken prisoner, and lost the Median army which he led.

ἀποκτείνας δέ μιν οὐκ ἀξίως ἀπηγήσιος ̓Οροίτης ἀνεσταύρωσε: τω̂ν δέ οἱ ἑπομένων ὅσοι μὲν ἠ̂σαν Σάμιοι, ἀπη̂κε, κελεύων σφέας ἑωυτῳ̂ χάριν εἰδέναι ἐόντας ἐλευθέρους, ὅσοι δὲ ἠ̂σαν ξει̂νοί τε καὶ δου̂λοι τω̂ν ἑπομένων, ἐν ἀνδραπόδων λόγῳ ποιεύμενος εἰ̂χε. Πολυκράτης δὲ ἀνακρεμάμενος ἐπετέλεε πα̂σαν τὴν ὄψιν τη̂ς θυγατρός: ἐλου̂το μὲν γὰρ ὑπὸ του̂ Διὸς ὅκως ὕοι, ἐχρίετο δὲ ὑπὸ του̂ ἡλίου, ἀνιεὶς αὐτὸς ἐκ του̂ σώματος ἰκμάδα.

apokteinas de min ouk axiôs apêgêsios Oroitês anestaurôse: tôn de hoi hepomenôn hosoi men êsan Samioi, apêke, keleuôn spheas heôutôi charin eidenai eontas eleutherous, hosoi de êsan xeinoi te kai douloi tôn hepomenôn, en andrapodôn logôi poieumenos eiche. Polukratês de anakremamenos epetelee pasan tên opsin tês thugatros: elouto men gar hupo tou Dios hokôs huoi, echrieto de hupo tou hêliou, anieis autos ek tou sômatos ikmada.

Having killed him (in some way not fit to be told), Oroetes then crucified him; as for the Samians in his retinue he let them go, bidding them thank Oroetus for their freedom; and those who were not Samians, or were servants of Polycrates' followers, he kept for slaves. So Polycrates was hanged aloft, and thereby his daughter's dream came true; for he was wahed by Zeus when it rained, and the moisture from his body was his anointment by the sun.

τότε δὴ ὁ Δημοκήδης ἐν τοι̂σι Σούσοισι ἐξιησάμενος Δαρει̂ον οἰ̂κόν τε μέγιστον εἰ̂χε καὶ ὁμοτράπεζος βασιλέι ἐγεγόνεε, πλήν τε ἑνὸς του̂ ἐς ̔́Ελληνας ἀπιέναι πάντα τἀ̂λλά οἱ παρη̂ν. καὶ του̂το μὲν τοὺς Αἰγυπτίους ἰητρούς, οἳ βασιλέα πρότερον ἰω̂ντο, μέλλοντας ἀνασκολοπιει̂σθαι ὅτι ὑπὸ ̔́Ελληνος ἰητρου̂ ἑσσώθησαν, τούτους βασιλέα παραιτησάμενος ἐρρύσατο: του̂το δὲ μάντιν ̓Ηλει̂ον Πολυκράτεϊ ἐπισπόμενον καὶ ἀπημελημένον ἐν τοι̂σι ἀνδραπόδοισι ἐρρύσατο. ἠ̂ν δὲ μέγιστον πρη̂γμα Δημοκήδης παρὰ βασιλέι.

tote dê ho Dêmokêdês en toisi Sousoisi exiêsamenos Dareion oikon te megiston eiche kai homotrapezos basilei egegonee, plên te henos tou es Hellênas apienai panta talla hoi parên. kai touto men tous Aiguptious iêtrous, hoi basilea proteron iônto, mellontas anaskolopieisthai hoti hupo Hellênos iêtrou hessôthêsan, toutous basilea paraitêsamenos errusato: touto de mantin Êleion Polukrateï epispomenon kai apêmelêmenon en toisi andrapodoisi errusato. ên de megiston prêgma Dêmokêdês para basilei.

So now having healed Darius at Susa Democedes had a very grand house and ate at the king's table; all was his, except permission to return to his Greek home. [3.132.2] When the Egyptian chirurgeons who had till now attended on the king were about to be impaled for being less skilful than a Greek, Democedes begged their lives of the king and saved them; and he saved besides an Elean diviner, too, who had been of Polycrates' retinue and was left neglected among the slaves. Mightily in favour with the king was Democedes.

Βαβυλὼν μέν νυν οὕτω τὸ δεύτερον αἱρέθη. Δαρει̂ος δὲ ἐπείτε ἐκράτησε τω̂ν Βαβυλωνίων, του̂το μὲν σφέων τὸ τει̂χος περιει̂λε καὶ τὰς πύλας πάσας ἀπέσπασε: τὸ γὰρ πρότερον ἑλὼν Κυ̂ρος τὴν Βαβυλω̂να ἐποίησε τούτων οὐδέτερον: του̂το δὲ ὁ Δαρει̂ος τω̂ν ἀνδρω̂ν τοὺς κορυφαίους μάλιστα ἐς τρισχιλίους ἀνεσκολόπισε, τοι̂σι δὲ λοιποι̂σι Βαβυλωνίοισι ἀπέδωκε τὴν πόλιν οἰκέειν.

Babulôn men nun houtô to deuteron hairethê. Dareios de epeite ekratêse tôn Babulôniôn, touto men spheôn to teichos perieile kai tas pulas pasas apespase: to gar proteron helôn Kuros tên Babulôna epoiêse toutôn oudeteron: touto de ho Dareios tôn andrôn tous koruphaious malista es trischiliousaneskolopise, toisi de loipoisi Babulônioisi apedôke tên polin oikeein.

Thus was Babylon the second time taken. Having mastered the Babylonians, Darius destroyed their walls and left away all their gates, neither of which things Cyrus had done at the first taking of Babylon; moreover he impaled about three thousand men that were prominent among them; as for the rest, he gave them back their city to dwell in.

This is Herodotus' famous account of how Darius I, king of Persia, crucified 3,000 political prisoners.

ταυ̂τα ὑπισχόμενος τὸν στρατηγὸν Ξάνθιππον οὐκ ἔπειθε: οἱ γὰρ ̓Ελαιούσιοι τῳ̂ Πρωτεσίλεῳ τιμωρέοντες ἐδέοντό μιν καταχρησθη̂ναι, καὶ αὐτου̂ του̂ στρατηγου̂ ταύτῃ νόος ἔφερε. ἀπαγαγόντες δὲ αὐτὸν ἐς τὴν Ξέρξης ἔζευξε τὸν πόρον, οἳ δὲ λέγουσι ἐπὶ τὸν κολωνὸν τὸν ὑπὲρ Μαδύτου πόλιος, πρὸς σανίδας προσπασσαλεύσαντες ἀνεκρέμασαν: τὸν δὲ παι̂δα ἐν ὀφθαλμοι̂σι του̂ ̓Αρταύ̈κτεω κατέλευσαν.

tauta hupischomenos ton stratêgon Xanthippon ouk epeithe: hoi gar Elaiousioi tôi Prôtesileôi timôreontes edeonto min katachrêsthênai, kai autou tou stratêgou tautêi noos ephere. apagagontes de auton es tên Xerxês ezeuxe ton poron, hoi de legousi epi ton kolônon ton huper Madutou polios,pros sanidas prospassaleusantes anekremasan: ton de paida en ophthalmoisi tou Artaükteô kateleusan.

But Xanthippus the general was unmoved by this promise; for the people of Elaeus entreated that Artayctes should be put to death in justice to Protesilaus, and the general himself was so minded. So they carried Artayctes away to the headland where Xerxes had bridged the strait (or, by another story, to the hill above the town of Madytus), and there nailed him to boards and hanged him; and as for his son, they stoned him to death before his father's eyes.

Note that neither of the two verbs anastauroô or anaskolopizô appear in the only detailed account of crucifixion given by Herodotus in which the victim was "hanged" by being nailed to boards or planks.

There appears to be no word for "crucifixion" as such in Greek. The Greek text of Herodotus speaks of "impalement" which is sometimes translated as crucifixion. Herodotus uses the verbs anaskolopizô and anastauroô both of which mean "to impale". Generally Herodotus uses the derivatives of the verb anaskolopizô for living persons and anastauroô for corpses. After him the verbs become synonymous, 'to crucify', in modern literature.

In many cases, especially during the Roman period, the execution stake became a vertical pole with a horizontal crossbar placed at some point, and although the period of time at which this happened is uncertain, what is known is that this simple impalement later became to be known as crucifixion. Whether the victim was tied, nailed or impaled to the stake, the same Greek words were still used to described the procedure.



The first thing to establish is whether there exists any hieroglyph that mentions impaling people on stakes. The best place to start is Die Sprache Der Pharaonen Großes Handwörterbuch Ägyptisch, a concise Egyptian-German dictionary. The hieroglyph depicting impalement on a stake is shown below.

Figure 4: Hieroglyph writing for "Stake. rdj hr = To put on the stake (for punishment)"; det. = determinative, hieroglyph for classifying Egyptian words. Here it shows an impaled man bent upon a stake.

A recent edition of Die Sprache Der Pharaonen Großes Handwörterbuch Ägyptisch gives even more information on the hieroglyphs showing impalement as seen below.

Figure 5: Hieroglyph writing for Pfahl, i.e., "Stake". The interesting ones of 2, 3, 5, and 6. Also see "Pfählen".

This is the clearest example that people in Egypt were crucified by impaling them on stakes. What about the times in which this punishment was imposed in Egypt?

In order to understand the evidence of crucifixion by impaling people on a stake in Egypt, a simplified chronology of ancient Egyptian history containing royal names associated with the period were shown for easy reference. Please note that the exact Egyptian chronologies are slightly uncertain, and all dates are approximate.

Dynasties Dates BCE (approx.) Period Some Royal Names Associated with Period
1 & 2 c. 3150 - 2700 Thinite Period Narmer-Menes, Aha, Djer, Hetepsekhemwy, Peribsen
3 - 6 c. 2700 - 2190 Old Kingdom Djoser, Snofru, Khufu (Cheops), Khafre (Chephren), Menkauhor, Teti, Pepy.
7 - 11 c. 2200 - 2040 First Intermediate Neferkare, Mentuhotpe, Inyotef
11 & 12 c. 2040 - 1674 Middle Kingdom Ammenemes, Sesostris, Dedumesiu
13 - 17 c. 1674 - 1553 Second Intermediate Sobekhotep II, Chendjer, Salitis, Yaqub-Har, Kamose, Seqenenre, Apophis. Hyksos formed 15th and 16th Dynasties
18 - 20 c. 1552 - 1069 New Kingdom Ahmose, Amenhotep (Amenophis), Hatshepsut, Akhenaten (Amenophis IV), Horemheb, Seti (Sethos), Ramesses, Merenptah

Table I: Chronology of Egyptians Dynasties

The evidence is arranged in chronological order.

A. Theban Account Papyrus (Papyrus Boulaq 18)

Papyrus Boulaq 18 is dated to the early Second Intermediate Period reign of Chendjer / Sobekhotep II; both of them kings from the 13th Dynasty. The account in Papyrus Boulaq is given below.

Figure 6: Mentioning of impalement in the Theban account papyrus (Papyrus Boulaq 18).

a blood bath (?) had occurred with (by?) wood (?) ... the comrade was put on the stake, land near the island ...; waking alive at the places of life, safety and health ...

B. Stela Of Amenophis IV (Akhenaten)

Amenophis IV or Akhenaten was known as the Heretic King. He was the tenth king of the 18th Dynasty in the New Kingdom Period. This is an interesting stela showing the Nubian prisoners of war being impaled.

Figure 7: Excerpts from the Stela of Amenophis IV, showing impalement of Nubian prisoners of war.

List (of the enemy belonging to) Ikayta: living Nehesi 80+ ?; ... | ... their (chiefs?) 12; total number of live captives 145; those who were impaled ... | ... total 225; beasts 361.

C. Abydos Decree Of Sethos I At Nauri, Year 4.

Sethos I belonged to the 19th Dynasty in the New Kingdom Period. His rule preceded the rule of Ramesses II. Below is his interesting decree at Nauri.

Figure 8: Excerpts from the Abydos Decree of Sethos I at Nauri, Year 4.

... Now as for any superintendent of cattle, any superintendent of donkeys, any herdsman belonging to the Temple of Menmare Happy in Abydos, who shall sell of any beast belonging to the Temple of Menmare Happy in Abydos to someone else; likewise whoever may cause it to be offered on some other document, and it not be offered to Osiris his master in the Temple of Menmare Happy in Abydos; the law shall be executed against him, by condemning him, impaled on the stake, along with forfeiting(?) his wife, his children and all his property to the Temple of Menmare Happy in Abydos, ...

D. Amada Stela Of Merenptah: Libyan War (Karnak)

Merenptah, son of Ramesses II, defeated the threat posed by the Libyans. He belonged to the 19th Dynasty in the New Kingdom Period. Here the prisoners were impaled on the stake on the South of Memphis.

Figure 9: Excerpts from the Amada Stela of Merenptah; Libyan War (Karnak).

... Never shall they leave any people for the Libu (i.e., Libyans), any who shall bring them up in their land! They are cast to the ground, (?) by hundred-thousands and ten thousands, the remainder being impaled ('put to the stake') on the South of Memphis. All their property was plundered, being brough back to Egypt...

E. The Abbott Papyrus

This is an account of the Great Tomb Robberies of the 20th Dynasty in the New Kingdom Period. Notice that the oath includes mutilation before the actual impalement.

Figure 10: Excerpts from the Abbott Papyrus that deals with the oath on pain of mutilation and impalement.

... The notables caused this coppersmith to be examined in most severe examination in the Great Valley, but it could not be found that he knew of any place there save the two places he had pointed out. He took an oath on pain of being beaten, of having his nose and ears cut off, and of being impaled, saying I know of no place here among these tombs except this tomb which is open and this house which I pointed to you...

F. Papyrus BM10052

This is an account of the Great Tomb Robberies of the 20th Dynasty in the New Kingdom Period. Notice that the oath includes mutilation before the actual impalement.

Figure 11: Excerpts from Papyrus BM10052.

The scribe Paoemtaumt was brought. he was given the oath not to speak falsehood. He said, As Amun lives and as the Ruler lives, if I be found to have had anything to do with any one of the thieves may I be mutilated in nose and ears and placed on the stake. He was examined with the stick. He was found to have been arrested on account of the measurer Paoemtaumt son of Kaka.

These hieroglyphs are by no means the only ones. There exist others from the New Kingdom Period showing impalements.


Ancient Egypt was known for some of the worst kinds of capital punishments. The ancient Egyptians understood the necessary deterrent that these punishments provided. It appears that punishment in ancient Egypt became more severe with the times, especially with the advent of the New Kingdom Period. The punishments in the New Kingdom Period were very brutal and included beatings, mutilation, impalement, and being treated as a slave. The Lexikon Der Ägyptologie - an encyclopaedia of Egyptology, gives a brief overview of the different forms of punishment in Egypt under the heading "Strafen" (i.e., punishment / penalties). It says:

Decrees and trial documents, in the latter particularly from oath formulas, have given us the following judicial punishments. Physical punishments, as the most severe for capital crimes ... the death penalty by impaling, burning, drowning, beheading or being eating by wild animals. Only the King or the Vizier had the right to impose such punishment. High ranking personalities were granted by the King to commit suicide.

Physical punishments were also mutilation punishments by cutting off hands, tongue, nose and or ears, castration as well as beatings in the form of 100 or 200 strokes, often with 5 bleeding wounds, occasionally with 10 burn marks. Sometimes also the part of the body, e.g. the soles of the feet, which had to be beaten.

Frequently there were prison sentences in addition to physical punishments, such as exile to Kusch, to the Great Oasis or to Sile, with the obligation of forced labour as mine worker or stone mason as well as loss of assets. Women were banished to live in the outbuildings at the back of the house. Prison sentences as we know them were unknown. There were just remand prison for the accused and witnesses for serious crimes before and during the trial. Abuse of office was punished by loss of office and transfer to manual work.[53]

Similarly Lurje in his Studien Zum Altägyptischen Recht (Studies In The Ancient Egyptian Law) states:

Among others we find mutilation, mutilation and deportation to forced labour in Ethiopia, just deportation to forced labour in Ethiopia, impaling (tp-ht), punishment in form of 100 beatings and adding 50 wounds, punishment in form of 100 beatings and withdrawal of part or all of the disputed assets, punishment in form of 100 beatings and payment of twice the value of the matter in dispute, asset liability, cutting off of the tongue, loss of rank and transfer to the working class, handing over to be eaten by the crocodile and finally living in the outbuildings of the house.[54]

It is clear that one of the severest penalties in ancient Egypt included mutilation, mutilation and then impalement especially in the New Kingdom Period. The mutilation includes cutting off hands, tongue, nose and ears or even castration. Harsh penalties such as crucifying by impalement would be imposed only by either the King or the Vizier.

Evidence that have acquired so far about crucifixion in Egypt. Table II shows the ruler of Egypt when people were crucified by impaling on stakes

Dynasties Dates BCE (approx.) Period Ruler When Crucifixion Happened Prophet
3 - 6 c. 2700 - 2200 Old Kingdom
7 - 11 c. 2200 - 2040 First Intermediate
11 & 12 c. 2040 - 1674 Middle Kingdom
13 - 17 c. 1674 - 1553 Second Intermediate

Sobekhotep II, Chendjer (13th Dynasty).
Hyksos formed 15th and 16th Dynasties

18 - 20 c. 1552 - 1069 New Kingdom Akhenaten (Amenophis IV), Ramesses, Merenptah Moses

Table II: This Table provides information about the ruler of Egypt when people were crucified by impaling on stakes

What is interesting to note is that the earliest available evidence of the occurrence of crucifixion in Egypt is seen in the Papyrus Boulaq 18 from the time of Sobekhotep II / Chendjer of the 13th Dynasty in the Second Intermediate Period. This means that crucifixion happened in Egypt even before Joseph entered Egypt. Crucifixion also happened before Moses came to Egypt, during the Amenophis IV (Akhenaten). It also happened after the event of Exodus as seen in the papyri related to the Great Tomb Robberies of the 20th Dynasty.

Ancient Peru's torture and sacrifice

A series of grisly executions in the arid valleys of lowland Peru and from the evidence from the skeletal remains shows that the victims, who lived during the Moche civilization nearly two thousand years ago, suffered shockingly brutal deaths. Some were apparently skinned alive. Others were drained of blood, decapitated, or bound tightly and left to be eaten by vultures. When the graves at a Moche temple complex in northern Peru were uncovered, the human remains showed many clear marks of violence. Various theories arose to explain it. One proposes that the Moche sacrificed some of their own people to appease the gods and improve the fertility of their land. Another suggests that the victims were enemies of the Moche executioners—losers of fierce power struggles between competing prehistoric city-states—who were ritually murdered.

Culture of Bloodshed

The grim events revealed by the archaeological findings have long been familiar to scholars from finely rendered pottery and murals of the Moche people. Scenes embellished with abundant bloodshed show victims being humiliated, abused, and executed.

Some theories have interpreted these frightening scenes as exaggerated fictions concocted by the Moche to scare enemies. The recent analysis, however, suggests that the events depicted were horrifyingly real and not figments of artists' imagination.

The revelation of gruesome forms of torture is puzzling in part because the Moche developed a vibrant and highly advanced culture. These pre-Inca Peruvians were renowned builders, artists, and warriors. Their technological advances included, for example, techniques of irrigation that made their valleys even more productive than the same land is today.

The Peruvian culture will be discuss later on the next articles.

Articles submitted to PRSG by
Kim New Jersey