Large Llamas with Silver Shoes

In: Society & Animals
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  • 1 Department of Engineering and Design, London South Bank University

Drawing upon contemporary accounts, this paper analyzes conquistadors’ and Incas’ perceptions of each other’s ungulates—that is, camelids and horses—from the first encounters in 1532 until 1536. The paper traces the evolution of those perceptions within the wider context of human-nonhuman animal relations, which differed between Spaniards and Andeans. Those differences are reflected in the respective languages. The paper finds a tension between a sense of familiarity and a sense of otherness. That tension manifested in a supernatural realm. The paper argues that nonhuman animal relations, particularly with respect to horses, played a central role in the invasion, but as the conflict unfolded the meanings of “human” and “animal,” as understood by the protagonists, were perturbed. The paper presents a critique of Diamond’s theory of nonhuman animal domestication.

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    Cook (1981) places a lower limit for the population at approximately 3 million (p. 110).

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    Lamara (2008) speculates that Atahualpa deliberately encouraged his subjects to perceive horses as strange, eerie creatures who eat gold and silver, because he did not want his subjects to conclude that mere mortals had captured him, which might undermine his personal aura and status. However, that is inconsistent with Atahualpa’s public execution of some of his soldiers for their display of fear of horses and his speech admonishing those unfortunate men, in which he proclaimed that horses were like llamas (Lamara, 2008).

  • 11

    Cieza de León (1999) also describes the Andeans’ counter-cavalry tactics (pp. 278-281).

  • 13

    Léon Garagarza (2013) describes similar beliefs amongst Amerindians who resisted colonial rule in Mesoamerica, in 1558: “. . . human-animal metamorphosis could occur at any time” (p. 51).

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