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The following story about the cataclysmic transition from an older time of darkness to a new solar age relates in mythic form the historical emergence of the state and its solar religious cult. It tells of the defeat and demise of earlier peoples, which are conflated symbolically as “Chullpas,” and can be read as a myth of conquest corresponding to the political expansion of the Inka in the southern Andes in the fifteenth century.

The material remains of these earlier societies are evident, as the story notes, in the pre-Inka tombs (chullpares) scattered about the altiplano. The small pockets of...

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