Mayan and Incan books
August 22, 2009 8:15 PM   Subscribe

Looking for engaging books or videos about the Incans and Mayans, or any other similar South and Central American groups.

I'm writing a fiction book that includes indigenous people who live in areas similar to those, and I'm looking for ways to flesh them out. I'm not picky about what information the sources provide; I can get inspiration from pretty much anything and I like learning, plus I don't know what sort of thing I'm looking for until I find it (which is why the question is so broad).

Emphasis on "engaging," though; if I have to struggle with a book because it's poorly written, I just put it down and never pick it up again. (A video that's somewhat boring I can probably endure.) I also have a lot of other things to research so I'm looking to use my time efficiently. I realize there will be differing ideas of what's engaging, but I'll deal. I tend to like odd stories and anecdotes, if that helps.

Recommendations pertaining to similar groups of people are welcome, but anything more recent than the past four hundred years or so might not fit what I'm looking for. Thanks!
posted by Nattie to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Not strictly Inca/Mayan, but I highly recommend 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. I found it very engaging.
posted by fings at 8:56 PM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend TimeLife's "Lost Civilizations". They have two episodes on the Incas and Mayas. The whole series is quite good. I have used these on the most jaded high school students and it kept their attention, so I think it might work for you. Check out their site, they even have a commercial preview of it.
posted by dealing away at 9:16 PM on August 22, 2009

For the grimmer side of South American Indian culture, there are two books I love. This Tree Grows Out of Hell is an examination of human sacrifice and the role of violence in ancient Aztec and Mayan religion and society. Dark Shamans focuses on the Kanaima, who are cannibalistic shamans in the Amazon jungle in Guyana. Both are anthropological studies, so the tone of both books runs slightly on the drier, more academic side of the spectrum, but they're both really fascinating.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:00 PM on August 22, 2009

Seconding This Tree Grows Out of Hell.
posted by trip and a half at 10:16 PM on August 22, 2009

While not focused entirely on Indian cultures, the well-known Guns, Germs & Steel does discuss them a fair bit.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:18 PM on August 22, 2009

as above "Collapse" by Jared Diamond devotes a fair bit of ink to the Maya and nearby civs.
posted by evil_esto at 2:47 AM on August 23, 2009

These look great, thank you! The Kanaima sound especially fascinating. I've read Guns, Germs, & Steel and enjoyed it and actually intend to re-read it just to get some general world-building inspiration, but I haven't yet read Collapse. I've been meaning to, so that's all the more reason to get around to it. I'll definitely check out the videos and the other books as well, thank you so much!
posted by Nattie at 11:38 AM on August 23, 2009

You might try Canek by Ermilo Abreu Gomez. Not in print in English, but used English language copies are available.
posted by gudrun at 11:44 AM on August 23, 2009

The Last Days of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie is a great read and offers information about the Incan culture and society at the time of the Spanish conquest.
posted by Atreides at 4:52 PM on August 23, 2009

nthing Collapse. I also enjoyed Gods Graves and Scholars , which is about archaeology. It has a section devoted to Aztec, Mayan, and Toltec civilizations.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:54 PM on August 23, 2009

You'll probably like Cochineal Red: Travels Through Ancient Peru about pre-Incan peoples.
posted by Wet Spot at 11:21 AM on August 25, 2009

If you are still interested, "Time Among the Maya" by Ronald Wright ain't bad.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 2:03 PM on October 13, 2009

« Older I am not ashamed to admit I like the harp.   |   Back to school we go Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.