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The Shape of God’s Voice: A Study of Form, Organization, and Functioning of the Oracles in the Ancient Andean World

Marco Curatola-Petrocchi, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Fellow 2009/10

I spent the academic year at Dumbarton Oaks fully engaged in my research project, and was able to complete the advanced drafts of the first two chapters of a book on this subject. The first one thoroughly examines Greek oracles in order to establish their main characteristics and to evaluate, by comparison, if true oracular shrines were present in the land of the Incas at the time of the Spaniards' arrival. The conclusion reached, based on an exhaustive analysis of the accounts left by the first Spanish soldiers who entered the Central Andes, was that Pachacamac and the other major pre-hispanic sanctuaries shared the same basic features with Greeks oracles like Delphi and Dodona. The second chapter seeks to answer a misleadingly simple question: what was the name Andean peoples gave to an oracle? In doing so, this chapter shows that in ancient Peru oracles were not just a widespread institution, they also were the essential core of the Andean religious systems, possibly since the time of the Chavín culture. Furthermore, I was able to establish a series of archaeological indicators that can be used to identify oracular shrines in the absence of documentary sources. Additionally, I compiled an extensive bibliography on ancient Greek oracles and religion, the nature of oral and literate societies, and the structure of ancient empires, that it will be useful when preparing the remaining parts of my book. Thanks to the wonderful library and the other research facilities at Dumbarton Oaks, to its thoughtful organization, and to its enriching scientific community, I was able not only to make significant progress in my research, but also to have what was by far one of the most stimulating (and enjoyable) years in all of my academic life.

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