Home » ARTSY FARTSY » JEAN SHEPHERD Gifting–Grab Bag 5 & (62) ARTSY–The South American Hall and Intihuatana

JEAN SHEPHERD Gifting–Grab Bag 5 & (62) ARTSY–The South American Hall and Intihuatana


I get out of the bus and walk nineteen blocks back to the dime store.  I go upstairs to the toy department.  I stand in front of the box that says GRAB BAG!  WHAT’S IN THE PACKAGE?  And there’s the skinny lady with the black hair and the rimless glasses, and she says, “Have you opened your package?”



Shirley Temple Paper Doll Prize

I say “Yes.”

“You want your quarter back?”


Boing!  Reaches in, gives me a quarter and I hand her the Shirley Temple cutout book, and without a word I go back downstairs.  The greatest lady I’ve met in years!

Well, I get downstairs.  By now I’m feeling funny.  I’m feeling all kinds of guilt things ‘cause I know it doesn’t make any difference.  She took that book back but it doesn’t make any difference—I had loused up! (There’s a much better word for it.)  I had done it and I could not escape it.




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The Machu Picchu stonework called Intihuatna, ”hitching post of the sun,” is one of the world’s great pieces of sculpture. Situated on the highest part of the site, which itself is a piece of landscape sculpture, it was created by the Incas around 1500. It’s carved from the very bedrock of its site. It’s about six feet high by about ten feet long. During my four months in Peru on a Fulbright Grant in 1980, I stayed three days and three nights at Machu Picchu. I spent hours looking at, photographing, and caressing the Intihuatana.


The raised area, upper left, with tourists,

with stone-walled crop-terraces on its left,

a stone staircase leading to it in the center,

the Intihuatana is on the flattened top of the hill,

mostly blocked from view here by a small wall.

[Photo of site courtesy of Al Naso.]

It’s considered the finest part of the world-class site. At the time of my visit one could sit on it and caress it—until years after my visit (during the making of a beer commercial), a piece of video equipment fell on it and damaged it.

Damaged Caused to the Intihuatana Stone by the Cuquena Beer Commercial

Damaged caused by the beer commercial.

Now there’s a rope barrier keeping away beer companies and worshipers such as myself .


At the time, I was designing the basic architecture, cases, down to the smallest details of the American Museum of Natural History’s permanent Peoples of South America Hall. I realized that a full-size cast of the Intihuatana, placed at the far end of the pre-Colombian section on its raised platform, would form a dramatic centerpiece, perfectly placed in the “Highlands” section, just on the edge of the contiguous Amazonian Peoples part of the Hall—symbolizing the highlands of Peru and the beginnings of the jungle landscape where Machu Picchu is located. Exploring the area behind the Museum of Anthropology in Lima where I had residence during my stay, fortuitously I encountered a full-sized cast of the Intihuatana, the mold it had been made from, and the Peruvian craftsman who’d made it.

He showed me a small scale model he’d sculpted and I asked if I could buy it. I wanted if for my own pleasure and also to provide support for my entreaty to the anthropologist in New York I’d have to convince, to allow a full-size cast to be positioned where I wanted it in the Hall. This anthropologist was an expert in Inca culture, and loved the Intihuatana.

At my request, the Peruvian museum had agreed to ship a full-

size cast at cost, which would provide a dramatic focal point

for our entire Hall. Based on the scale model (about 7” X 19”)

a preparartor made an  illustration-board replica of it,

calculated the dimensions for the full-size one and built it

of  gator-board, placing it in the Hall to show the effect.


My 1980, preliminary floor plan for the Hall.

The ramps shown in plan & elevation.

On the plan, see the Coast to left, ramp up to Highlands, ramp down to Amazon. (The dark brown in the plan represents my slate “Inca Road.”) The tan Intihuatana, shown where it should have been, positioned in center/rear of Highlands. For me, the features of a ramp up, the highland material on a raised platform, and ramp down to the lower geographical location of the jungle, are important for several reasons. 1. They give the visitor a sense that, rather than there being a single, monolithic sameness to the material, there are three distinctive parts to the Hall; 2. The ramps and levels give visitors a sense of actively moving through the varied museum environments—Coast, Highlands, Jungle–a sense of participation; 3. Most crucially, regarding the information the exhibition imparts, it effectively distinguishes the geographic importance that affects the cultural differences between the landscape areas—symbolizing this through the ramps and platform. This is what designing can help do to impart information.


Small part of Peruvian Coast in foreground, with gray slate “Inca Road,”

as a visual attraction and directional assist for the visitor,

leading up the ramp to the Highlands.

At the far end of which would have been

[the absent focal point], my intihuatana.


For all his love of the Inca and the Intihuatana, our Museum anthropologist said that, as the piece is so much at-one with its site (Machu Picchu, mountains all around, etc.), it should not be shown out of its environment, our Museum anthropologist felt so sen-si-tive-ly. So there is no focal point to the Hall—there is a bland, near-flat, scale model of the Inca town ruins he himself had studied. What I have of that battle-lost is my wonderful sojourn in Peru, the completed permanent Hall I designed, my unfulfilled dream of a better final result, and, in my study near my Shep Shrine, the two scale models of my favorite sculpture.


[Recently, a specialist in ancient Peruvian culture contacted me to discuss my hall in order to incorporate my input into her book on Peruvian archeological studies. To my surprise and disgust, she told me that a major American authority on Peruvian archeology (who, in 1980, had seen my design drawings in New York) had claimed to the Lima anthropology museum—and to the world—that symbolic ramps up to the Inca highlands and down to the Amazon jungle section of their hall was his idea for re-designing their permanent exhibition. (I believe he was promoting himself to be an important consultant for their new hall.) She, the author of the forthcoming book of Peruvian studies, had thought that I had been given the idea by the archeologist!)

She told me that this world-renowned anthropologist had made the claim in Lima in 1982. I sent her an e-mail attachment of my floor plan. As it shows my “eb” initials and the date “4-’80” in the lower right corner, it proved to her satisfaction that the design feature was indeed mine, and that the world-famous authority had stolen it from me. She told me that in her research for her book, she’d discovered that the prestigious anthropologist had been guilty of other similar lies. One knows that VIPs lie when it serves their purposes—but it’s nice to also find that sometimes, fortuitously, they’re exposed.]




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