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While sightseeing in Peru, Rachel Korpanty ’03 (Summerville, S.C.) stumbled across an Inca throne in Ollantaytambo. Now, she is re-engineering the royal seat using only Inca technology as part of an independent study guided by Susan Niles, professor of anthropology.

“The Inca Empire produced some highly talented stonemasons under King Pachakuti,” says Korpanty. “The works are still awe-inspiring today and are amazing not only in their aesthetic beauty, but in their engineering feats. One of Pachakuti’s trademarks was distinctive stone thrones made from massive boulders carved into seats, complete with foot, head, and arm rests.”

A history major, Korpanty is using rocks and chisels to mold a limestone boulder into a Pachakuti replica and has learned the value of technology from her labor.
“The Inca stonemasons did not have the wheel, iron instruments, or any other technologically advanced tools,” she explains. “They used the tools given to them by nature.

“We are making excellent progress. I’m at the point were I’m experimenting with chisels to get into the corners. It seems that when I find the right size chisel, it’s not made out of the right material. So, this has been a definite challenge.”

Two experts on Inca stonemasonry perfected the carving technique, but they did not work with thrones, so Korpanty is exploring uncharted territory. She is applying their findings to her own work and will complete the project next semester.

Korpanty, whose passion lies in medieval British history, fell instantly in love with the Incas after taking one of Niles’ courses.

“I immediately approached her to learn more,” she explains. “Susan urged me to visit Peru last summer, and for that, I will be eternally grateful. I learned so much, and it was certainly a life-changing experience.

“Susan has become not only a mentor, but a close friend. She loves what she does and is very enthusiastic. I could only find someone like her at a small, student-centered college like Lafayette.”

Korpanty is a founding member and key player in Lafayette’s Forensics Society. She is active in College Theater and serves as director of Marquis Players, a student theater group that raises money for local charities. She also is a McKelvy Scholar.

Categorized in: Academic News