John Victor Murra

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John Victor Murra (24 August 1916 – 16 October 2006), born Isak Lipschitz in Odessa, Russian Empire, was a professor of anthropology and a researcher of the Inca Empire.


He emigrated to the United States in 1934. Two years later he fought in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Republic. He completed an undergraduate degree in sociology at the University of Chicago, and at the same university finished a master's in 1942 and a Ph.D. in 1956, both in anthropology. He taught at the University of Puerto Rico (1947–50), Vassar College (1950–61), Yale (1962–63), Universidad de San Marcos (1964–66), and Cornell University (1968–82).

His work included the development of a new perspective of the Inca Empire, where trade and gift-giving among kin were common. Through extensive perusal of Spanish colonial archives and court documents, he found that the Inca dwelling in the rainforest hiked into the Andes to trade crops for products like wool from their mountain-dwelling kin. Murra called this "the vertical archipelago", and the model has been verified by later research. While some contest components of the theory, it has become the accepted economic model of the Central Andes in that time.[1]

Murra's writings include The Economic Organization of the Inca State (1956), Cloth and its Functions in the Inca State (1962), and El mundo andino: población, medio ambiente y economía (2002). Following his retirement, he worked at the National Museum of Ethnography in La Paz, Bolivia.[2] He died in his home in Ithaca, New York, in 2006.[1]


  1. ^ a b Dennis Hevesi (October 24, 2006). "John V. Murra, 90, Professor Who Recast Image of Incas". New York Times. John V. Murra, a professor of anthropology who culled voluminous Spanish colonial archives for research that reshaped the image of the Incas and their vast South American empire, died October 16 at his home in Ithaca, N.Y. He was 90. 
  2. ^ "What's New at the National Anthropological Archives (August 2005)". Retrieved 2006-10-24. 

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