Inca civilization

Inca civilization

The Inca civilization began as a tribe in the Cuzco area, where the legendary first Sapa Inca, Manco Capac founded the Kingdom of Cusco around 1200. [ [ The Inca] ] Under the leadership of the descendants of Manco Capac, the state grew as it absorbed other Andean communities. In 1442, the Incas began a far-reaching expansion under the command of Pachacutec, whose name literally meant "earth-shaker". He formed the Inca Empire ("Tawantinsuyu"), which would become the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. [ [ Civilizations in America] ]

The Empire was riven by a civil war, which pitted the brothers Huascar and Atahualpa against each other. In 1533, Spanish invaders led by Francisco Pizarro took advantage of the situation and conquered much of the existing Inca territory. [ [ The Conquest of the Inca Empire] ] In the following years, the conquistadors consolidated their power over the whole Andean region, repressing successive Inca rebellions culminating in the establishment of the Viceroyalty of Perú in 1542. 1572 saw the fall of the last of the Incas and the end of their resistance in Vilcabamba. Their civilization ended at that time, but cultural traditions remain in some ethnic groups such as the Quechuas and Aymara people.


Main|History of the Incas Pacaritambo, carrying a golden staff called ‘tapac-yauri’. They were instructed to create a Temple of the Sun in the spot where the staff sank into the earth, to honour their celestial father. To get to Cuzco, where they built the temple, they traveled via underground caves. During the journey, one of Manco’s brothers, and possibly a sister, were turned to stone ("huaca").In another version of this legend, instead of emerging from a cave in Cuzco, the siblings emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca.

In the ancient Inca Virachocha legend, Manco Capac was the son of Inca Viracocha of Pacari-Tampu, today known as Pacaritambo, 25 km (16 mi) south of Cuzco. He and his brothers ("Ayar Anca", "Ayar Cachi", and "Ayar Uchu"); and sisters (Mama Ocllo, "Mama Huaco", "Mama Raua", and "Mama Cura") lived near Cuzco at Paccari-Tampu. Uniting their people, and the ten ayllu they encountered in their travels, they set to conquering the tribes of the Cuzco Valley. This legend also incorporates the golden staff, which is thought to have been given to Manco Capac by his father. Accounts vary, but according to some versions of the legend, the young Manco jealously betrayed his older brothers, killed them, and then became the sole ruler of Cuzco.

Emergence and expansion

The Inca people began as a tribe of the Killke culture in the Cuzco area around the 12th century AD. Under the leadership of Manco Capac, they formed the small city-state of Cuzco (Quechua "Qosqo"), shown in red on the map .

In 1438 AD, under the command of Sapa Inca (paramount leader) Pachacuti, much of modern day southern Peru was conquered. Cuzco was rebuilt as a major city, and capital of the newly reorganized empire. Known as Tahuantinsuyu, it was a federalist system, consisting of a central government with the Inca at its head and four provincial governments with strong leaders: Chinchasuyu (NW), Antisuyu (NE), Contisuyu (SW), and Collasuyu (SE).

The powerful Inca emperor is also thought to have built Machu Picchu, either as a family home or as a vacational retreat.

Pachacuti would send spies to regions he had wanted in his empire. They would then report back on the political organization, military might, and wealth. The Sapa Inca would then send messages to the leaders of these lands, extolling the benefits of joining his empire. He offered gifts of luxury goods like high quality textiles, and promised that all living in those territories would be materially richer as subject rulers of the Inca.

Most accepted the rule of the Inca as a "fait accompli" and acquiesced peacefully. The neighboring rulers' children would be brought to Cuzco to be taught about Inca administration systems, and then would return to rule their native lands. This allowed the Inca to indoctrinate the former rulers' children into the Inca nobility, and, with luck, marry their daughters into families at various corners of the empire.

It was traditional for the Inca's son to lead the army; Pachacuti's son Túpac Inca began conquests to the north in 1463, continuing them as Inca after Pachucuti's death in 1471. His most important conquest was the Kingdom of Chimor, the Inca's only serious rival for the coast of Peru.

Túpac Inca's empire stretched north into modern day Ecuador and Colombia, and his son Huayna Cápac added significant territory to the south. At its height, Tahuantinsuyu included Peru and Bolivia, most of what is now Ecuador, a large portion of modern-day Chile, and extended into corners of Argentina and Colombia.

Tahuantinsuyu was a patchwork of languages, cultures and peoples. The components of the empire were not all uniformly loyal, nor were the local cultures all fully integrated. ex: the Chimú used money in their commerce, while the Inca empire as a whole had an economy based on exchange and taxation of luxury goods and labour. (It is said that Inca tax collectors would take the head lice of the lame and old as a symbolic tribute.) The portions of the Chachapoya that had been conquered were almost openly hostile to the Inca, and the Inca nobles rejected an offer of refuge in their kingdom after their troubles with the Spanish. They ended up being conquered by the group of Francisco Pizarro.

panish conquest and Vilcabamba

Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro explored south from Panama, reaching Inca territory by 1526. It was clear that they had reached a wealthy land with prospects of great treasure. After one more expedition (1529), Pizarro returned to Spain, received royal approval to conquer the Inca region, and become its Viceroy.

At the time they returned to Peru, in 1532, a war of succession between Huayna Capac's son Huascar and half brother Atahualpa was in full swing. Along with that, unrest among newly-conquered territories, and smallpox, spreading from Central America, had considerably weakened the empire.

Pizarro did not have a formidable force. With just 180 men, 27 horses and 1 cannon, he often used diplomacy to talk his way out of potential confrontations that could have easily ended in defeat. Their first engagement was the Battle of Puná (near present-day Guayaquil, Ecuador) where his forces rapidly overcame the indigenous warriors of Puna island. Pizarro then founded the city of Piura in July 1532. Hernando de Soto was sent inland to explore the interior, and returned with an invitation to meet the Inca, Atahualpa, who had defeated his half brother in the civil war and was resting at Cajamarca with his army of 80,000 troops...

Pizarro met with the Inca, who had brought only a small retinue. Through interpreters, Pizarro asked that the new Inca ruler convert to Christianity. A disputed legend claims that Atahualpa was handed a Bible and threw it on the floor. The Spanish supposedly interpreted this action as reason for war. Though some chroniclers suggest that Atahualpa simply didn't understand the notion of a book, others portray Atahualpa as being genuinely curious and inquisitive in the situation. Regardless, the Spanish attacked the Inca's retinue (see Battle of Cajamarca), capturing Atahualpa.

Atahualpa offered the Spaniards enough gold to fill the room he was imprisoned in, and twice that amount in silver, in order to be freed. The Incas fulfilled this ransom, but Pizarro refused to release the Inca. During Atahualpa's imprisonment Huascar was assassinated. The Spanish maintained it was at Atahualpa's orders, and this was one of the charges used against Atahualpa when the Spanish finally decided to put him to death, in August 1533.

The Spanish installed his brother, Manco Inca Yupanqui, upon the Empire's throne. For some time, Manco cooperated with the Spaniards while the conquistadors fought to put down resistance in the north. Meanwhile an associate of Pizarro's, Diego de Almagro, attempted to claim Cuzco for himself. Manco tried to use this intra-Spanish feud to his advantage, recapturing Cuzco (1536), but the Spanish retook the city.

Manco Inca then retreated to the mountains of Vilcabamba, where he and his successors ruled for another 36 years, sometimes raiding the Spanish or inciting revolts against them. In 1572 the last Inca stronghold was discovered, and the last ruler, Túpac Amaru, Manco's son was captured and executed, bringing the Inca empire to an end.


ocial structure

Incas were separated into three distinct "classes": Upper Class (Nobles), Lower Class, and Slaves (Yanas). Slaves included prisoners of war and the children of slaves as well. Most lower class men were farmers. If a remarkable militarian or artisan was outstanding in some specific activity, the Inca rewarded him with the privilege of becoming Noble (Privileged Nobility) for one year or until someone else did something even more worthy. Another way of becoming a Consequently Privileged and Royal Nobles never inter-married. The Incan Empire has been viewed as an early "Socialist Empire" by some archeologists (Baudin, 1928) because of its socialist like features of its economy such as large-scale central planning; vast system of grain-houses; and mandatory work periods.

Ollantay's Myth

The princess Cusi Coyllur (Inca Pachacutec's daughter), secretly married a remarkable general named Ollantay (a Privileged Noble). Time passed and Ollantay dared to formally and publicly ask for the hand of Cusi Coyllur (Happy Star in Quechua). Inca Pachacutec, in response, locked his daughter away in the Acllawasi (similar to a Convent), preventing Ollantay from being close to her. The Emperor emphatically did not consider the general worthy of being Cusi Coyllur's husband, due to his origin.

In response, Ollantay lead his followers to a fortress later known as Ollantay Tambo, in the Urubamba Valley, to oppose the Inca. When Pachacutec learned about this, he sent Rumi Ñahui (Stone Eye in Quechua) to defeat him. He could not prevail due to Ollantay's fierce resistance, lasting almost ten years. During that time, Cusi Coyllur gave birth to Ollantay's daughter, Imac Sumac.

Time continued to pass and the Inca Pachacutec died. Rumi Ñahui realized finally that he had been beaten by Ollantay, so he devised a plan. Pretending he had been degraded, he ordered to be punished for his continuing lack of success. Rumi Ñahui then planned using the Inti Raymi festivities to get as close as possible to his adversary. Feigning shame and fear, he begged an overconfident Ollantay for help and was welcomed. Rumi Ñahui, had already planned for Ollantay's soldiers to end up drunk and distracted. Then, when the time was right during the celebration, he sprung his trap and took Ollantay prisoner.

Ollantay and Cusi Coyllur were taken to the new Inca, Tupac Yupanqui, who listened to the story of Ollantay's sister and father. In desperation, Imac Sumac appeared and interceded on her mother's behalf. After listening to those arguments, Tupac Yupanqui allowed Cusi Coyllur and Ollantay's marriage to be officially sanctioned.


The Inca used quipu or bunches of knotted strings, for accounting and census purposes. Much of the information on the surviving quipus has been shown to be numeric data; some numbers seem to have been used as mnemonic labels, and the color, spacing, and structure of the quipu carried information as well. Since it isn't known how to interpret the coded or non-numeric data, some scholars still hope to find that the quipu recorded language.

The Inca depended largely on oral transmission as a means of maintaining the preservation of their culture. Inca education was divided into two distinct categories: vocational education for common Inca, and formalized training for the nobility.


The belief system of the Incas was polytheistic. Inti, the Sun God, was the godhead whom the Incas believed was the direct ancestor of the Sapa Inca, the title of the hereditary rulers of the empire.

Arts and technology

Monumental architecture

Architecture was by far the most important of the Inca arts, with pottery and textiles reflecting motifs that were at their height in architecture. The main example is the capital city of Cuzco itself. The breathtaking site of Machu Picchu was constructed by Inca engineers. The stone temples constructed by the Inca used a mortarless construction that fit together so well that you couldn't fit a knife through the stonework. This was a process first used on a large scale by the Pucara (ca. 300 BCE – CE 300) peoples to the south in Lake Titicaca, and later in the great city of Tiwanaku (ca. CE 400–1100) in present day Bolivia. The Inca imported the stoneworkers of the Tiwanaku region to Cuzco when they conquered the lands south of Lake Titicaca Fact|date=February 2007. The rocks used in construction were sculpted to fit together exactly by repeatedly lowering a rock onto another and carving away any sections on the lower rock where the dust was compressed. The tight fit and the concavity on the lower rocks made them extraordinarily stable. Similar rockwork exists on Easter island. Some schools of thought contend that this similarity could be evidence for Inca voyages to Easter island.This theory is brought forth in the following quote by Dr. Jo Anne Van Tilburg" 'all archaeological, linguistic, and biological data' point to Polynesian origins in island Southeast Asia. Interestingly, though, there are stone walls on Rapa Nui that resemble Inca workmanship;" [Clark,Liesl; "First Inhabitants" PBS online, Nova; updated nov. 2000;] It is also important to note that the Inca had an extensive road system which consisted of two main roads as described in the following quote by Cieza de Léon: "The Incas built two roads the length of the country. The Royal Road went through the highlands for a distance of 3,250 miles, while the Coastal Road followed the seacoast for 2,520 miles." [ Gard Carolyn; Dig.; Peterborough: Nov/Dec 2005. Vol. 7, Iss. 9; pg. 12, 2 pgs]

Ceramics, precious metal work, and textiles

Almost all of the gold and silver work of the empire was melted down by the conquistadors.Ceramics were painted in numerous motifs including birds, waves, felines, and geometric patterns. The most distinctive Inca ceramic objects are the Cusco bottles or ¨aryballos¨. [Berrin, Katherine & Larco Museum. The Spirit of Ancient Peru:Treasures from the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York:Thames and Hudson, ] Many of these pieces are on display in Lima in the Larco Archaeological Museum and the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History.

Agriculture And Farming

The Inca lived in mountainous terrain, which is not good for farming. To resolve this problem, they cut terraces (broad, flat platforms) into steep slopes -known as andenes- so they could plant crops. They grew maize, quinoa, squash, tomatoes, peanuts, chili peppers, melons, cotton, and potatoes.They also used another method of farming called irrigation.amd the textiles were many colored patterns


Mathematics and medicine

An important Inca technology was the Quipu, which were assemblages of knotted strings used to record information, the exact nature of which is no longer known. Originally it was thought that Quipu were used only as mnemonic devices or to record numerical data. Recent discoveries, however, have led to the theory that these devices may be a form of writing in their own right. Fact|date=February 2007.

The Inca made many discoveries in medicine. They performed successful skull surgery, which involved cutting holes in the skull to release pressure from head wounds Fact|date=February 2007. Though very few lived through this ordeal some amazingly survived. Coca leaves were used to lessen hunger and pain, as they still are in the Andes. The Chasqui (messengers) chewed coca leaves for extra energy to carry on their tasks as runners delivering messages throughout the empire.


The Incas had no iron or steel, but they had developed an alloy of bronze superior to that of their enemies and contemporary Mesoamericans. The Andean nations prior to the Incas used arsenical bronze at best. The Incas introduced to South America the tin / copper alloy which is today commonly associated with "Bronze Age" metallurgy. [Aniko Bezur and Bruce Owen, "Abandoning arsenic? - Technological and cultural changes in the Mantaro Valley, Perú", "Boletín Museo del Oro" 41 julio-dic. 1996, 119-130]

Weapons, armor, and warfare

The Incas used weapons and had wars with other civilizations in the area. The Inca army was the most powerful in the area at that time, because they could turn an ordinary villager or farmer into a soldier, ready for battle. This is because every male Inca had to take part in war at least once so as to be prepared for warfare again when needed.

They went into battle with the beating of drums and the blowing of trumpets. The armor used by the Incas included:
* Helmets made of wood, cane or animal skin
* Round or square shields made from wood or hide
* Cloth tunics padded with cotton and small wooden planks to protect the spine.The Inca weaponry included:
* Bronze or bone-tipped spears
* Two-handed wooden swords with serrated edges (notched with teeth, like a saw)
* Clubs with stone and spiked metal heads
* Wooden slings and stones
* Stone or copper headed battle-axes
* Bolas- stones tied to opposite ends of rope to be swung at enemies or prey

The Inca system of roads allowed for very quick movement by the Inca army. Shelters called "quolla" were built one day's distance in traveling from each other, so that an army on campaign could always be fed and rested when tired. The Inca road system also allowed runners to carry messages long distances every day, allowing for a fast message system. Runners would carry the message to another runner who would then take the message to another one until the message had reached its destination. A message could travel up to 240 kilometers every day. And then travel back down every other years

History of Western Scholarly discovery

According to Yale's Peabody Museum website:"The collections of artifacts from Machu Picchu at Yale were excavated by Hiram Bingham during his historic Peruvian expedition of 1912. Machu Picchu was not a well-known site then, and Peru's Civil Code of 1852, in effect at the time, permitted the finders of such artifacts to keep them. A presidential decree authorizing Bingham’s excavation (but not superseding the authority of the civil code) contained a provision allowing him to bring the material to Yale for scientific study, and gave Peru the right to request him to return certain “unique” or “duplicate” objects, which it did not exercise in the ensuing period." [ History of Machu Picchu Collections at Yale;]

ee also

* Peruvian Ancient Cultures
* Cultural periods of Peru
* History of Peru
* War of the two brothers
* Inca Garcilaso de la Vega
* Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala
* Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire
* Smallpox Epidemics in the New World
* Population history of Amerindians
* Spanish Empire
* Inca cuisine
* Tumi
* Amazonas before the Inca Empire


Further reading

* Curl, John. "Ancient American Poets: The Sacred Hymns of Pachacutec." Tempe AZ: Bilingual Press, 2005. ISBN 1-931010-21-8
* Dobyns, Henry F. and Paul L. "Peru: A Cultural History". New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.
* Eeckhout, Peter. "Ancient Peru's Power Elite." National Geographic Research and Exploration. March 2005. Pp. 52-56.
* Frost, Peter. "Lost Outpost of the Inca." National Geographic. February 2004. Pp. 66-69.
* MacQuarrie, Kim. "The Last Days of the Incas." Simon & Schuster, 2007. ISBN 978-0743260497.
* Mancall, Peter C. (ed.). "Travel Narratives from the Age of Discovery". New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
* Prescott, William H. "Conquest of Peru." The Book League of America. New York: 1976.
* Prescott, William H. "History of the Conquest of Mexico & History of the Conquest of Peru". New York: Cooper Square Press, 2000.

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