The Incas were magnificent engineers. They built a system of roads and bridges across the roughest terrains of the Andes. Through their system of collective labor and the most advanced centralized economy, the Incas were able to secure unlimited manual labor.
Petra sank into obscurity after a shift in trade routes that was followed by two powerful earthquakes, one in A.D. 363 and a second in 551. Many of the buildings, including the sixth-century church under excavation, appear to have burned as well as collapsed. The desolation that fell over the city helped preserve it.
Inca Dynasty Founded - History
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Inca, also spelled Inka, South American Indians who, at the time of the Spanish conquest in 1532, ruled an empire that extended along the Pacific coast and Andean highlands from the northern border of modern Ecuador to the Maule River in central Chile. A brief treatment of the Inca follows for full treatment, see pre-Columbian civilizations: The Inca.
The Inca established their capital at Cuzco (Peru) in the 12th century. They began their conquests in the early 15th century and within 100 years had gained control of an Andean population of about 12 million people. In common with other Andean cultures, the Inca left no written records. Their history is known chiefly from the oral tradition that has been preserved through the generations by official “memorizers” and from the written records composed from them after the Spanish conquest. According to their tradition, the Inca originated in the village of Paqari-tampu, about 15 miles (24 km) south of Cuzco. The founder of the Inca dynasty, Manco Capac, led the tribe to settle in Cuzco, which remained thereafter their capital. Until the reign of the fourth emperor, Mayta Capac, in the 14th century, there was little to distinguish the Inca from the many other tribes inhabiting small domains throughout the Andes. Under Mayta Capac the Inca began to expand, attacking and looting the villages of neighbouring peoples and probably assessing some sort of tribute. Under Capac Yupanqui, the next emperor, the Inca first extended their influence beyond the Cuzco valley, and under Viracocha Inca, the eighth, they began a program of permanent conquest by establishing garrisons among the settlements of the peoples whom they had conquered.
The earliest date that can be confidently assigned to Inca dynastic history is 1438, when Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, a son of Viracocha Inca, usurped the throne from his brother Inca Urcon. Under Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (1438–71) the Inca conquered territory south to the Titicaca Basin and north to present-day Quito, making subject peoples of the powerful Chanca, the Quechua, and the Chimú. A policy of forced resettlement of large contingents from each conquered people helped ensure political stability by distributing ethnic groups throughout the empire and thus making the organization of revolt very difficult. Local governors were responsible for exacting the labour tax on which the empire was based the tax could be paid by service in the army, on public works, or in agricultural work.
Under Topa Inca Yupanqui (1471–93) the empire reached its southernmost extent in central Chile, and the last vestiges of resistance on the southern Peruvian coast were eliminated. His death was followed by a struggle for the succession, from which Huayna Capac (1493–1525) emerged successful. Huayna Capac pushed the northern boundary of the empire to the Ancasmayo River before dying in an epidemic that may have been brought by a tribe from the east that had picked it up from the Spanish at La Plata. His death set off another struggle for succession, which was still unresolved in 1532, when the Spanish arrived in Peru by 1535 the empire was lost.
Inca society was highly stratified. The emperor ruled with the aid of an aristocratic bureaucracy, exercising authority with harsh and often repressive controls. Inca technology and architecture were highly developed, although not strikingly original. Their irrigation systems, palaces, temples, and fortifications can still be seen throughout the Andes. The economy was based on agriculture, its staples being corn (maize), white and sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes, peanuts (groundnuts), chili peppers, coca, cassava, and cotton. They raised guinea pigs, ducks, llamas, alpacas, and dogs. Clothing was made of llama wool and cotton. Houses were of stone or adobe mud. Practically every man was a farmer, producing his own food and clothing.
The Inca built a vast network of roads throughout this empire. It comprised two north-south roads, one running along the coast for about 2,250 miles (3,600 km), the other inland along the Andes for a comparable distance, with many interconnecting links. Many short rock tunnels and vine-supported suspension bridges were constructed. Use of the system was strictly limited to government and military business a well-organized relay service carried messages in the form of knotted cords called quipu (Quechua khipu) at a rate of 150 miles (240 km) a day. The network greatly facilitated the Spanish conquest of the Inca empire.
The Inca religion combined features of animism, fetishism, and the worship of nature gods. The pantheon was headed by Inti, the sun god, and included also Viracocha, a creator god and culture hero, and Apu Illapu, the rain god. Under the empire the Inca religion was a highly organized state religion, but, while worship of the sun god and the rendering of service were required of subject peoples, their native religions were tolerated. Inca rituals included elaborate forms of divination and the sacrifice of humans and animals. These religious institutions were destroyed by the Spanish conquerors’ campaign against idolatry.
The descendants of the Inca are the present-day Quechua-speaking peasants of the Andes, who constitute perhaps 45 percent of the population of Peru. They combine farming and herding with simple traditional technology. Rural settlements are of three kinds: families living in the midst of their fields, true village communities with fields outside of the inhabited centres, and a combination of these two patterns. Towns are centres of mestizo (mixed-blood) population. Communities are close-knit, with families usually intermarrying. Much of the agricultural work is done cooperatively. Religion is a kind of Roman Catholicism infused with the pagan hierarchy of spirits and deities.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Zeidan, Assistant Editor.
History of Peru
Like the Aztec, the Inca came late upon the historical scene. Even their legends do not predate 1200 ce , with the supposed arrival in Cuzco of the first emperor, Manco Capac. Like Old World peoples, and unlike other aboriginal Americans, the Inca recounted their history by kingly reigns. Most of the accounts agree on 13 emperors (see pre-Columbian civilizations: The Inca). The first seven emperors were legendary, local, and of slight importance their traditions are full of impossible or improbable events, especially those of Manco Capac, the founder of the dynasty. In this period the Inca were a small tribe, one of many, whose domain did not extend many miles beyond their capital, Cuzco. They were almost constantly at war with neighbouring tribes.
The incredibly rapid expansion of the Inca empire began with Viracocha’s son Pachacuti, one of the great conquerors—and one of the great individuals—in the history of the Americas. With his accession in 1438, reliable history also began, almost all the chroniclers being in practical agreement. Pachacuti was called by the British geographer-historian Sir Clements Markham “the greatest man that the aboriginal race of America has produced.” He and his son Topa Inca Yupanqui may be aptly compared to Philip and Alexander of Macedon. Pachacuti was evidently a great civic planner as well tradition ascribes to him the city plan of Cuzco as well as the erection of many of the massive masonry buildings that still awe visitors to that ancient capital.
The sudden expansion of the Inca empire was one of the most extraordinary events of history. It covered a little less than a century, from the accession of Pachacuti in 1438 to the conquest by Francisco Pizarro in 1532, and most of it was apparently accomplished by Pachacuti and Topa Inca in the 30 years between 1463 and 1493. First the Aymara-speaking rivals in the region of Lake Titicaca, the Colla and Lupaca, were defeated and then the Chanca to the west. The latter attacked and nearly captured Cuzco. After that there was little effective resistance. The peoples to the north were subjugated as far as Quito, Ecuador, including the powerful and cultured “kingdom” of Chimú on the northern coast of Peru. Topa Inca then took over his father’s role and turned southward, conquering all of northern Chile as far as the Maule River, the southernmost limit of the empire. His son, Huayna Capac, continued conquests in Ecuador to the Ancasmayo River, the present border between Ecuador and Colombia. At its maximum the empire extended from the present Colombia-Ecuador border to central Chile, a coastal distance of more than 2,500 miles (4,000 km), encompassing approximately 380,000 square miles (985,000 sq km), about equal in area to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Italy combined.
The Site of Machu Picchu
In the midst of a tropical mountain forest on the eastern slopes of the Peruvian Andes, Machu Picchu’s walls, terraces, stairways and ramps blend seamlessly into its natural setting. The site’s finely crafted stonework, terraced fields and sophisticated irrigation system bear witness to the Inca civilization’s architectural, agricultural and engineering prowess. Its central buildings are prime examples of a masonry technique mastered by the Incas in which stones were cut to fit together without mortar.
Archaeologists have identified several distinct sectors that together comprise the city, including a farming zone, a residential neighborhood, a royal district and a sacred area. Machu Picchu’s most distinct and famous structures include the Temple of the Sun and the Intihuatana stone, a sculpted granite rock that is believed to have functioned as a solar clock or calendar.
Inca Dynasty Founded - History
Chronological development of the Inca Empire. All dates are approximate.
1200 – The Incas settle in the Cusco Valley. Inca Manco Capac founds the Inca Empire in the City of Cusco.
1230 – Sinchi Roca, son of Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, takes over the throne after his father dies. He solidifies Inca power in Cusco by creating an army composed of soldiers who belonged to the nobility cast. Sinchi Roca dresses his soldiers in uniform which intimidated his enemies. He is also credited with bringing great quantity of soil to improve the fertility of the valley and of building the first water canal in the Huatanay and Tullumayo rivers.
1260 – Lloque Yupanqui suceeds his father Sinchi Roca. He keeps good relations with neighboring allies but does not expand Inca territory considerably.
1290 – Mayta Capac, fourth son of Lloque Yupanqui, takes over the throne after his father’s death. Under Mayta Capac the empire starts to expand within a few kilometers from the Cusco Valley defeating the Alcabisas and Culunchimas tribes.
1310 – Capac Yupanqui is appointed the fifth Inca ruler before his father’s death. He is a fierce and ruthless warrior.
1350 – Inca Roca succeeds his father Capac Yupanqui, however he was the son of the Inca and a concubine. He is credited with reforming internal politics and concentrating power in his hands. He creates yachaiwasis or schools for the nobles. Under his reign he establishes friendly ties with nearby tribes.
1380 – Yahuar Huaca is appointed seventh Inca ruler. As a child he was kidnapped by the Ayarmacas because of a marital conflict. Yahuar Huaca is not very healthy and spends most of his time in Cusco. He appoints his second son Pahuac Gualpa Mayta as his successor but is killed by one of his concubines who wanted her son to be the Sapa Inca. Yahuar Huaca is also assassinated along with his other sons.
1400 – As there is no successor to the throne the committee of elders appoints Huiracocha as the emperor as he belongs to the same dynasty. Huiracocha conquers the tribes of Yucaya and Calca. He surrenders Cusco to the Chancas.
1438 – Pachacutec is not designated Sapa Inca until he defeated the Chancas. Pachacutec converts the Incas from a tribe into an empire. He expands the empire in all directions.
1471 – Pachacutec and his son Tupac Yupanqui defeat the Chimu and take over lands in the north reaching what today is Ecuador and Colombia. Machu Picchu is built under is orders. Pachacutec is considered the greatest Sapa Inca.
1493 – Tupac Inca Yupanqui who co-governed with his father becomes his successor. He continues Pachacutec’s expansion, adding more territory to the Tawantinsuyo and reaching its peak.
1493 – Tupac Inca Yupanqui chooses his youngest son, Huayna Capac, to succeed him.
1525 – Huayna Capac dies and civil war brakes out between his sons, Huascar and Atahualpa. Huascar assumes the throne supported by the nobility in Cusco. Meanwhile Atahualpa, who was considered a more capable administrator and warrior, is crowned Sapa Inca in Quito.
1532 – End of the civil war between Huascar and Atahualpa. Francisco Pizarro arrived in Cajamarca.
1533 – Atahualpa is executed by the Spaniards and Cusco is invaded.
The Inca - Culture and Civilization of South America
The Inca were a South American people who controlled a large empire that stretched along the Pacific coast from Ecuador to northern Chile. The Inca dynasty was founded at about 1200 A.D. and lasted until the end of the 16th century, when the Spanish conquerors came to South America.
The capital city of the Incan empire was Cuzco, which was located in the Andes Mountains in today&rsquos Peru. What is left of the Inca civilization is scattered over the highlands of the Andes. The descendants of the Inca are mostly peasants who make up about half of Peru&rsquos population.
The Inca lived in the central part of the Andes Mountains
Society and Culture
There were two classes in Inca society: the ruling classes and the peasants. The emperor was called &ldquoThe Inca&rdquo or &ldquoSapa Inca&rdquo. He ate from gold dishes and never wore the same clothes twice. Like the pharaohs of Egypt, he took his own sister as queen. The noblemen came from the capital Cuzco and helped the emperor govern the land.
Most people were farmers who produced their own food and clothes. The main crops were corn, tomatoes, squash and sweet potatoes, which the Inca were first to produce. They also raised guinea pigs, ducks and dogs. One of the most important animals was the llama. It provided the peasants with wool and it could carry heavy loads as well.
The Inca spoke the Quechua language. They couldn&rsquot write, but they used quipus, which were strings with a system of knots attached to them. That&rsquos how they recorded their harvest.
The Inca were very skilful in making handicrafts. Women were excellent weavers .They wove cloth into tunics. Men were great metalworkers. They knew how to extract metal from ore by heating and melting it. Then the metals were moulded into different shapes to make weapons and other tools. The Inca also produced pottery and made musical instruments such as flutes.
The Inca were great construction workers and architects. They built a large network of roads throughout the empire, as well as tunnels and suspension bridges that crossed narrow mountain valleys.
In Cuzco the Inca built massive walls made of huge stones. Some were more than 7 metres high and weighed many tons. Even today, centuries later, the stones fit together so well that you can&rsquot even put a knife blade between them.
The Inca worshipped gods of nature&mdashthe sun, the earth or thunder. They sacrificed humans and animals. People also worshipped their ancestors and kept mummies of some of them. The Inca created a calendar by looking at the movements of the sun and the moon. Harvest feasts were celebrated in May, planting rituals were held in August.
When the Inca got up in the morning they didn&rsquot have to get dressed, because they slept in their clothes. Women wore long gowns with a sash at the waist. Men wore loincloths and shirts without sleeves. Both men and women wore sandals.
The average house had only one room made out of stone or brick. Normally it had a thatched roof. There were no beds or mattresses, so the whole family had to sleep on the floor.
The Inca lived in small villages. Even Cuzco, the capital, was not a very large city.
History of the Incan Empire
The history of the Inca is mainly known from stories that have been passed down and from records made after the Spanish conquered the empire. Starting in the 13th century, the Inca began conquering land and the empire became bigger and bigger. One hundred years later it was at the height of its power.
In the 16th century the Incan empire became weaker when a fight broke out between two of the rulers sons. They both claimed the throne and wanted to succeed their father. When the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro came he defeated the Inca and brought the empire under Spanish rule.
Memories of the Incan empire still remain alive today. Although they were oppressed in the centuries that followed, today&rsquos government is doing many things to improve the life of the Inca and to make their culture more popular. Quechua became an official language and a portrait of a famous Inca king is now on a Peruvian banknote.
The Lost Inca City
Explorers have found ruins of a lost city on a peak in the Andes Mountains of Peru. They think the site belonged to the Inca who ruled the region more than 500 years ago. The ruins are on a mountain called Cerro Victoria in a very re mote region of Peru. This area was the place where the Inca retreated to when the Spanish conqueror Pizarro came in the 16th century.
Local people have known Cerro Victoria for a long time, but they didn&rsquot know what it was. A British photographer went there with a team of archaeologists in 2001. The team had to hike and climb for four days to reach the site from the nearest road. Some of the ruins are 4,500 m above sea level.
When they got there they found storehouses, courtyards, roads, terraces and many other stone buildings. Archaeologists think that the Inca chose the place for two reasons. It was near important silver mines and it gave the people a great view of the mountains. The Inca may also have gone there to observe the sun and the moon from a perfect spot.
The explorers hope to find out when the lost city was built and how long the Inca lived there.
Cusco: Capital of the Incan Empire
Cusco, Cuzco, or Qosqo are some of the names that this ancient Incan capital is known by. It is a study site for archeologists from all over the world who flock to Peru to marvel at Machu Picchu and the rest of the Inca ruins scattered throughout the valley. Cusco was the administrative center of the Spanish Empire's Viceroyalty of Peru.
A vast amount of art and colonial architecture remains throughout the city, especially in the Plaza de Armas. Currently, Cusco is the greatest tourist region of the country and receives over a million visitors a year. Cusco, Peru, is the most ancient urban settlement in all of the Americas, officially over 3,000 years old, but pre-ceramic artifacts have been found there that date back 5,000 years.
The true history of the first inhabitants of the city has been lost to Incan legends that claim the city to have been founded by the Incas: Manko Qhapaq and Pachakuteq. Cusco started to gain importance with the Incan society, in the year 1200 AD, although as previously mentioned the city existed much before that. Cusco reached its peak at the height of the Inca Empire's expansion, around 1400 AD, and its decline began with the arrival of the Spanish in 1533. The Spaniards moved the capital to Lima, where the colonial culture flourished.
Cusco maintained a relative importance as the administrative center of the Viceroyalty of Peru, as the region was called under the Spanish administration. During this period, Incan nobility maintained certain privileges in the valley of Cusco which allows them to live in relative peace and mix with the arriving Spaniards. We say &ldquorelative&rdquo because there were some uprisings led by Manko Inka in 1536 that continued until 1572 when the last descendant of the ancient Incan Dynasty, Túpac Amaru I, was executed.
In 1821, after many rebellions throughout all of Latin America, Peru gained independence and maintained Lima as the country's capital. Cusco, however, was chosen as the &ldquoArchaeological Capital of South America&rdquo in recognition of its historic importance to not only Peru but the whole continent. In 1983 the city was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Along the Inca Trail near Cusco is the sacred city of Machu Picchu (&ldquoOld Mountain&rdquo in the Quechua language), archaeological ruins of incomparable beauty located on the mountain summit. It is believed that the city was a holiday residence of Pachacútec, the first Incan emperor who lived from 1438 to 1470. The city played two functions: one of a palace and one as a religious sanctuary. Machu Picchu is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the new recognized Wonders of the World.
The Late Vilcabamba Government and Ultimate Loss of Autonomy
Titu Cosi Yupanqui was the last of the great Incas. He was arguably the shrewdest diplomat in Incan history, and the finest leader of the neo-Incan state. Like his half-brother, the late Sayri-Tupac, Titu Cosi had been a witness to the murder of his father and the rape of his mother by Conquistadors. For this, he, unlike his predecessor, seems to have formed an understandable grudge against the Spaniards.
His reign was, at first, a controversial one, even to the Vilcabambans. Being only a bastard, Titu Cosi had no direct claim to the throne until Manco's legitimate line had died out. Technically, the next in line to rule was the young hothead Tupac Amaru. However, Titu Cosi, with the backing of his generals, usurped the throne, sending the boy away to become a priest. The new Inca's next act was to cut ties with the Viceroy once again, ending all negotiation talks. He then quietly encouraged Incan raids on Spanish settlements and native uprisings in other provinces.
In 1565, Viceroy Castro was informed of various rumors circulating concerning Titu Cosi's plans for another rebellion against the Spanish. Alarmed by the reports, he dispatched an ambassador and several Spanish and native troops to meet the Inca and attempt to once again negotiate with him. The Inca soon found that it would indeed be profitable to agree to the Viceroy's terms. The threat of another Spanish invasion of the Vilcabamba province was not an all-together pleasant one. Besides, Titu Cosi was concerned in establishing his own line of succession for the throne through his son, Quispe Titu. He had seen his son married off to the Christian daughter of Sayri-Tupac and one of Manco's legitimate daughters. For the Spanish to reinforce these claims, as they would be expected to do, would ensure his right to rule over the neo-Incan state at Vitcos.
In return for an end of the action against Spanish settlers and an act of submission to the King of Spain by all of the members of the royal family, Titu Cosi was baptized, given the estates of Sayri-Tupac at Cusco, and allowed to have his son's marriage to Sayri-Tupac's daughter officially consecrated by the Church. With the signing of the Treaty of Acobamba in 1566, fourteen years of peaceful co-existence with the Spanish were inaugurated. The Inca skillfully maintained a balance between traditional culture and modernization in the state of Vilcabamba. He allowed into the hidden valley a group of Augustinian missionaries and traders, yet he still maintained the old ways of the culture, such as the worship of the Sun. Indeed, despite the growing number of Christian converts in Vitcos and the newly built Spanish style haciendas, little would change in the city.
It was thus indeed a disaster when, in 1571, the wise and thoughtful Inca Titu Cosi fell seriously ill with a fever. Eventually, his physicians became so afraid for his life that they asked for the help of Spanish medicine from one of the local friars and the Inca's friend, the local Spanish Corregidor, or royal administrator for the region of Vilcabamba. When the Inca finally died from this fever, an angry citizenry sought a scapegoat. The friar was tortured to death, and the Corregidor was quietly assassinated in the palace. The now adult Tupac Amaru, a follower of the old rites of the Sun, was determined to reinforce his claim to the throne and block the Christian Quispe Titu from control. Backed by priests of the old religion, he hid the news of his brother's death from Cusco, where Quispe Titu was staying. He then had all Spaniard settlers murdered and all churches in Vilcabamba burned and leveled.
What the unwise new Inca did not know was that the new Viceroy of Peru was in no mood to have Spanish authority questioned. Don Francisco de Toledo was largely occupied with reforming the colonial system of Peru, but the sudden inability to contact Titu Cosi for negotiations was disconcerting. Toledo was already wary of the existence of an independent neo-Incan state, but he was even more shocked by the inability of his envoys to reach the Inca. All had been barred from entering the valley by native sentries guarding the Urubamba bridges. However, when news reached him that Incan warriors had slaughtered his latest envoy, he decided that action had to be taken at once. He had been ordered by the King not to attack except in self-defense. And so, in April 1572, Toledo was given the authority to destroy Tupac Amaru's sovereign state of Vilcabamba once and for all, thanks to the unfortunate actions condoned by the Inca.
By June 1st, Toledo had sent a force of two thousand and two hundred troops into Vilcabamba. With them came a plague that killed many Vilcabambans and severely depleted Tupac Amaru's armed forces. In a short time, thanks to the superior artillery power of Toledo's troops, Tupac Amaru was forced to abandon Vitcos, and Vilcabamba itself, fleeing into the jungle with a hundred of his best warriors. When, on June 25th, the Conquistadors entered the last capital of the Inca, they found it already smoldering in the flames set by the Vilcabambans themselves. The site of the city would serve as a Spanish town until its abandonment in the 1700s.
Tupac Amaru was captured not long after by a small group of Spanish troops and was sent as a prisoner back to Cusco for his trial. The last Inca's sham trial mirrored that of his uncle Atahualpa forty years earlier, and he was soon convicted of the murders of the Spanish settlers in Vilcabamba and of violating the act of submission that he had shown alongside Titu Cosi in 1566. Despite the outrage incited by the verdict of the court that was aggravated among former Incan citizens and influential Spanish Christians alike, he was sentenced to death. After his baptism, an executioner removed his head quickly with a sword. Various advisors and family members were also executed, and the mummified remains of Manco Inca and Titu Cosi were burned to a crisp. With that, the last Inca was dead and his heritage was rubbed out. The bloodline itself, so Toledo supposed, had been likewise forever removed, as Tupac Amaru's only son was banished from Peru.
The Inca Empire
Archaeologists use Inca art to understand their history
The Inca Empire flourished in the South American continent from 1438 until the Spanish arrived in the continent in 1533. From around 1200 to 1438 the Incas were considered a tribe which gradually grew occupying a territory of 800,000 sq km or 308,882 sq mi. Starting around the year 1438 the Incas started expanding absorbing neighboring territories and incorporating their culture and practices into their own societies and becoming an empire. The expansion started when Sapa Inca Pachacutec came to the throne. With the help of this son Topa Inca and his grandson Huayna Capac they expanded the empire controlling a vast territory known as the Tawantinsuyu or Four United Kingdoms. They made Cusco, the sacred city, its capital.
The empire reached its peak in 1527 under the reign of Sapa Inca Huascar covering a territory of 2 million sq km or 772,204 sq mi that extended to present day Peru, Quito, Ecuador and part of Colombia to the north Bolivia to the east and Santiago, Chile and part of Argentina to the south. The Inca Empire was the largest empire built in the Americas reaching unparalleled cultural achievement. Read more about achievements of the Incas.
Administrative regions of the Inca Empire
Map of the Tawantinsuyu, Land of the four Quarters. Click on map to enlarge.
The empire was so large that it was divided into four administrative regions:
Chinchaysuyu was the most populous of all suyus, it extended north from Cusco to modern day Ecuador and Colombia along the coast absorbing northern civilizations such as the Chimu and Chanchan.
Antisuyu was the territory northeast of Cusco covering the high Andes and bordering the Amazon region and the Bolivian Altiplano.
Contisuyu was the smallest region and covered the southern coast to the modern day department of Arequipa.
Coyasuyu extended from Cusco to the south covering part of Bolivia and Argentina as far as the Maule River near Santiago, Chile.
The Incas did not leave a written record of their history as they never developed a written language. Its history has been passed on orally from generation to generation in the form of myths and legends. The history of the Incas is endlessly fascinating and what we know from them and the civilization they developed is from discoveries made by archaeologists. Inca artifacts, tools, textiles, pottery and art have helped archaeologist understand their culture and how it impacts modern Andean society in Peru.
The Inca Dynasty
The title of emperor or Sapa Inca was hereditary. There were a total of thirteen Incas from 1198 to 1533. The first was Manco Capac and the last Atahualpa.
|Mayta Capac||1288-1318 |
|Hanan Yahuar Huaca||1378-1408|
|Tupac Inca Yupanqui||1471-1493|
Origin of the Incas
Before the Incas ruled Cusco there were many small tribes living peacefully in the same territory. After a long period of peace the Chanchas, a group coming from Ayacucho, tried to invade Cusco. Inca Wiracocha and his oldest son Urco afraid for their lives fled leaving his younger son Cusi Yupanqui in charge. Cusi Yupanqui and his soldiers with the help of soldiers from other tribes defended the city and prevented the Chancas from invading it. Because of his bravery and loyalty Cusi Yupanqui was named the new Inca or Emperor he changed his name to Pachacutec which means “He who renew the world”. Many local tribes joined him as he organized and expanded the empire to the east reaching the Bolivian Altiplano and to the north reaching Ecuador. Read Where do the Incas come from?.
Myths of the origin of the Incas
The history of the origin of the Incas is mostly mythical, it is a representation of reality that helps understand the origin of their world and the forces of nature, it explains the unexplainable. Because the Incas did not have a written language myths have been passed on orally through generations. There are two main myths of the origin of the Incas: The myth of the Lake Titicaca and the myth of the Ayar brothers.
Myth of Lake Titicaca
Manco Capac indicating his followers where to found the capital of his empire.
According to the myth of the Lake Titicaca the God Wiracocha created a couple, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, who originated from Lake Titicaca. This couple had a divine goal to head north and to settle where the golden rod sunk. After trying in many places, they arrived at Mount Guanacaure, near the city of Cusco, Peru. In this place the rod sunk and it was there where the couple settled. Manco Capac taught the men to work the land, to build canals and organizational skills Mama Ocllo taught the women how to weave, cook and take care of their children. They brought peace, culture, arts and the God Sun or Inti that emanated heat and power to the people.
Myth of the Ayar Brothers
According to the Ayar Brothers Myth their home was where the Temple of Coricancha now stands.
The legend of the Ayar Brothers tells that God Wiracocha created them and made them emerge from a cave in Pacaritambo in Cusco. They were four brothers: Ayar Cachi, Ayar Manco, Ayar Uchu and Ayar Auca and four sisters: Mama Guaco, Mama Cura, Mama Sarahua and Mama Ocllo. They carried with them rods made of solid gold and wore fine clothes embroidered with gold. They led a large group of people who carried seeds with them. During their long journey to find the appropriate place to settle they arrived at the top of Mount Guanacaure where Ayar Cache with one sling shot torn down hills, he had magical powers that frightened his brothers. Afraid of Ayar Cache his brothers deceived him into returning to the cave in Pacaritambo, once inside they blocked the entrance with large blocks of stone leaving him inside forever.
The rest of the brothers returned to Guanacaure where they lived for one year. One day Ayar Oche flew to the sky to talk to his father the Sun who in turn commanded him to tell Ayar Manco to change his name for Manco Capac. After carrying on his task he turned into stone. Manco Capac, Ayar Auca and the four sisters reached their destination, the valley of Cusco, where they settled and build their house where the Coricancha Temple was later built.
The commoners were the working class or ayllu who contributed to the economy through their labor.
The Inca society had a vertical, stratified and hierarchical organization resembling a three level pyramid. At the top was the Sapa Inca as the most important and powerful person in the empire. Below him was the royalty comprised of his closest relatives, sons and daughters. Following the royalty was the nobility and included his other relatives and those who had attained distinction through service to the royal family such as priests and chiefs. At the third level were professionals such as craftsmen, architects and engineers they commanded much respect from the highest levels as they provided the skills to expand the empire. At the bottom of the hierarchical level and the most populous was the ayllu. The ayllu was the working class that contributed the mita or tax in the form of labor. In exchange they received food, healthcare and free education. Every member of the ayllu was entitled to a piece of land which was distributed according to family size. This land was used to grow their own subsistence food and surplus could be exchanged among neighbors.
The redistribution of food, public services and the sense of security in this agricultural society made the population loyal to the highest ranks of society. Social stability was also achieved by applying a system of three basic laws: Ama Sua. Ama Llulla. Ama Quella” or “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not be lazy”. Inca law was draconian in essence, small offenses carried heavy punishments. There were no prisons, instead offenders were punished so that the penalty was a consequence of their actions and was meant to be exemplary to the rest of the population. For instance a person who steals would get his/her hand amputated. Read more about Inca law.
Incas worshiped many Gods but the most important were Wiracocha and Inti.
Inca society shared a common polytheistic religion in which the Sun or Inti and the Sapa Inca were their main gods. During the empire’s expansion they assimilated territories with different beliefs which they were allowed to keep as long as they revered Inca’s gods above their own deities. The result was a large number of deities and a melting pot of beliefs. It was common for the Inca people to worship natural resources such as a stream of water, animals, crops or a mountain. Among the most important and popular deities are: Inti or Sun, Wiracocha, Mama Quilla, Mama Cocha, Illapa, Ekkeko, among others. Read more about Inca gods and religion.
|Viracocha||The creator, he created the Sun and the Moon. |
|Inti||The Sun and most important god in Inca religion, he ruled above all others.|
|Mama Quilla||Mother Moon, wife of Inti|
|Illapa||God of Weather. Thunder and war|
|Ekkeko||God of wealth|
|Imahmana Viracocha||Son of Viracocha. Sent to the earth by his father to verify people follow his commands.|
|Mama Cocha or Cochamama||Mother Sea|
|Chasca||Goddess of the dawn and the dusk, protector of young girls|
|Supay||God of Death|
|Coco Mama||Goddess of Health and Happiness|
|Urcaquary||God of treasures and buried riches|
|Pariacaca||God of Rain and Water.|
|Mama Oello||The mother goddess of the Incas, she taught the Incas spinning.|
|Zaramama||Goddess of Grain and Corn|
|Mama Pacha or Pachamama||Goddess of the Earth|
The Ayllu was the working class. They contributed to society by paying a tax or mita in form of labor in exchange of food, education, clothes and health.
The success of the Inca economy was due to its collective labor and high degree of central planing that allowed the collection of tribute in the form of labor and the redistribution of resources. Unlike other advanced civilizations trade was not part of the Inca economy, so much so that they never developed a monetary system.
Collective labor was the main economic activity. There were three types of collective labor – ayni, minka and mita. The first two benefited their own communities. The third one, mita, was a tax paid to the Inca which benefited the entire empire. Every member of the community or ayllu was required to fulfill mita labor which included serving as soldiers, messengers, farmers, builders. The tasks were temporary and rotational.
As a social state, the empire emphasized the importance of redistribution specially of agricultural products, developing sophisticated terrace agricultural techniques in such a rugged terrain. They focused on the optimization of land and irrigation networks resulting in high productivity rates. Every year after harvest crop that was not consumed was stored in collcas, storage houses located along the roads, which would be use through out the year or in case of drought or bad weather. This system of redistribution allowed the Inca government to feed its population and build social wealth and therefore a loyal society. Central planning in the Andes would not have been possible without roads and bridges. The Incas were expert engineers and built a network of roads and bridges that allowed them to reach every corner of the empire.
The fall of the Inca Empire
When the Spaniards arrived the empire was in civil war. The spread of disease accelerated its fall at the hands of the conquerors.
The arrival of the Spaniards brought new diseases to the Americas. Smallpox made its way from Central America to the Inca empire making Sapa Inca Huayna Capac and the heir to the throne, Ninan Cuyochi, victims of the disease. The next in line was Huascar as it was customary for the oldest son of the Sapa Inca and the Coya to inherit the throne. Huayna Capac’s other son was Atahualpa, a more capable and stronger warrior but the son of a concubine. Atahualpa was proclaimed Sapa Inca by his followers in the northern administrative city of Quito starting a long and debilitating civil war.
When the Spaniards arrived in Peru the Inca empire was in the middle of a civil war and its population diminished by the onset of small pox and influenza which it is believed to have wiped out more than 50% of the population. Within the next fifty years other diseases such as typhus, diphtheria and measles weakened the population even further destroying the remains of the Inca civilization. Some archeologists suggest that up to 90% of the population was affected by theses diseases to which they did not have immunity. Read more about the fall of the Inca empire.