The Inca were South American Indian people who ruled one of the largest and richest empires in the America’s. The Inca Empire began to expand about 1438 and occupied a vast region that centered on the capital, Cusco, in southern Peru. The Empire extended more than 2,500 miles (4,020 kilometers) along the western coast of South America. It included parts of Present – Day Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. The Inca Empire was conquered by Spanish Forces soon after their arrival in 1532. Inca emperors ruled their far – reaching territory through a complex political system. The Inca took over many areas by military force.
Their political system kept a balance between the central authority of the emperor and local rulers. The name Inca was originally the title of the emperor. The peoples he governed had many names. But after the Spanish conquest, all people under the emperor’s rule were called the Inca. Inca is a group name which covers a large numbers of tribes. The original Incas were Quechua speakers who lived in South – Eastern Peruvian highlands. Tribes later conquered by the Incas tended to assimulate Inca culture, to the exclusion of their own. In the 15century, led by Pachacuti Inca Yupaqui and his son Topa Inca, the Inca Empire exploded over the Andes.
Both leaders claimed to be descendents of the sun, the most important symbol in Inca religious life. When Topa Inca died in 1493 Pachacuti’s Andean domain ran nearly 2,500 miles from North Ecuador into Chile and covered some 350,000 square miles. The Incas are famous for their intricate gold work and elaborate weaving. For subsistence they relied on terraced and irrigated cultivation, and very little on hunting and fishing. In the mountain areas the main crop was quinoa, and in lower areas maize, beans, peanuts, and squash. They kept llamas, alpacas, dogs, guinea pigs, and dogs.
Men worked copper and gold and women made fabrics and pots. Inca towns had massive public buildings. Most of their technological achievements were grand – scale copies of ideas from earlier civilizations. The skilful farmers who preceded the Inca, harnessing the melting snows of the Andes, dug irrigation ditches across the desert; they also deflected rivers for the same purpose. Nothing which the Minoans, Egyptians, and Sumerians did, agriculturally, equalled this achievement. They also demesticated animals. From the Native American camal the guanaco, they bred the llama and the alpaca for their wool, and guinea – pigs for food.
Most people lived in square stone houses with thatched roofs. The Inca political system was headed by an absolute divine king and was subdivided into a territorial organization with hierarchy of bureaucrats. There were no written records, despite the advanced technology, and history was preserved through narrative poems and genealogies. The empire began to crumble with the Spanish conquest of Cuzco in 1533. Archaeological remains are a major source of information about the Inca civilization. The Inca did not develop a writing system, and so there are no sources about them written before the spanish conquest.
But the scientists and historians have reconstructed a picture of Inca life and history from well – preserved archaeological remains in Peru. Written materials from the period of and after the spanish conquest provide another important source of information about the Inca civilization. The Inca used several methods to make their farms more productive, even though they did not use wheels or plows pulled by animals. They build irrigation networks in the coastal desert. In the highlands, they cut terraces into the hillsides to reduce erosion and make irrigation easier.
The Inca divided their fields into three groups. The harvest of the other two fields supported the state religious activities. Family and social life in Inca society was determined by social rank. The rank of an Inca’s family determined his or her social position for life. A man’s status could be changed only by performing some outstanding service for the emperor. The people were grouped in units called ayllus, which it was based on kinship and land ownership. The members of an ayllu owned an area of land in common. The leader of an ayllu gave each family as much land as it needed to produce its own food.
Men with noble rank could have no more than one wife,and many marriages were arranged for political reasons. Emperors sometimes gave chosen women to favored nobles or men who had performed a service for the emperor. These women, who were selected by government officials, had great beauty and intelligence. Nobles had to marry within the ayllu. Husbands and wives were expected to help each other with work in the fields and other tasks. Inca children had little time for play because their families kept them very busy. Most children helped with the family work after learning to walk.
Boys were initiated into manhood when they were 14 years old. Girls were initiated into womanhood after they started to menstruate. Boys and girls received permanent adult names during the initiation ceremonies. However, young people did not achieve full adult status until they married and started to pay taxes. Religion for the Inca played an important role in the public and private lives of the Inca. The people believed that nature was created by their most important god, Viracocha. The ruling family prayed chiefly to Inti, the sun god. Important goddesses included the earth and the sea.
The Inca believed the will of the gods could be learned through divination, an attempt to gain knowledge of the unknown through magic signs. Sacrifices and offerings accompanied by prayers were a main part of the Inca religious ceremonies. Crops and animals, mainly llamas, were sacrificed to keep the good will of the gods. Human sacrifices were made under special circumstances. Most people considered it an honor to be chosen for sacrifice. Priests played a central role in Inca society. Many decisions depended on the divination ceremonies they performed. Priests also made offerings and maintained the temples.
Chosen women prepared food used in religious ceremonies. These women also wove fine cloth for the royal family, priests, and persons to be sacrificed. Inca priests treated the sick by means of curing ceremonies and often used herbs and other plants as medicine. Surgeons performed an operation called trephining, which involved cutting away part of the skull. The Inca believed this surgery would ease pressure on the brain or let out evil spirits. The Inca considered funerals sacred. They believed that people lived in either heaven or hell after death. Important persons were buried above the ground in stone chambers.
Others were buried in pits, caves, and other types of graves. Trade and transportation:The Inca had no system of money. They would often use cloth as a medium of exchange and for gifts. The government controlled most trade, especially trade in metals, precious stones, unusual plants and animals, and other scarce items. Commoners could trade such products as crafts, foods, and textiles at local fairs. The people traveled mostly by walking, and them and the llamas carried loads. Nobles rode on frameworks called litters, which were equipped with couches and carried on men’s shoulders.
The Inca used boats and rafts on the major rivers, on Lake Titicaca, and along the coast. Government:The Inca empire was ruled by members of a royal dynasty. The emperor, called the sapa Inca, traditionally married his sister. He chose his successor from among his sons by his sister – wife. The emperor was aided by a council of nobles who served as governors of the provinces of the empire. The emperor also consulted the chief priest, who was his brother or uncle, and the generals, who also were relatives. The emperor was responsible for the well – being of the empire and its people.
His duties included expanding the empire and making sure that the people followed the proper religious observances. The Sapa Inca also had the duty of preventing the nobles from taking advantage of the commoners. The Inca tried to keep existing local rulers in power after conquering their territory. These rulers were allowed to govern independently as long as they did not rebel, paid taxes, and kept storehouses full of supplies. In this way, the Inca maintained strong ties within the empire. All commoners paid taxes by doing work for the government and giving the government a portion of their crops, livestock, or fish.
The government required women to weave a certain amount of cloth. Men had to work on government construction projects, labor in the mines, or serve in the army. A group of inspectors made sure people paid their taxes. Communication and Learning:The Inca spoke a language called Quechua. Different peoples within the empire spoke several other Indian languages. People communicated only by talking because they had no writing. Messages were relayed by messengers stationed on the roads and by fires and smoke signals. The Inca studied stars and planets and used their observations to predict the seasons of the year.
They knew how to perform certain mathematical calculations, which they used in designing buildings, roads, and terraced fields. Inca children learned by watching their parents work and imitating them. They also learned by listening to stories told by their elders. Chosen women and sons of nobles received some education. The chosen women learned to weave and make articles for religious ceremonies. The sons of the nobility went to school in Cusco for four years. They studied the Inca language, history, and religion. They also learned to use the quipu to keep records and practiced how to fight. The boys were taught by teachers called amautas.
These men also recorded history in legends and poems that they recited from memory. Arts and Crafts:The Inca produced beautiful craft-work that ranged from images of the gods to items for everyday use by the nobles. The chosen women would make fine cloth woven with elaborate geometric designs. Inca builders became known for sturdy temples and dwellings made of stone. The large blocks of stone used for these structures were cut so finely that they fit together exactly without cement. The pottery of the Inca was beautiful and well made. Craftworkers painted it with geometric designs in black, brown, red, white, and yellow.
Inca played haunting melodies on woodwinds and drums. The woodwinds included flutes and panpipes, and trumpets made of shell and ceramics. History : There is only a little known about the early history of the Inca. Their legends tell of brothers and sisters sent to earth by their father, the sun, to teach and rule the people. The Inca were originally a tribe or a group of tribes that lived in Cusco area. About 1200, they began to expand their rule over neighboring groups. The Inca heritage is still evident today. The Spaniards tried to wipe out all the customs of the Inca,but could not do so.