Incan Empire Development Culture Cities
The beginning of the Inca rule started with the
conquest of the Chimu Culture in Peru.
The original Inca tribe was a minor Andean tribe
whose expansion began with a successful
campaign against its more powerful neighbours,
the Chancas, in the 1440s.
Leading them was Pachacuti a military strategist,
statesman, and diplomat of enormous skill. Armies
under Pachacuti and his son and successor, Topa Inca,
conquered the entire mountainous area from Quito
south past Lake Titicaca.
Topa Inca also subjugated the coastal kingdom of
Chimor, and extended the Inca domain farther south,
as well as east to the fringes of Amazonia.
The nobility of Quechua-speaking tribes
assimilated into the empire were absorbed into
the ruling Inca aristocracy.
The Inca were warriors with a strong and
powerful army. Because of the fierceness of
their army and their hierarchical organization,
they became the largest Native American society.
The term 'Incas' (or Inkas) is often used to
refer to the people of the empire as a
whole, whereas strictly it refers to the
The position of Inca, the supreme ruler of
the empire, was a more or less hereditary
position, although strict precedence was
often waived in favour of superior political
or military ability.
Between 1200 and 1535 AD, the Inca population
lived in the part of South America extending
from the Equator to the Pacific coast of Chile.
The Incas subsequently established an empire
that, by the time of the Spanish invasion,
stretched from southern Columbia to central
Chile, a distance of some three thousand miles.
The Incas had a very clear social structure.
The ruler, the Sapa Inca, and his wives, the Coyas,
had supreme control over the empire.
The High Priest and the Army Commander in Chief
Next came temple priests, architects, administrators and
Merchants and Middle Class
Then came the Four Apus, the regional army commanders.
Next were artisans, musicians, army captains and the
quipucamayoc, the Incan "accountants."
At the bottom were sorcerers, farmers, herding families
A khipu consists, minimally, of a main cord from which
pendant cords hang. (Pendants of pendants are called
Knots tied in the pendant cords and other
modifications of the pendant are the commonest databearing or significant features.
Inka functionaries used cord records for censuses,
inventories, tribute records, and documents about
transactions; Spanish courts also accepted them as
documents of record in early colonial times.
The Sapa Inca was formally married to his sister, the
Coya, but had legal access to a large group of "Chosen
Some of these were devoted to the church and celibate,
but other were effectively other wives of the Sapa Inca.
A son was chosen from among the offspring of the
Coya or from any of the 200 or so concubines.
Thus brother and sister, King and Queen in the Incas
could be developed from a large group of half-brothers
The dominant stylistic form in Inca architecture is a
simple, but elegantly proportioned trapezoid, which
serves the dual ends of functionality and severely
Trapezoidal doorways, windows, and wall niches are found in
Inca constructions of all types, from the most finely wrought
temples to crudely built walls in unimportant buildings.
The doorways and windows are obviously functional, and the
niches probably served a variety of functions as yet
unidentified by the archeologists.
Placement of these trapezoidal openings was primarily
functional, but occasionally, esthetic arrangements might
dominate the placement of the trapezoids, if there was no
conflict with functionality.
Mountain Top Forts
The comprehension of how irrigation can benefit
agriculture is evident by the expansion into the highland
They developed drainage systems and canals to expand
their crop resources.
Potatoes, tomatoes, cotton, peanuts and coca were
among the many crops grown by the Inca.
Llama were used for meat and transportation.
There was more than enough resources available for
The ancient Inca capital is said to have been
founded around 1100 AD.
The Incas conceived their capital in the shape of
a Puma with the river serving as the spine,
Sacsayhuaman the head, and the main city center
Almost every central street has remains of Inca
walls, arches and doorways. Many streets are
lined with Inca stonework, now serving as
foundations for more modern buildings.
The site of Machu Picchu was not discovered by the
Spanish during the Conquest. In fact, it wasn't known
to the outside world until 1911 when an American
Archeologist, Hiram Bingham, made the steep climb to
a lofty saddle high above the Urubamba river.
The city is clearly laid out in sections. There is a "royal"
section where the stone work is the finest, the rooms
are largest and running baths are nearby. The bulk of
the food for the inhabitants was grown on the
agricultural terraces of the city.
There is a sacred section that occupies the
highest point within the city proper. In this
section are finely constructed buildings, altars,
sculptures and the Intiwatana--the sun stone.
This was the center of the priestly activities and
involved rituals at the winter solstice that
"brought back" the sun.
The real Inca Trail is a walking route that leads through
the mountains above the Urubamba river, following (at
least partly) the course of an old Inca roadway leading
to the city of Machu Picchu.
The empire was connected with an elaborate system of
"roads" which are really trails as the Incas had no
They consisted of well paved and maintained paths that can
accommodate 2 people abreast. Much of the system is now
in disuse or lost, but enough trails do remain to understand
the early descriptions and provide excellent hiking in the
There are stations along the trails, between 2 and 5
miles apart, that served as living quarters for the
This was a special class of young men who conducted the
business on the trails. Typically there were 2 men at each
station. A runner with a message (oral) or an item (food,
fertilizer or such) would call out upon approach to one of
these stations. One of the occupants would run out to meet
the incoming runner, receive the message or item, and then
continue to the next station. The original messenger would
rest and then return to their own station.
In this way, it was said that the Inca (who resided in
Cuzco) ate fresh fish from the ocean and could send
and retrieve information throughout the 2,000 mile
empire in a matter of a few days.
Children sacrificed to the mountain gods.
Burials: Mummy Bundles
About 1438, the ninth Inca, Pachacuti, set forth
to conquer on a scale never before attempted in
aboriginal America. Pachacuti and his son, Tupac
Inca, the tenth Inca, forged an empire nearly as
far reaching and well organized as Caesar's Rome.
They Called it Tahuantinsuyu, Quechua for the
" Four Quarters of the World ".
Huayna Capac - Valiant Youth - surely visited
Machu Picchu after he succeeded Tupac Inca in
1493, for he devoted years to a grand tour of his
inherited Four Quarters of the World.
Huayna Capac settled down in Ecuador with his hundreds of
wives and concubines, occupying a sumptuous palace of which no
trace remains. Today natives, reminders of the brief lnca
occupation of Ecuador are Quechua-speaking Indian communities
of diverse tribal origins-some from distant Bolivia- found along
the Pan American Highway.
The emperor's warrior son, Atahuallpa, became a favorite of the
battle-tested armies that carried on the northern border campaigns.
Meanwhile premonitions of doom haunted Huayna Capac.
About 1525 Huayna Capac was stricken possibly by smallpox
introduced into the continent by Europeans probing its coastline.
Before he could choose, he died. In Cuzco the high priest
conferred the royal fringe on Huascar, a son of Huayna Capac and
his sister wife the queen. But Atahuallpa, Huascar's half brother,
governor of Quito, reportedly refused to accompany his father's
mummy to Cuzco and render homage. His generals, veterans of
Ecuadorean wars, backed his insurgency, and civil war flared.
Huascar sent a huge inexperienced army against Atahuallpa, but it
perished in battle near Ambato, Ecuador.
The chronicler Cieza, who saw the skeleton-strewn battlefield twenty years
later, wrote that the body count of 25 or 26 thousand was an underestimate.
Huascar conscripted army after army, including peasants from as far away as
Thousands who had escaped the plague now fell under the northerner's
Perhaps 200,000 men fought in the final battle near Cuzco.
The unthinkable occurred: Atahuallpa's generals tumbled Huascar from his
golden litter. Cuzco's defenders fled in terror. The Son of the Sun had fallen.
The generals dressed the emperor in women's clothes. They forced him to
eat excrement in Cuzco's streets and watch the extermination of his
multitudinous family and courtiers.
ATAHUALLPA had left Quito to make triumphal entry into
Cuzco when he got word of his generals' victory. But at this
moment coastal chiefs warned him of Pizarro's approach. A
mere 62 cavalrymen and 106 foot soldiers, armed with Toledo
blades and a few guns and crossbows, were winding slowly into
the mountains of northern Peru.
Pizarro sent an interpreter and 15 riders under Hernando de
Soto (who later discovered the Mississippi River) to offer his
services in arms and to ask the emperor to dine next day. The
seated Inca offered ceremonial chicha, accepted the invitation,
and told his guests to occupy the town plaza.
Pizarro set a trap that the Inca had unwittingly provided him. In
the great triangular plaza, with an entrance at its apex, he laid an
ambush. He hid his forces inside buildings that had doorways,
high enough for horse and rider, facing into the walled plaza.
Atahuallpa and Pizzaro
On Saturday, November 16, 1532, the Inca delayed his social call
until sundown, supposing horses to be of no use after dark, and
bemused by reports that the bearded men were hiding in fear.
Then be capped his spate of bad decisions by going unarmed to
sup and spend the night in town.
The Spaniards captured Atahuallpa and he ruled for eight
months from a prison compound in the triangular plaza, keeping
his lordly mien, his authority unquestioned by any subject of the
To secure his release, Atahuallpa decreed that the realm be
ransacked to fill a 18-by-22-foot room once with gold, as high as
he could reach, and twice with silver. Totally unaware that
Pizarro's men spearheaded a massive European invasion of the
Tahuantinsuyu, he presumed the bearded ones would go away
once they had received their booty.
By July 1533 more than 24 tons of exquisite treasure had been
collected: idols and chalices, necklaces and nuggets, accumulated
through centuries of placer mining. Though this was only a
fraction of the plunder that awaited the Spaniards elsewhere in
the Four Quarters of the World, Atahuallpa's ransom, as duly
recorded in the Spanish archives, was worth at least 267 million
dollars at today's bullion values for gold ($315 ounceNov/02/1997-) and silver.
But instead of freeing the Inca, they tried him
for treason, and was sentenced to death for
treason against the strangers within his own
To avoid the horror of being burned alive as a
heretic and thus deprived of mummification,
Atahuallpa accepted Christian baptism and took
Pizarro's Christian name: Francisco- Then the
Spaniards garroted Francisco Atahuallpa,
thirteenth Inca, and marched down the royal
road to Cuzco.
The 40,000 member army of the Inca was
destroyed by a 180 member Spanish
conquistador army, which was commanded by
The warriors of the Inca were no match for the
Spanish guns. By 1535, the Inca society was