Updated: Jan 1, 2021
What is The Inca Empire ?
"Land of the Four Quarters" or Tahuantinsuyu is the name the Inca gave to their empire. It stretched north to south some 2,500 miles along the high mountainous Andean range from Colombia to Chile and reached west to east from the dry coastal desert called Atacama to the steamy Amazonian rain forest. At the height of its existence the Inca Empire was the largest nation on Earth and remains the largest native state to have existed in the western hemisphere.
Incans have the One of the Wonders of the World , Machu Picchu at Mountain Height of 8000 m , and Modern day Engineers still baffling, how it was built, without using wheeled Vehicles or steel ?
Pic : Machu Picchu, One of the Wonders of the World.
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Machu Picchu, Peru in 4K Ultra HD
I. The Origins and Vastness of Empire
The Inca civilization flourished in ancient Peru between c. 1400 and 1533 CE, and their empire eventually extended across western South America from Quito in the north to Santiago in the south, making it the largest empire ever seen in the Americas and the largest in the world at that time. Undaunted by the often harsh Andean environment, the Incas conquered people and exploited landscapes in such diverse settings as plains, mountains, deserts, and tropical jungle. Famed for their unique art and architecture, they constructed finely-built and imposing buildings wherever they conquered, and their spectacular adaptation of natural landscapes with terracing, highways, and mountaintop settlements continues to impress modern visitors at such world famous sites as Machu Picchu.
The Inca Empire (Quechua: Tawantinsuyu, lit. "The Four Regions), also known as the Incan Empire and the Inka Empire, was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The Administrative, Political and Military Center of the empire was located in the city of Cusco. The Inca civilization arose from the Peruvian highlands sometime in the early 13th century. Its last stronghold was conquered by the Spanish in 1572.
From 1438 to 1533, the Incas incorporated a large portion of western South America, centered on the Andean Mountains, using conquest and peaceful assimilation, among other methods. At its largest, the empire joined Peru, western Ecuador, western and south central Bolivia, northwest Argentina, a large portion of what is today Chile, and the southwestern most tip of Colombia into a state comparable to the historical empires of Eurasia. Its official language was Quechua. Many local forms of worship persisted in the empire, most of them concerning local sacred Huacas, but the Inca leadership encouraged the sun worship of Inti – their sun god – and imposed its sovereignty above other cults such as that of Pachamama.
UnderTopa 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.
The Incas considered their king, the Sapa Inca, to be the "son of the sun.
Pic :Incan Empire
II. Government & Administration
The Incas kept lists of their kings (Sapa Inca) so that we know of such names as Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (reign c. 1438-63 CE), Thupa Inca Yupanqui (reign c. 1471-93 CE), and Wayna Qhapaq (the last pre-Hispanic ruler, reign c. 1493-1525 CE). It is possible that two kings ruled at the same time and that queens may have had some significant powers, but the Spanish records are not clear on both points. The Sapa Inca was an absolute ruler, and he lived a life of great opulence. Drinking from gold and silver cups, wearing silver shoes, and living in a palace furnished with the finest textiles, he was pampered to the extreme. He was even looked after following his death, as the Inca mummified their rulers. Stored in the Coricancha temple in Cuzco, the mummies (mallquis) were, in elaborate ceremonies, regularly brought outside wearing their finest regalia, given offerings of food and drink, and 'consulted' for their opinion on pressing state affairs.
Inca rule was, much like their architecture, based on compartmentalised and interlocking units. At the top was the ruler and ten kindred groups of nobles called panaqa. Next in line came ten more kindred groups, more distantly related to the king and then, a third group of nobles not of Inca blood but made Incas as a privilege. At the bottom of the state apparatus were locally recruited administrators who oversaw settlements and the smallest Andean population unit the ayllu, which was a collection of households, typically of related families who worked an area of land, lived together and provided mutual support in times of need. Each ayllu was governed by a small number of nobles or kurakas, a role which could include women.
Local administrators reported to over 80 regional-level administrators who, in turn, reported to a governor responsible for each quarter of the empire. The four governors reported to the supreme Inca ruler in Cuzco. To ensure loyalty, the heirs of local rulers were also kept as well-kept prisoners at the Inca capital. The most important political, religious, and military roles within the empire were, then, kept in the hands of the Inca elite, called by the Spanish the orejones or 'big ears' because they wore large earspools to indicate their status. To better ensure the control of this elite over their subjects, garrisons dotted the empire, and entirely new administrative centres were built, notably at Tambo Colorado, Huánuco Pampa and Hatun Xauxa.
For tax purposes censuses were taken and populations divided up into groups based on multiples of ten (Inca mathematics was almost identical to the system we use today). As there was no currency in the Inca world, taxes were paid in kind - usually foodstuffs, precious metals, textiles, exotic feathers, dyes, and spondylus shell - but also in labourers who could be shifted about the empire to be used where they were most needed, known as mit'a service. Agricultural land and herds were divided into three parts: production for the state religion and the gods, for the Inca ruler, and for the farmers own use. Local communities were also expected to help build and maintain such imperial projects as the road system which stretched across the empire. To keep track of all these statistics, the Inca used the quipu, a sophisticated assembly of knots and strings which was also highly transportable and could record decimals up to 10,000.
To imagine oneself living in the world of the Inca, one would have to travel back 500 years into a magnificent society made up of more than 10 million subjects. Cuzco, which emerged as the richest city in the New World, was the center of Inca life, the home of its leaders. "The riches that were gathered in the city of Cuzco alone, as capital and court of the Empire, were incredible," says an early account of Inca culture written 300 years ago by Jesuit priest Father Bernabe Cobo, "for therein were many palaces of dead kings with all the treasure that each amassed in life; and he who began to reign did not touch the estate and wealth of his predecessor but .... built a new palace and acquired for himself silver and gold and all the rest."
Money existed in the form of work—each subject of the empire paid "taxes" by laboring on the myriad roads, crop terraces, irrigation canals, temples, or fortresses. In return, rulers paid their laborers in clothing and food. Silver and gold were abundant, but only used for aesthetics. Inca kings and nobles amassed stupendous riches which accompanied them, in death, in their tombs like Pharaohs and Nobles of Egypt. But it was their great wealth that ultimately undid the Inca, for the Spaniards, upon reaching the New World, learned of the abundance of gold in Inca society and soon set out to conquer it—at all costs. The plundering of Inca riches continues today with the pillaging of sacred sites and blasting of burial tombs by grave robbers in search of precious Inca gold.
While some remnants of the Inca's riches remain intact, many were destroyed as looters melted them down for their raw metal
Pic : Incan Structures and Architectures
The first known Incas, a noble family who ruled Cuzco and a small surrounding high Andean agricultural state, date back to A.D. 1200. The growth of the empire beyond Cuzco began in 1438 when emperor Pachacuti, which means "he who transforms the earth," strode forth from Cuzco to conquer the world around him and bring the surrounding cultures into the Inca fold.
2. Road Network
This central nervous system of Inca transport and communication rivaled that of Rome. A high road crossed the higher regions of the Cordillera from north to south and another lower north-south road crossed the coastal plains. Shorter crossroads linked the two main highways together in several places. The terrain, according to Ciezo de Leon, an early chronicler of Inca culture, was formidable. By his account, the road system ran "through deep valleys and over mountains, through piles of snow, quagmires, living rock, along turbulent rivers; in some places it ran smooth and paved, carefully laid out; in others over sierras, cut through the rock, with walls skirting the rivers, and steps and rests through the snow; everywhere it was clean swept and kept free of rubbish, with lodgings, storehouses, temples to the sun, and posts along the way."
III. The Incan Society , Religion and Language
The Inca Empire functioned largely without money and without markets. Instead, exchange of goods and services was based on reciprocity between individuals and among individuals, groups, and Inca rulers. "Taxes" consisted of a labour obligation of a person to the Empire. The Inca rulers (who theoretically owned all the means of production) reciprocated by granting access to land and goods and providing food and drink in celebratory feasts for their subjects.
Inca society was highly stratified. The emperor ruled with the aid of an aristocraticbureaucracy, 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 onagriculture, its staples beingcorn(maize), white and sweetpotatoes,squash,tomatoes,peanuts(groundnuts),chili peppers,coca,cassava, andcotton. They raisedguinea pigs,ducks,llamas,alpacas, anddogs. Clothing was made of llama wool and cotton. Houses were of stone oradobemud. Practically every man was a farmer, producing his own food and clothing.
The Inca had great reverence for two earlier civilizations who had occupied much the same territory - the Wari and Tiwanaku. As we have seen, the sites of Tiwanaku and Lake Titicaca played an important part in Inca creation myths and so were especially revered. Inca rulers made regular pilgrimages to Tiwanaku and the islands of the lake, where two shrines were built to Inti the Sun god and supreme Inca deity, and the moon goddess Mama Kilya.
Pic : Inti, Sun God of Incas
Also in the Coricancha complex at Cuzco, these deities were represented by large precious metal artworks which were attended and worshipped by priests and priestesses led by the second most important person after the king: the High Priest of the Sun (Willaq Umu).
Thus, the religion of the Inca was preoccupied with controlling the natural world and avoiding such disasters as earthquake, floods, and drought, which inevitably brought about the natural cycle of change, the turning over of time involving death and renewal which the Inca called pachakuti.
2. Incan Language
The Inca language Quechua lives on today and is still spoken by some eight million people. There are also a good number of buildings, artefacts, and written accounts which have survived the ravages of conquerors, looters, and time. These remains are proportionally few to the vast riches which have been lost, but they remain indisputable witnesses to the wealth, ingenuity, and high cultural achievements of this great, but short-lived civilization.
Pic : Typical Incan Emperor
The rise and fall of the Inca Empire - Gordon McEwan
IV. Machu Picchu and Living at Heights
What remains of the Inca legacy is limited, as the conquistadors plundered what they could of Inca treasures and in so doing, dismantled the many structures painstakingly built by Inca craftsmen to house the precious metals. Remarkably, a last bastion of the Inca empire remained unknown to the Spanish conquerors and was not found until explorer Hiram Bingham discovered it in 1911. He had found Machu Picchu, a citadel atop a mountainous jungle along the Urubamba River in Peru. Grand steps and terraces with fountains, lodgings, and shrines flank the jungle-clad pinnacle peaks surrounding the site. It was a place of worship to the sun god, the greatest deity in the Inca pantheon.
The survival of Machu Picchu over hundreds of years, on a mountaintop subject to erosion and mudslides, is a testament to Inca engineering.Perhaps most unique about Inca civilization was its thriving existence at altitude. The Incas ruled the Andean Cordillera, second in height and harshness to the Himalayas. Daily life was spent at altitudes up to 15,000 feet and ritual life extended up to 22,057 feet to Llullaillaco in Chile, the highest Inca sacrificial site known today.
Mountain roads and sacrificial platforms were built, which means a great amount of time was spent hauling loads of soil, rocks, and grass up to these inhospitable heights. Even with our advanced mountaineering clothing and equipment of today, it is hard for us to acclimatize and cope with the cold and dehydration experienced at the high altitudes frequented by the Inca. This ability of the sandal-clad Inca to thrive at extremely high elevations continues to perplex scientists today.
V. The Inca Road System
The Incaroad system formed a network known as the royal highway orqhapaqñan,which became an invaluable part of the Inca empire, not only facilitating the movement of armies, people, and goods but also providing an important physical symbol of imperial control. Across plains, deserts, and mountains, the network connected settlements and administrative centres. Well-built and lasting, many roads included bridges, causeways, stairways, and also had small stations (chaskiwasi) and sometimes larger, more luxurious complexes (tambos) dotted along every 20 km or so, where travellers could spend the night and refresh. The Andean road system is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
1.The Inca Road Network
Inca roads covered over 40,000 km (25,000 miles), principally in two main highways running north to south across the Inca Empire, which eventually spread over ancient Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. One highway ran down the coast, and the other wound through the highlands. Another important route ran east from Quito (Ecuador) across to Mendoza (Argentina), and there was also a major route along the plains of the northern coast. Criss-crossing these main roads were some 20 other secondary routes and many smaller trails besides.
Roads were also built which went beyond Inca-controlled settlements and led to outside territory, perhaps to facilitate trade with, or military operations against, neighbouring peoples. Along some of the more important highways, milestones marked each Inca unit of distance, the topo, equivalent to 7 km.
Although some Inca roads used older routes such as those built by the earlier Wari, Tiwanaku, and Chimu cultures, the Incas were also creative in their positioning of routes and were not afraid to cross new and unpopulated terrain. Inca engineers were also undaunted by geographical difficulties and built roads across ravines, rivers, deserts, and mountain passes up to 5,000 metres high.
Pic : Engineering Marvels
2. Engineering Methods & Materials
Inca roads were built without the benefit of sophisticated surveying equipment using only wooden, stone, and bronze tools. As they were built in different geographical zones using local populations, the roads are, consequently, not uniform in construction design or materials. The width of most roads varies from one to four metres, although some could be much bigger, such as the 15-metre wide highway in the Huanuco Pampa province. Sometimes there are also two or three roads constructed in parallel, especially near the larger urban centres. Flattened road beds - often raised - were usually made using packed earth, sand, or grass. The more important roads were finished with precisely arranged paving stones or cobbles. Roads were typically edged and protected with small stone walls, stone markers, wooden or cane posts, or piles of stones.
Drainage was provided by frequent drains and culverts, which drew off rainwater from the road surface, channelling it either along or under the road. When crossing wetlands, roads were often supported by buttress walls or built on causeways. Bridges of stone or reeds were also constructed to cover distances in a more direct route as were large, stone, llama-friendly staircases in mountainous terrain. There was even an appointed official, the Chaka Suyuyuq, responsible for inspecting the empire's bridges.
Generally, and despite their reputation for Roman-like long straight roads, Inca roads tended to follow natural contours as the straight stretches of road are rarely more than a few kilometres long. It is also noteworthy that Inca roads are very often more elaborate and well-constructed than was actually necessary. This attention to detail was almost certainly in order to impress travellers and conquered peoples of the superiority of Inca culture as felt by the lords of Cuzco.
Surely one of the most impressive sights and showcases for Inca engineering must have been the many rope suspension bridges which crossed perilous ravines. These were built using braids of reed or grass rope with wooden and fibre flooring. Perhaps the most famous crossed the Apurimac River near Cuzco and measured 45 metres in length. Suspension bridges were often built in pairs perhaps with one bridge for commoners and one for nobles. An alternative to such bridges was the oroya, a suspended basket which transported two or three people at a time over a greater distance than could be reached with a rope bridge. Local populations were given the responsibility of maintaining these perishable structures each year as part of their imperial tribute.
The extensive reach of the road network allowed the Incas to better move armies across their territories in order to further expand the empire or maintain order within it. Trade goods and tribute from conquered peoples - both goods and people - could also be easily transported to and from the major Inca centres, typically using llama caravans and porters (there were no wheeled vehicles). Inca administrative officials also travelled along the roads in order to dispense justice or maintain records such as local agricultural production, tribute quotas, and censuses. Ordinary people were not permitted to use the roads for private purposes unless they had official permission. They also sometimes had to pay tolls for the privilege, especially at bridges.
Another interesting feature of Inca roads was the use of runners (chaski or chasquis). Moving as fast as they could, they operated in relays, passing information to a fresh runner stationed every six to nine kilometres. However, it was not only messages that were carried between population centres but also such perishable items as fresh fish and seafood for the tables of Inca nobles. With this system, information (and fish) could travel up to 240 km in a single day. Messages carried over long distances would have involved hundreds of oral exchanges, and to preserve the correct meaning of the original message, quipu - a coded assembly of strings and knots - were probably used to help the memory of the runners.
VI. How Spaniards Conquered the Incas ?
How did Pizarro and his small army of mercenaries, totaling less than 400, conquer what was becoming the world's largest civilization? Much of the "conquest" was accomplished without battles or warfare as the initial contact Europeans made in the New World resulted in rampant disease. Old World infectious disease left its devastating mark on New World Indian cultures. In particular, smallpox spread quickly through Panama, eradicating entire populations. Once the disease crossed into the Andes its southward spread caused the single most devastating loss of life in the Americas. Lacking immunity, the New World peoples, including the Inca, were reduced by two-thirds.
With the aid of disease and the success of his initial deceit of Atahualpa, Pizarro acquired vast amounts of Inca gold which brought him great fortune in Spain. Reinforcements for his troops came quickly and his conquest of a people soon moved into consolidation of an empire and its wealth. Spanish culture, religion, and language rapidly replaced Inca life and only a few traces of Inca ways remain in the native culture as it exists today.
The Inca Empire was unusual in that it lacked many features associated with civilization in the Old World. Anthropologist Gordon McEwan wrote that:
The Incas lacked the use of wheeled vehicles. They lacked animals to ride and draft animals that could pull wagons and plows... [They] lacked the knowledge of iron and steel... Above all, they lacked a system of writing... Despite these supposed handicaps, the Incas were still able to construct one of the greatest imperial states in human history. — Gordon McEwan, The Incas: New Perspectives
Notable features of the Inca Empire include its monumental architecture, especially stonework, extensive road network reaching all corners of the empire, finely-woven textiles, use of knotted strings (quipu) for record keeping and communication, agricultural innovations in a difficult environment, and the organization and management fostered or imposed on its people and their labor.
The Incan economy has been described in contradictory ways by scholars:
... feudal, slave, socialist (here one may choose between socialist paradise or socialist tyranny) — Darrell E. La Lone, The Inca as a Nonmarket Economy: Supply on Command versus Supply and Demand
VII. Collapse of Inca Empire
With the arrival from Spain in 1532 of Francisco Pizarro and his entourage of mercenaries or "conquistadors," the Inca empire was seriously threatened for the first time. Duped into meeting with the conquistadors in a "peaceful" gathering, an Inca emperor, Atahualpa, was kidnapped and held for ransom. After paying over $250 million in gold by today's standards, Atahualpa, who was promised to be set free, was strangled to death by the Spaniards who then marched straight for Cuzco and its riches.
Ciezo de Leon, a conquistador himself, wrote of the astonishing surprise the Spaniards experienced upon reaching Cuzco. As eyewitnesses to the extravagant and meticulously constructed city of Cuzco, the conquistadors were dumbfounded to find such a testimony of superior metallurgy and finely tuned architecture.
Inca walls show remarkable craftsmanship. The blocks have no mortar to hold them together yet stay tight because of their precise carving and configuration.
Temples, edifices, paved roads, and elaborate gardens all shimmered with gold. By Ciezo de Leon's own observation the extreme riches and expert stone work of the Inca were beyond belief: "In one of (the) houses, which was the richest, there was the figure of the sun, very large and made of gold, very ingeniously worked, and enriched with many precious stones....They had also a garden, the clods of which were made of pieces of fine gold; and it was artificially sown with golden maize, the stalks, as well as the leaves and cobs, being of that metal....Besides all this, they had more than twenty golden (llamas) with their lambs, and the shepherds with their slings and crooks to watch them, all made of the same metal.
There was a great quantity of jars of gold and silver, set with emeralds; vases, pots, and all sorts of utensils, all of fine gold....it seems to me that I have said enough to show what a grand place it was; so I shall not treat further of the silver work of the chaquira (beads), of the plumes of gold and other things, which, if I wrote down, I should not be believed."
Many sections of the Inca road network survive today and are still used by pedestrians, especially near such sites as Machu Picchu, where large stone stairways and bridges give access to the site for modern tourists. In addition, some of the original Inca routes have had modern roads built directly over them, illustrating the skills and vision for crossing terrain and distances possessed by Inca engineers and road builders.
Pic :The famous stone from an Inca wallin Cuzco, Peru. The stone has 12 angles and illustrates the great precision Inca masons employed in ensuring their stone blocks fitted so well together that no mortar was needed. (15th century CE).
IX. Fast Facts of Inca Empire
The Incas created a highway and road system in Peru with over 25,000 miles of roads.The Incas had a type of postal system where relay messengers ran across rope bridges to deliver communications to the next team. Messengers lived in pairs, with one person sleeping and the other on alert for messages.
The Incas performed successful skull surgeries.
The Incas were the first to cultivate the potato in Peru.
The Incas used a system of knotted and colored strings, a ‘quipu’ for records, math and possibly even language.
The Incas believed in reincarnation.
The Incas used a dry masonry method to construct buildings without mortar using stones fit so perfectly together that nothing can slip between them and it proved to be extremely resistant to earthquakes.
The Incas used advanced farming techniques such as canals and ditches to irrigate their crops in Peru.
The Incas administered intelligence tests to Incan children and based on their results they were either taught a trade or sent to school to become administrators or part of the nobility.
The Incas worshiped the sun god Inti and the Incan emperor was believed to have been a direct descendent of the sun god.
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The Inca Empire, or Inka Empire, was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The civilization emerged in the 13th century and lasted until it was conquered by the Spanish in 1572. The administrative, political, and military center of the empire was located in Cusco (also spelled Cuzco) in modern-day Peru. From 1438 to 1533, the Incas used a variety of methods, from conquest to peaceful assimilation, to incorporate a large portion of western South America. Beginning with the rule of Pachacuti-Cusi Yupanqui, the Inca expanded their borders to include large parts of modern Ecuador, Peru, western and south-central Bolivia, northwest Argentina, north and north-central Chile, and southern Colombia.
This vast territory was known in Quechua (the language of the Inca Empire) as Tawantin Suyu, or the Four Regions, which met in the capital of Cusco.
Incas Civilisation has a lasting impact on the World today with their Advancements in Engineering, Architecture, Structures,Metallurgy and their Undisputed Adminstartion of Largest Empire on the Planet at that time.
Its Wonder and Mysterious that, They had not used Wheeled Vehicles, Currency and Scripted Language, Which were the backbones of any Societal Advancement, Even though, What they have achieved is beyond Human Imagination.
World was deprived of their Genius and access to their Creativity due to lack Script , Writing System and Non-availability of their Records.
But, Inca Civilisation has stood today as a Manumental Achievement of Human Ingenuity and Creative Power of Human Brain.....!!
As Men may come and Men may Go, But Machu Picchu remains as a One of the Wonders of the World in Living Memory of Human History.....!!