We know from history many various civilizations. Civilizations like Sumerian (4000 BC), Egyptian (3000 BC), Minoan (2000 BC), and Babylonian (1700 BC). Later, the Greek civilization, throughout the Macedonian empire, ranged as far east as northern India and as far south and west as Egypt. Then Romans were the rulers of the whole area from Constantinopole, to Palestine and North Africa to Britain. After centuries, the Vikings, people from what is now Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, established colonies in northern France, Sicily, England, and Ireland.
During the 13th century AD, Mongols created a vast empire in Central Asia and the Mongol Empire controlled the expanse of territory from the Ural mountains in Russia to the Pacific Ocean. The same period of time another great civilization, called Ottoman Turks, was taking over most of North Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkan Peninsula. In America, Incas were the rulers of the largest native empire. Near the end of the 14th century the Inca empire began to expand from its initial base in the Cuzco region of the southern Andes, mountains of South America. Incas’ expansion ended with the Spanish invasion led by Francisco Pizarro in 1532.
The Incas were the greatest indigenous civilization of the Americas. Within 100 years they had build a powerful empire, stretching the entire length of the Andeas, at a distance of more than 5,500 km. It was probably the greatest empire of its time life anywhere in the world, if we imagine that they had built a road system that extended some 30,000 to 40,000 km, unrivaled until the invention of the automobile, they possessed great skills in medicine, and they had a fully controlled social, political, and economical organization, although they lacked basic concepts such as the written language, the wheel, the steel, and the horse.
In common with other Andean cultures, the Incas left no written records. Their history and their culture are known chiefly from the oral traditions preserved through the generations by official “memmorizers” and from the written records composed from them after the Spanish conquest (Inca 375). The official language of the Inca Empire was the Quechua language. Eventhough the Spanish destroyed most Quechua cities and religious centers when they conquered the Inca Empire, many aspects of their way of life survive.
There are about 10 million people in Peru, Bolivia, Equador, Colombia, and Argentina who speak Quechua language, even today (Quechua 1,2). It is interesting to be mentioned that in Quechua language “Inca” means emperor. The people, later known as Incas, began as a small group of warlike people who spoke Quechuan language and lived near the Lake Titicaca in southeastern Peru sometime between 1100 or 1200 AD (Rosso 119). They are very cruel people, and they conquered the majority of their neighbors, in order to become the rulers of their land.
They vanished tribes, such as Arrawaks and Saven. Especially, the second tribe had the greatest civilization of Peru, before the Inca Empire. Incas were short-height people, and their skin has the color of the copper (Rosso 120). Their supreme god was the creator god, Viracocha, but they worshiped the sun god, Inti, too (Inca Empire 8). According to an Inca myth, in order to explain their existence as children of the great Sun God, a man and a woman created by the sun in a small island of the Lake Titicaca. Then, the royal couple settled in Cusco establishing the Inca Empire (Rosso 120).
According to another myth, the first Inca emperor, Manco Capac, and his three brothers and four sisters emerged from caves in the earth. Around the year 1200 A. D. , Manco Capac led ten Inca clans from Lake Titicaca north to the valley of Cusco. The Incas conquered the people of the area and took it over for themselves, and Manco Capac married one of his sisters to establish the royal Inca bloodline (Inca Empire 1). Within the Inca Empire, the political system and organization were so highly organized, many wonder today how it could have been possible.
Inca society was strictly organized, from the emperor and royal family down to the peasants (Inca Empire 2). The basis of Inca society was the “ayllu”, which was a clan of families living together in a restricted area, including leaders, priests, wizards, and the rest of the people (Rosso 122). Everyone belonged to an “ayllu”. An individual was born in an “ayllu” and died within it. Even the choice of a male could be determined by the “ayllu”. If an Inca man did not marry by the age of 20, the “head” of the “ayllu” selected a wife for him (Inca Empire 5).
For administrative purposes the empire was divided into four regions, known as the “four suyus”, with Cusco as their center. The Incas called their empire “Tahuantinsuyu”, a Quechuan word meaning “Land of the Four Quarters”. They further divided each quarter into progressively smaller units, something like provinces (Inca Empire 3). The political situation of Inca Empire was total dictatorship by one man, the emperor (picture). He had all the power in his hands, and he was worshiped like a god, during his life, by the citizens who believed that he was the son of the sun (Rosso 121).
When the king died his property, in turn, passed to his relations, while his successor, took up residence in a new compound (Inca 376). The throne was not hereditary, so the emperor had to choose someone with great military and administrative abilities, in order to become the new king (Rosso 121). Each one of the four regions had a governor who was a blood relative of the emperor, known as “apo”. Then, in the political hierarchy of the Inca Empire, were the administrators of the provinces, called “t’ oqrikoq”. In the last level of Inca political hierarchy were the so-called “kuraka” (Inca 376).
In an attempt to achieve bureaucratic accountability, the Incas broke all the households in the empire, down into neat decimal units. Every 10 households in the empire were governed by the head of one of the households. Above them were prefects of 100, 500, 1,000, and 10,000 households, and each of them controlled by a “kuraka” (Lost 61). This bureaucratic organization made the households economic units, and “kurakas” were responsible to collect the taxes that the people paid in the form of agricultural produce and cloth (Lost 125,126). As we can see, even to an Indian society, everything was followed by a plan.
The daily life of the Incas varied widely according to social class. Although the emperor and other nobles often had many wifes, the emperor traditionally married his sister as his principal wife (Inca Empire 6). The elderly received special consideration in Inca Empire. According to Incas, a person reached the old age at around fifty. They were freed from taxation, and they were expected to undertake light duties, such as baby-sitting and preparing food (Lost 128). Education played a serious role for Incas. Boys attained maturity at about 14 (Lost 130).
In the hands of their teachers, Inca boys learned religion, elementary geometry, history, military tactics, and oratory (Lost 70). At the age of 16, the boys had to pass a series of difficult tests in order to prove their knowledgment, strength, skill, and courage (Lost 70). Some Inca girls, also, received special education and distinction as so-called “chosen women”. The most beautiful 10-year-old girls of each “ayllu” were selected (Inca Empire 7), and they were taken to “the House of the Chosen Women”, where they were brought up by older chosen women in order to become the future wifes of the members of the Inca aristocracy (Rosso 132).
Every adult male, upon marriage, received from the king an allotment of land, or “topo” which was just large enough to support himself and his wife (Lost 126). When a child was born, another “topo” was given to the couple (Rosso 122). Once the child had been weaned, its parents observed a ceremony, called “rutuchicoy”, a feast attended by relations and friends. Here, the senior male relative would cut off a lock of the youngster’s hair (Lost 129). To the boys were given names of animals, or quality associated with an animal, such as Puma, Dragon, Snake, Hawk, or perhaps Brave, Honorable, or Happy.
Names such as Star, Halo, Coca, Gold, were given to the girls, or they were called after a flower (Lost 130). Parents and children slept together under coarse wooden blankets known as “chusi”, still wearing most of their day clothes, husband and wife shedding only their cloaks (Lost 135). They slept on the floor around a crude stove, which was made of stone cemented with mud. During the day, people spent most of their time out of doors, working in the farms (Inca Empire 6). A typical Inca house was an one-room rectangular building of adobe brick or stone without windows or chimney.
Upper-class houses were often larger and partitioned into several rooms (Inca Empire 6). Two meals a day were eaten, one soon after dawn and the other an hour or two before sunset. At mealtimes, the family squatted or sat on the ground (Lost 135). In Inca society there was no opportunity for someone to be lazy (Lost 129). The system worked because it gave the populous everything fairly and evenly according to status. Incas had tough rules and strong punishment. Under Inca law, marriage was for life. If a man threw out his wife, he was compelled to take her back.
If he threw her out, a second time, he was publishy punished. A third rejection could bring with it the risk of the death penalty, since Inca law made all acts of habitual disobedience a capital offence (Lost 137). When a woman was judged to have been negligent of her household chores, she could be humiliated in front of the whole village by being forced to eat dirt taken from inside her home. The husband would have to do the same or else drink wastewater that had been used by the family for washing their bodies and hair (Lost 137).
Commoners, responsible for rebellion, or for destruction of government property, were liable to the death penalty, strong suffering, or public humiliation, in the capital of Inca Empire, Cusco, by the king. Many times their skulls became cups in order the king to drink his cultural beer (Inca 377). Sometimes these commoners used as sacrificial offering to the Inca gods. The Incas were probably one of the most religious cultures in history. Their religion combined features of animism, fetishism, and the worship of nature gods, especially centered on the worship of the sun (Inca 378).
They had many gods, and their pantheon kept growing as new peoples and their idols were absorbed into the empire. Viracocha was venerated as the universal creator and the supreme god of Incas. They believed, also, to some subsidiary powers such as “Apu Illapa” the god of thunder and rain, “Mama Quilla” the wife of the Sun and the moon goddess, “Pachamama” the earth mother, and the mother sea, called “MamaQoca”. Chief among these deities was “Inti”, the sun god, from whom the emperors were said to descend, and this is the reason why they were worshiped as divine beings (Inca 379).
The Incas believed in after life. To keep out trouble, they only tried to follow their three golden rules: “ama sua, ama llulla, ama chela”, meaning, “do not steal, do not lie, do not be lazy”. By adhering to them, every citizen could expect adecuate support from gods after his death (Inca 380). When an Inca died, his body was embalmed and buried in a sitting position with knees drawn up and head resting upon them, exactly like the position of the embryo.
This position symbolized the return of the deceased to the mother earth, and the deceased body is called “mummy’ (Rosso 132). Also, sometimes finest pottery vessels, or other objects of gold and silver would go along-side the body as well. Along with these possessions would be a supply of food and other supplies possibly useful for the journey that the body would travel. The family of the dead Inca held funeral ceremonies for eight days wearing black clothes for as long as a year, and women in mourning cut their hair (Inca Empire 9).
Rituals were very common among the Inca people. These ceremonies were very important to the Inca, and many important rituals and rights of passage were their foundation. From the “Temple of the Sun” in the center of Cusco, religious practices included offering of sacrifices, religious trances, and public confessions, were taking place. The sacrificial offerings were usually llamas, but on the most sacred occasions or in times of disaster, such as an earthquake, human children, or “chosen women” might be sacrificed (Inca Empire 9).
Prayers played a serious role in Inca Religion, too. Here is an example of a prayer used during a sucrify: “O Sun, my father, who said “Let there be Cuzco! ” and by your will it was founded and it is preserved with such grandeur! Let these sons of yours, the Incas, be conquerors and despoilers of all mankind. We adore you and offer this sacrifice to you so that you will grant us what we beg of you. Let them be prosperous and make them happy, and do not allow them to be conquered by anyone, but let them always be conquerors, since you made them for that purpose” (The Incas 2).
Moreover, Incas believed in divination and witchcraft. Inca priests had the power to cure diseases, and prophesy the future. (Inca 380). It is very interesting the following example that shows that Incas believed a lot in witchcraft: If a hair would fall from an Inca Emperor one of his concubines would eat it to keep it from his enemies, who might use it to bewitch him (HistoryChannel). Except for religion, the Spaniards were deeply impressed by the building skills of the Incas.
Father Bernabe Cobo, a 17th century Jesuit missionary, impressed by their architecture, achievements and skills, said: “What amazes us the most when we look at these buildings is to wonder with what tools and apparatus could they take these stones out of the rocks in the quarries, work them, and put them where they are without implements made of iron, nor machines with wheels, nor using either the ruler, the square, or the plumb bob, nor any of the other kinds of equipment and implements that our artisants use” (Lost 91). The road system, the bridges of rope, and their great brain surgeries were some of their amazing achievements.
Incas constructed an extensive system of well-built and constantly maintained roads, which led to all near and distant territories of the Empire. Two main arteries, linked by numerous connecting roads, passed along the empire, one along the coast and the other through the highland (Inca 378). The road network facilitated communications and the movement of people (especially the armies) and goods. Moreover, the roads were the pathway of information. Trained runners carried official messages, and had to cover up to 400 km per day (Inca Empire 4). Inca’s road system are often compared to those of Roman Empire.
Both were used to maintain control of diverse groups living far from the capital. But even the great Empire of Romans, did not have to face the tangled masses of tropical jungle, or to travel over mountains more than 20,000 feet high. In order Incas to cross the many steep ravines found in the Andes, they built impressive suspension bridges of rope. Some of these rope bridges were nearly 100 m. in length. One of the Incas’ greatest engineering feats was a bridge that crossed a dangerously sleep gorge along the Apurimac. This helpful bridge, constructed in 1350, survived for more than 500 years, until it was abandoned in 1890 (Inca Empire 4).
Also, Incas presented great skills in medicine, and especially in brain surgery. They were capable of amazing feats of surgery, including ampulations and perhaps even bone transplants. The patient was first made unconscious by drugs, such as coca leaves, or possibly by hypnotism. Many of these surgeries were successful, and the patients lived for years after the operations (Inca Empire 9). The Incas had no formal writing system, they had no wheeled vehicles, and transported all goods manually or with the use of llamas. They lacked the iron, the ruler, and the square.
Despite this fact, they could achieve great things in architecture, irritation, masonry, and medicine. Because the Incas lacked writing, we don’t know exactly the number of the Inca emperors. Much of what is known has come from stories passed from one generation to another by the people. According to Antonio Montesino, Inca emperors were eleven, according to Garcilaso de la Vega they were thirteen, and conde de Olivares supported that they were twelve (Rosso 121). The suddenly death of the 11th ruler of Inca Empire, Huyana Capac in 1525 (or 1527) by a disease, left Incas without a leader and plunged the Inca state into a civil war (Inca 376).
The two sons of the last Inca emperor, Huascar and Atahualpa started a war without mercy in order one of them to become the king. During this period of time the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizzaro arrived. Pizarro had with him some 160 soldiers, 67 of them were horsemen, armed with an assortment of unknown to the Incas, heavy weapons, including muskets, crossbows, pikes, lances, and artillery, supplied by the king of Spain, Charles V (Lost 16). It is very difficult for someone to believe that these 160 Spaniards killed about 6,000 Inca warriors in two hours, and they achieved to conquer the Inca Empire.
When Pizarro (picture) gave the signal for attack, two cannons fired the massed Indians, and that was all. Then, the Spanish horsemen charged out of the buildings in their armor, cutting a swath through the ranks of unarmed men. Another interesting infor-mation is that not a single Spaniard was killed. Among the few to be wounded was Pizarro, slightly injured accidentally by one of his own men (Lost 26)!!! The empire of the Incas was the largest state-level society in the New World prior to the arrival of the Europeans.
Their civilization is also the most famous of the numerous precolumbian socities of the Andes, and many thousands of tourists every year go there to see the impressive stone architecture the Incas erected among spectacular scenery. Because of records made by early Spanish and native chroniclers, we also know more about the Incas than about any earlier culture of the Andes. And, fortunately, through documentary research and archaeology, we continue to learn even more about the Incas and their achievements, such as their great road system, impressive architecture, elaborate ceremonies, and more.