Inca empire developed between 1400 and 1500 AD in an area
which is now Peru. Before the 15th century the Andean region
was populated by many different tribes of people. Under the
military leadership of Pachacuti and his son Topa Inca, who
between 1438 and 1493, the Inca state expanded into a great empire.From
a geographic point of view, the Inca empire was not a very attractive
place to live. The north-western border is the coastal region of the Pacific
Ocean, which is the driest desert on earth. Not a drop of rain has fallen
there in over 500 years. The towering Andes Mountains begin east of the
desert, with steep slopes that make agriculture a serious challenge. The
Inca solved that problem by creating terraces and filling them with fertile
earth brought up from the mountain valleys. To the east of the Andes,
lay the vast and humid jungle of the Amazon River Basin, inhabited by
fierce tribes whom the Inca never managed to conquer.
The Inca empire and culture was largely destroyed by the Spanish
in the most brutal conquest seen on the American continent. Under
the leadership of Fransisco Pizarro the Spanish stole over 280,000
kilograms of gold from the Inca, destroyed and prohibited all expression
of native religion and culture. Yet many traditions managed to survive
in the myths and culture of Peru, Ecuador and Columbia.
Quechua-speaking peoples of the Andes are the descendants of the
Inca. They make up almost 45 percent of the population of Peru.
They live in close-knit communities and combine farming and herding
with simple traditional technology. Much of the agricultural work
is done cooperatively. Even though Catholicism is now the official
religion in these areas, in practice it is a blend of Western
and native Andean religion and culture.
Pachacuti drastically reorganized the Inca religion. He claimed
to be the direct descendant of the Inca Sun God Inti, which made
his people extremely obedient. Their daily work tasks almost became
a religious duty. Pachacuti created a cult around himself and the
sun-god Inti. Every day the emperor would wear new clothes, the
old ones from the previous day had to be burned, and he would only
eat from golden plates. Inca society was a theocratic society, meaning
that politics and religion were completely intertwined. The Inca
religion combined features of animism, fetishism, and the worship
of nature gods representing forces of nature. Inca rituals included
elaborate forms of divination and the sacrifice of humans and animals.
ECONOMY AND POLITICS
Pachacuti and his son Topa Inca managed to reform these vastly different
regions, inhabited by over 100 different tribes of people into a
political union that could feed and clothe millions of people, carry
out tremendous construction programs, and supply large armies. He
called his new united kingdon Cuzco, and he introduced an ingenious
system of government, social system, economy and religion. He was
one of the most powerful single ruler that ever existed in world
history. He did not depend on a council of advisors, but made all
the decisions for his people alone.
emperor Pachacuti first of all appointed himself as a holy emperor.
He claimed he was the direct descendant of the creator god Pachacamac
(also called Viracocha). Under his rule, Cuzco became a 'huaca',
or holy place, dedicated to the sun god Inti. Pachacuti tore down
the old adobe structures and had the entire city rebuilt in stone.
On the south-end of town he built a temple dedicated to the sun
and, at the same time, to himself. Its walls were covered with
vast quantities of gold.
the problems of government was the redistribution of food and
clothing. The corn, potatoes and cotton needed by millions of
people were all produced in different areas of the empire. The
Inca solved this by developing a form of practical socialism.
Each village produced what its ecosystem would permit and gave
its surpluses to other villages in different areas. In return,
poorer villages farming in the infertile mountain terraces received
the products that they could not grow themselves. Some of the
surplus was stored to feed soldiers or labor crews that were building
temples or roads. This is called a system of reciprocity, and
that is why the Inca did not have markets. Everybody supplied
and received the necessities of life through this system of reciprocity.
Every Inca citizen was assigned a very strict task in life, connected
to their age, gender and social position. For example children over
five years of age had the responsibility of carrying water up to
the fields where grown-ups were growing crops. And women older than
fifty had to weave cloth for making clothes. Even the physically
and mentally disabled were given daily tasks that were attuned to
their capabilities. One of these tasks was chewing maize or corn
and spitting it back into a big bowl. By letting this substance
ferment the Inca made their own special corn beer called Chicha
which they drank on festive occasions.
the individual responsibilities were recorded by bureaucrats through
a system called the Quipu. It was an intricate form of communication
using colored strings tied into knots. This was the Inca alternative
to writing since they did not develop a written language of their
own. Emperor Pachacuti also created religious holidays for his
people. Six times a month the entire empire was shut down for
festivities, lectures and parades.
were incredible builders and architects. Their irrigation systems,
palaces, temples, and fortifications can still be seen throughout
the Andes. They had an efficient road system which was mainly
used for government and military purposes. Couriers would carry
messages in the form of knotted cords all over the empire. Unfortunately,
this road network was also used by the Spanish, which greatly
facilitated their conquest of the Inca Empire.
Big Myth" © Distant Train 2002