The Incan Empire created a society that had its center in Peru, but expanded over much of the South American west coast.
From the 1400’s until the Spanish arrived and took them over, their cities and social structure was designed so that all people had homes, a job, and food.
They accomplished this without a writing system, wheel, or iron tools and yet had a well-designed government and road system.
The Sapa Inca was the emperor, with Manco Capac as the first Sapa Inca and founder nearing 1200 A.D. It’s believed that at the height of the Incan Empire, they had a population of nearing 10 million people.
Incas Conquered Tribes and Mountains
The Incas maintained their empire for around 100 years and their success was mainly due to conquering neighboring tribes and then expanding out.
They had one of the world’s largest empires extending to 2,500 miles long and 500 miles wide as well as hidden in the Andes Mountains. Even without the wheel they were experts at farming, and they invented what is known as “terrace farming” to raise a number of crops on the hillsides.
The Incas also created smart ways of storing food so that no one went without during drought times. Almost everyone in their cities and towns was involved in farming, but they also had talented specialists that did the weaving for clothing and the beautiful textiles, as well as creators of musical instruments.
There was also no crime, as the punishment for any form of crime was very harsh.
Communication with Knots
Archeologists and those that have studied the Incas had wondered how they could communicate and keep control of such a vast area without writing.
Each city and location of the Incas always had a collection of small ropes held together; each rope had a series of knots as well as colored rope.
After years of study, the experts have figured out this these were forms of communication called “quipu.” Each knot, combined with others in various colors told a story.
It’s believed that they had runners that would carry the ropes to a station where the next runner would pick it up and carry to the next.
There were many gods and goddesses in the Incan religion as they believed that each mountain peak was the home of one of their gods.
They thought that their gods existed in every location and they held huge celebrations to honor them. The Incan people also held signs, omens and dreams as being very powerful and had sorcerers that would help to interpret them.
They believed in an afterlife and their dead were mummified. Every June they would hold a festival of the most importance: the Festival of the Sun.
They thought the Sun was holding this nine-day festival and they wore their finest clothes.
Arrival of the Spanish
In search of gold and riches, the Spanish had sent many ships and when Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador, landed he found that the Incas were already experiencing a decline due to civil war.
The Spanish brought with them diseases that the Incas had no way to fight off and their numbers and power was weakening.
It was fairly easy for Pizarro and his men to take over the Empire and steal any gold and valuables.
Machu Picchu remains as one of the Incan locations that wasn’t ruined by the Spanish. The reason that it was protected is due to its location high in the Peruvian mountains.
It’s unsure if this was a retreat for the royalty or designed for religious purposes.
Today it is studied to uncover much of what we know about the Incas and is one of the most visited locations for tourists around the world.
Facts about the Incans:
- The Incan roads and highway system spans to over 18,000 miles
- Scientists have discovered that Incan physicians did successful surgeries on skulls.
- The Incans are credited as the first Peruvian civilization to cultivate the potato.
- The Incans created their own form of postal delivery. They had messengers that ran across bridges made of rope to the next team. These messengers lived in pairs so that one person would be on alert while the other one slept.
- Incans were masters at building and they built their buildings in what is called “dry masonry”. They fit stones together so perfectly that it didn’t require mortar. They are so tight and yet flexible that they are earthquake resistant.
- The Incan religion believed in both reincarnation and an afterlife.
- Some of the farming techniques used by the Incans include ditches and canals for crop irrigation. These are still functioning in Machu Picchu.
- The Incans believed in training everyone for their abilities. They gave their children a kind of intelligence test and the results of the test showed whether they should be sent to school for further education or focus their talent on a skilled trade.