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Inca Empire

(Redirected from Incas)

1 Food, Currency, Clothing and Medicines

2 The Spanish Conquest

3 See also:
4 External links


The Organization of the Empire

The Inca empire was a feudalistic society in which all levels of society paid tribute to their leader, known as the Inca. The Inca claimed power by virtue of claiming to be decended from the gods (in the style of the divine right of kings) Below the inca there were four main classes of citizens.

At the top of the Inca Empire was The Inca. The Inca was a god-like figure that was carried around in great style wearing a special headdress that showed his superior power.

The second class of citizens were the Royal family, nobles, military leaders and religious leaders. These people controlled the Inca Empire and many of them lived in Cuzco.

Third in line were the governors of the four provinces of the Inca Empire. These people had great powers; they could organize troops, tribute and law and order.

Then were the local officials. These were responsible for less important judgments, like settling disputes and giving out punishments.

Last were the peasants.

The start of the Inca Empire

The Incas came from the mountains of Peru. They took over the Andes Mountains of South America. The Inca civilization reached its peak in the fifteenth century, under the rule of Pachacuti. The Incas built stone cities and fine roads. They built houses out of mud. The Incas also built bridges made of rope, and the rope made of twined plant fibers. These often crossed steep gorges.

The Inca Emperors

The first Inca emperor was Manco Capac, who ruled from about 1200. Details of many of the earlier emperors were lost in the Spanish Conquest.

 AD1200 ~ Manco Capac
 Sinchi Roca
 Lloque Yupanqui 
 Mayta Capac 
 Capac Yupanqui 
 Inca Roca 
 Yahuar Huacac 
 Viracocha Inca 
 1438 – 1471 ~ Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui
 1471 – 1493 ~ Tupac Inca Yupanqui 
 1493 – 1527 ~ Huayna Capac
 1527 – 1532 ~ Huascar
 1532 – 1533 ~ Atahualpa

When Pachacuti was emperor, he was described as the greatest man in Ancient America. He sent expeditions to conquer new lands. If his opponents surrendered they were well-treated. If not, little mercy was shown to them. As Pachacuti won more and more lands, his armies became larger and more successful.

Pachacuti knew how to win people over. He would send messages to the leaders of the lands to be conquered telling them of the benefits of joining the Incas. If they gave up their land, they would be in control of their local area but they would be within the Inca Empire. Their sons would be given a full education and they would be treated as nobles.

Expanding the Inca Empire

The Incas had a well-trained and well-organized army. When the Incas conquered a place, people gave work tribute to help develop the Empire. The Incas encouraged people to join the Empire, and if they did then they would be well treated for doing so. Postal services were set up with runners (chasqui s) who delivered messages as tied knots (quipus) and packages between major cities. They would also broadcast news at speeds of up to one hundred and twenty-five miles a day - someone would shout the message, a messenger would run to the next person and tell them the message, then that person would run and tell the next person, and so on until the message reached its destination. The Incas exchanged populations in conquered areas. This was part of the creation of the "Inca highway", which were used for wars, transportation of goods, and other purposes. The Incas belief in (manay) provided for exchanging populations and ideas in the empire. The whole Inca Empire was linked by many good roads and bridges.

Organizing the Empire

The Incas were told what job they had to do, how much land they could farm and where they could and could not travel (see planned economy).

In return for keeping these rules, the Incas were well looked after.

If an Inca was caught stealing but it was not proven, then the Local Official would be punished for 'not doing his job properly'.

The Inca Empire helped those unable to work. Wives were given wool allowance. The Inca people had to work on the Empire's and the god's land before their own (mita).

The Incas had no freedom to travel, and the son always had to follow his fathers' trade. The Inca Empire was divided into four parts. All parts of the Inca life was supervised by Inca officials. The Inca Empire developed no form of traditional writing at all, relying mostly on the transmission of information passed on by mouth and khipu, knotted strings that have yet to be deciphered.

babyhood and a lock was cut from their hair. From then on, boys and girls were expected to help around the house. Misbehaving during this time could result to very severe punishment. At age 14, boys were given a loincloth in a ceremony to mark their manhood. Boys from noble families were put through many different tests of endurance and knowledge. After the test, a certain color of earplugs and weapon would be given to them. The color stood for their rank in society.


The Incas played melodies on drums and on woodwind instruments including flutes, pan-pipes and trumpets made of shell and ceramics.

Arts and Crafts

The Incas produced amazing craftwork that ranged from images of gods to items of every day use. The abstract geometric forms and highly stylized animal representation in ceramics, wood carvings, textiles and metalwork was a part of the Incan culture as well. They made beautiful objects of gold. The chosen women made fine cloth woven with amazing designs.

Food, Currency, Clothing and Medicines


At the peak of the Inca civilization in 1400, the farmers of the Inca Empire were well spread, going from Colombia through Chile. They cultivated food crops on dry pacific coastlines, high on the slopes of the Andes, and deep in the lowland Amazon jungle. It is estimated that the Incas grew around seventy crop species. A key to the Incas' farming success was that their footpath and road system allowed distribution of their crops over large distances. The Incas main crops were potatoes, sweet potatoes, maize, chili peppers, cotton, tomatoes, peanuts, an edible root called oca, and a grain known as quinoa. They had terraced fields and were one of the first people in the Americas to use irrigation systems. The Incas used simple digging sticks and plows. They used llamas for wool, ropes, blankets and meat.

Coca was reserved for the elite.

The Inca leaders kept records of what each family in the empire produced.


The Incas used arrows and blow pipes to hunt and kill animals. They hunted deer, pumas and fish. The way that they actually made the kill was that huge numbers formed a circle and closed in on the animals.


The Incas used maize to make chicha, a beer-like beverage they drank in large quantities.

The food that the Incas ate mainly consisted of vegetables. They ate stews and porridges. For meat, they ate guinea pigs and llamas.


The Incas did not have money as such. They used barter, and traded goods for other goods. Workers got labor credit, which was work paid for in goods or food.


Inca men wore a sleeveless, knee-length tunic, sometimes with a cape. The women had large clothes and often wore sandals. Both sexes often wore shoulder-length shawls clasped with a pin during cold days.

The Incas liked to decorate themselves. There were better colors for the rich and the quality of the cloth that they wore depended how important the person was. The Incas used different headdresses to symbolize different Inca tribes.

The Inca men wore a lot of jewelery, whereas the women wore very little. The rich wore gold bracelets and huge earplugs. Warriors wore necklaces made of their victims' teeth.


The Incas made many discoveries in medicine and cures. They used quinine to treat malaria, they performed successful skull surgery. Coca leaves were used to lessen hunger and pain. The Chasqui (messengers) ate coca leaves for extra energy. Another interesting remedy that was used was to cover a wound with the bark from a pepper tree, the bark was boiled and used when it is still warm.

The Spanish Conquest

The Background to the Conquest of the Incas

War broke out amidst the Inca Empire when Huayna Capac became emperor. Some sources show that he may have been just five years old. Huayna upset many people and liked to be cruel. The war between the people lasted twelve years.

Rumors spread around the Inca Empire like wild fire about strange 'bearded men' who lived in 'a house in the sea' and had 'thunder and lightning in their hands'. These strange men started killing off many of the Inca soldiers with the diseases that they brought.

By the time Huayna Capac had died, the Empire was standing on its last legs. There was a dispute of power between Huayna's two sons. Cuzco was given to the new Emperor, Huascar, who was one of those two sons. Huascar was regarded as a horrible person who was seen as ugly, bad mannered and half-mad. He came close to murdering his sister and mother. He also forced his own sister to marry him. Huayna Capac's favorite son, Atahualpa, was given the Northern Territory known as the Kingdom of Quito (modern-day Ecuador and southern Colombia). Huascar, whose land area was a faction of Atahualpa's, became very angry.

Civil war broke out between the two brothers. It was named The War of the Two Brothers. One hundred thousand people were killed in this bloodthirsty internecine dispute.

After many struggles, Atahualpa finally defeated Huascar. Now Atahualpa was the one who was half-mad, as he treated his losers terribly. Many had stones dropped on their backs to cripple them. Nearly one thousand five hundred members of the Royal Family were cut up in front of Huascar. Huascar's children were also cut up. Unborn children were ripped out of their mothers. Bodies were stuck on spikes for display. Normal people were tortured.

Atahualpa paid a terrible price to be an emperor. His Empire had been terribly shaken and weakened. At this critical moment, the 'strange bearded men' arrived. The final scene was now in place for the end of the Inca Empire. These strange bearded men turned out to be Francisco Pizarro's men from Spain who captured Atahualpa and his nobles on November 16, 1532.

The Actual Conquest

Pizarro and his men found a camp at which Atahualpa was staying. Pizarro sent a messenger to Atahualpa asking if they could meet with him. Atahualpa agreed to meet with the Spanish. Atahualpa rode in to the place where they were supposed to meet. However, when he arrived, the place looked deserted.

A man named Vicente de Valverde appeared. Through a translator, he told the Inca Atahualpa that he and his people must convert to Christianity, and if he refused he would be considered an enemy of the Church and of Spain.

Atahualpa disagreed. This refusal gave Francisco Pizarro enough reason to attack the Inca people. The Spanish opened fire and attacked the Inca soldiers who were there with Atahualpa. In the struggle, Pizarro's men went after the Inca intending to kill him. However, Pizarro had plans of his own. Atahualpa was captured and taken prisoner.

While in capture, Atahualpa was not treated badly and he was allowed to stay in contact with his people.

Atahualpa wanted to be free, so he decided to make a deal with Pizarro. He agreed to fill a room with gold and another one with silver in return for his release. They shook on it, but Pizarro had no intentions of letting Atahualpa go as Pizarro needed Atahualpa's influence over the Inca people to keep order once the Spanish started to take over.

Huascar, who only played a small role in things, was still alive. Atahualpa feared that as long as Huascar lived, Pizarro might not need him, for Huascar would make a better puppet ruler than him. Atahualpa feared for his life and so ordered the execution of his brother, Huascar.

That day, Pizarro and the Spanish decided to charge Atahualpa with twelve things, the most important being attempting to revolt against the Spanish, practicing idolatry and murdering Huascar. Atahualpa was found guilty of all twelve charges, and was sentenced to be burned.

That very night, Francisco Pizarro decided to execute Atahualpa. After being led to the place of execution, Atahualpa begged for his life. Valverde, the priest that started the whole thing, told Atahualpa that if he agreed to convert then he would reduce the sentence. Atahualpa agreed to be baptized and was strangled instead of being burnt. Atahualpa died on August 29, 1533. With him, died "the independent existence of a noble race".

The death of Atahualpa was the beginning of the end of the Inca Empire.

The situation went quickly downhill. Francisco Pizarro had Atahualpa's brother Toparca named Inca and used him as a 'puppet ruler' until he died unexpectedly. Everything then fell apart. Remote parts of the Inca Empire revolted, and in some cases they joined with the Spanish against the Incas.

Lands and crops were neglected and the Incas experienced a famine that they had never known. The Incas, now wise to the Spanish motives of getting all the gold and silver that they could, started looting and hiding everything from everyone. Disease played a huge role. The diseases that had been running wild around Europe had never been met by the Incas and were now destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of Incas. The gold that Pizarro and his men wanted so badly was everywhere and prices soared. A good horse went up to $7000. Grain became more valuable than the Spaniards' precious gold. The great Inca civilization, as it was known, no longer existed.

After the Spanish Conquest

The Inca Empire was brought down by fewer than two hundred of Francisco Pizarro's men and twenty-seven horses. Pizarro and later Spaniards repressed the Incas and their traditions, whilst they hid away their farming system. The Spanish made less of the cultivation of most of the Incas' crops, such as quinoa and important root crops.

The languages of the empire, Quechua and Aymara, were chosen by the Catholic church to evangelize in the Incan area. They even taught them to Indians who had never been subject to the empire. Today they are the most extended Amerindian languages.

The Spanish used the mita work service in their profit for the mining of silver at Potosí.

Ideological influence

The later rebellion led by Tupac Amaru is the source of the names of 20th century South American guerrillas Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru (MRTA), and the Uruguayan Tupamaros.

The Inca planned economy and institutions like public granaries were admired by many European utopists. They are also (with Maoism) the inspiration of today's Peruvian guerrilla Sendero Luminoso.

See also:

External links

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45