Essay: Inca Throughout the History of Mankind

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Throughout the history of mankind, there have been several notable civilizations that started in the Before Common Era (BCE) age. These were the Indian, Chinese, Roman, Greek civilizations. But relatively recently, specifically during the Middle Ages rose civilizations that might probably have been considered relatively primitive and also relatively unknown. This is because they arose in relatively remote and relatively smaller communities. But they nonetheless left their mark on civilization, despite the fact that they were discovered only relatively recently. These are the civilizations of North America and South and Central America -- the Aztecs (in what is now Mexico), the Mayas and the Inkas (also spelled Incas -- the spelling used throughout this essay). Most people who travel for pleasure will list the ruins of Machu Pichu and Cuzco (both in Peru) as a "must visit" place. The uniqueness of the place, the architecture, the material used to build the building, the technology used to ensure that agriculture could be carried out on the hilly terrain of the Andean mountains and the exclusivity of the place (it was discovered only in 1911) such that it could not be viewed from the valleys are what makes this a must see. But it is also testament to a place and a civilization that is now, sadly, lost, incorporated into a vast Spanish speaking homogeneous South American (this does not include Brazil, which has Portuguese origins) culture.

Origins and a Historical Perspective

There is no historiological perspective on the true origins of the Incas, as to how the people came to inhabit that region or from where they were traveled. There is however, enough evidence to suggest that the area in Cuzco (the capital of the Inca civilization) was home to a set of tribes -- much like a minute version of the Balkan territories. These tribes were at constant war with each other, but there was no unification under a bigger fold. In 1438, the sons of the leaders of one of the tribe, made the first foray towards unification. (McEwan, 2006) He attacked and overthrew the leader of a neighboring tribe (the Chancas), bringing the land, the inhabitants and the culture of that tribe within the fold of his own tribe. This marked the catalyst for expansion, which essentially brought several tribes in the area under this fold. The ruler besot with power now referred to himself as the Pachacuti or Transformer of the Earth. (Kleiner and Mamiya, 2006) The rapidity of expansion and its scope could only be compared to that of the expansion started by a Macdeonian, Philip and continued by his erstwhile son, Alexander the Great. Genghis Khan also had and accomplished similar goals in a different part of the world. The Incan expansion was coordinated by the son of the ruler, who called himself, Topa Inca (or Tupa Inca). This is perhaps, where the name Inca came into being.

Eventually, the reigns of the ruler and his son lasted more than fifty years. During this time the Incan Empire spread over 2,500 miles stretching from what is now Ecuador to Chile. Some of the tribes did fear repercussions from an increasingly powerful ruler and sought to assimilate in the Incan culture. Other tribesmen had to be brought into the fold through force, punishment and recrimination.

Movement and transportation

The Incan Empire once established engendered a vast set of challenges. The establishment of an empire often necessitates the movement and travel across the empire. The terrain was very difficult and varied. This is because the empire was established in the Andean mountains, far from the valleys. Eventually 14,000 miles of roads were created; but because of the varying terrain, these roads were not paved. The hallmark of other civilizations was the ease of transport due to the paving of roads. For the Incase, this infrastructure was lacking. Because of the altitude there were no horses and wheeled vehicles were also not present. Humans and llamas served as pack animals. When the roads were too rocky or over rivers suspension bridges were built.

Social Structure and Family Life

One might assume, because of how the Incan Empire was established that the society was hierarchical; higher up in the hierarchy meant greater power. The less powerful, however, according to scholars were not coerced into their status. They were content to perform the tasks allotted to them. Peasants were given land in allotments. The males of the household were required to till the land allotted to them, in some cases, even taking turns. But when called up to work for the state, the men in the families might be called on to construct roads or build bridges and also to serve as foot soldiers during times of war. The Incan people within a certain class or a level of hierarchy were clumped in communities called mitmakuna. These entire communities could be relocated to another part of the Incan Empire. During the Peloponnesian wars, either the Spartans or Athenians would occupy a territory, exile its inhabitants and transplant entire communities to inhabit the occupied territories. Among the Incas, there does not seem to be a complaint about relocation.

There were groups of men called yanakuna and women mamakuna who were destined to serve the state. The yanakuna would typically herd the cattle that belonged to the empire and were free to marry. The mamakuna were women also given to the state. A beautiful woman might be part of the king's harem. Others might also serve in different capacities for the welfare of the state. Their function was mostly cultural or religious.

The high priestess might have also been chosen from among the mamakuna. Incan textiles are original and unique for their texture and brilliance of colors. Interestingly, the textiles were woven. The technique and the choice of colors evolved without any outside influence. The members of the mamakuna would do the weaving. They would also be responsible for the making of liquor called chicha, which was fermented from maize. Festival and festivities formed an integral component of Incan life and chicha was a favorite during these times.

Because of the nature of the land -- hilly and rough -- the Incas developed a method for terracing the hilly terrain. This was a development that predated its time and helped them to till the land. The terraces are still visible around the ruins of Machu Pichu. The idea of terracing has been used only recently; but the Incas presumably invented it.


The high priestess and priests among the Incas were the once that became the beacons of religious life. There were however, no deities. The Incas worshipped the sun in all its aspects. They worshipped the symbol of the sun, represented by a large golden disk -- Punchao. (Julien, 2000)They were also convinced that they had descended from the Heavens. Indeed, may of the religious festivals were based on cycles of the sun -- dawn and dusk, and day and night. The festival of the harvest was celebrated by paying abeyance to the Sun Gods. (Bauer, 1998) These sun rituals were supposed to be spectacular events, where everybody was well dressed and it was not uncommon for the powerful to be seen in robes encrusted with gold and silver.


The extension of the Incan Empire forced them to be able to travel through sea and rivers. They did this by means of rafts, which were also built to be sea or river-worthy. The rafts were made of balsa wood, which is water repelling as well as light. The Incas also developed a system of mining: they were able to mine silver and gold and jewels. From these they were able to make creative jewelry. Equally worthy were their textiles, the likes of which had never been seen in the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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