The Incan empire (1438-1533)
The Inca Empire, or Inka Empire was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The administrative, political and military center of the empire was located in Cusco in modern-day Peru. The official language of the empire was Quechua, although hundreds of local languages and dialects of Quechua were spoken. The Inca referred to their empire as Tawantinsuyu which can be translated as The Four Regions or The Four United Provinces.
ORIGINS (12TH CENTURY)
The Incan people were a pastoral tribe living in the Cusco area. Oral history tells an origin story of three caves. Out of the center cave, stepped out four brothers and four sisters. One of the brothers was Ayar Manco who carried a staff made of the finest gold. It is said that wherever this staff landed, the people would live. He finally reached Cusco with his four sisters where the staff sunk into the ground. The first brother was trapped in the middle cave, the second brother turned to stone and became a shrine and the third brother left to travel by himself leaving the fourth brother and his sisters by themselves.
Manco Cápac (Ayar Manco) formed the city-state of Cusco.
In 1438 they began a far-reaching expansion under the leadership of Sapa Inca. Also, under Pachacuti-Cusi Yupanqui rule the empire expanded to the Andes Mountains. Pachacuti’s son Túpac Inca Yupanqui began conquests to the north in 1463 and continued them as Inca ruler after Pachacuti’s death in 1471.Túpac Inca’s son Huayna Cápac added a small portion of land to the north in modern-day Ecuador and in parts of Peru.
At its peak, the Incan empire consisted of Peru, Bolivia, most of Ecuador, a large portion of Chile, north of the Maule River, Argentina and Colombia.
With the arrival from Spain in 1532 of Francisco Pizarro and his entourage of mercenaries or conquistadors, the Inca Empire was threatened for the first time. Duped into meeting with the conquistadors in a peaceful gathering, an Inca emperor, Atahualpa, was kidnapped and held for ransom. After paying over $50 million in gold by today’s standards, Atahualpa, who was promised to be set free, was strangled to death by the Spaniards who then marched straight for Cuzco and its riches.
The effects of smallpox on the Inca Empire were even more devastating. Beginning in Colombia, smallpox spread rapidly before the Spanish invaders first arrived in the empire. The spread was probably aided by the efficient Inca road system. Within a few years smallpox claimed between 60% and 94% of the Inca population with other waves of European disease weakening them further. Smallpox was only the first epidemic. Typhus (probably) in 1546, influenza and smallpox together in 1558, smallpox again in 1589, diphtheria in 1614, measles in 1618 – all ravaged the Inca people.
In Inca social structure, the ruler, Sapa Inca, and his wives, the Coyas, had supreme control over the empire. The High Priest and the Army Commander in Chief were next. Then came the Four Apus, the regional army commanders. Next were temple priests, architects, administrators and army generals. Next were artisans, musicians, army captains and the quipucamayoc, the Incan accountants. At the bottom were sorcerers, farmers, herding families and conscripts.
The general population of the Inca Empire did not go to formal schools like the Inca did, and they did not have access to the scientific or theoretical knowledge of the Amautas. The education of the common person was largely based on the knowledge transmitted by their elders, such as practical education in the aspects of agriculture, hunting, fishing, and stonework, as well as religion, arts and morality. This type of knowledge was passed on by the fathers and eldest family members through the generations. Even without the benefit of Amawtakuna knowledge, it was the general population that was responsible for building most of the Inca road system, rope bridges, water fountains, agricultural development, irrigation systems, massive stone buildings, fortress temples and the rest of the impressive architectural and engineering marvels for which the Incas are still renowned still today.
The Amawtakuna constituted a special class of wise men. They included illustrious philosophers, poets, and priests who kept the oral histories of the Incas alive by imparting the knowledge of their culture, history, customs and traditions throughout the kingdom. Considered the most highly educated and respected men in the Empire, the Amawtakuna were largely entrusted with educating those of royal blood, as well as other young members of conquered cultures specially chosen to administer the regions.
As part of a tax obligation to the commoners, mining was required in all the provinces. Even though the Inca Empire contained a lot of precious metals, the Incans did not value their metal as much as fine cloth. Both copper and bronze would be used for basic farming tools or weapons. Some of the common bronze and copper pieces found in the Incan empire included sharp sticks for digging, club-heads, knives with curved blades, axes, chisels, needles and pins. The Incans reserved their more precious metals for ornaments and decorations. Gold and silver were common themes throughout the palaces of Incan emperors.
Gold, to the Incas, was the ‘sweat of the sun’ and Silver the ‘tears of the moon.’
The Incans believed in reincarnation and human sacrifice. They were polytheistic
And some of the gods they believed in are:
AViracocha (also Pachacamac) – Created all living things
Apu Illapu – Rain God
Ayar Cachi – Hot-tempered God, causes earthquakes
Illapa – Goddess of lightning and thunder (also Yakumama water goddess)
Inti – sun god and patron deity of the holy city of Cusco (home of the sun)
Kuychi – Rainbow God, connected with fertility
Mama Killa – Wife of Inti, called Moon Mother
Mama Occlo – Wisdom to civilize the people, taught women to weave cloth and build houses
Pachamama – The Goddess of earth and wife of Viracocha.
Quchamama – Goddess of the sea
Sachamama – Means Mother Tree, goddess in the shape of a snake with two heads
Yakumama – Means mother Water. Represented as a snake. When she came to earth she transformed into a great river.
Because everyone had everything they needed, people rarely stole things. As a result, there were no prisons. The worst crimes in the Inca Empire were murder, insulting the Sapa Inca and saying bad things about gods. The punishment, being thrown off of a cliff, was enough to keep most people from committing these crimes. Smaller crimes were punished by the chopping off of the hands and feet or the gouging of the eyes.