Inca Empire

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Inca Empire

The Inca Empire - An Ancient Civilisation

Overview of the Inca Empire

Location of the Inca Empire

Learn about the survival tactics and building techniques used by the Inca civilisation, commonly known as the sky people. The name was given to them because of the location they lived in - Machu Picchu, known as the mountaintop citadel situated above city level and in the clouds.

Machu Picchu - A historic Inca citadel built in the 15th century set high in the Andean mountain ranges, above the Urubamba River.

Is the only written accounts of the Inca Empire were composed by outsiders, its mythology and culture has passed down through generations by word of mouth and storytellers. Traces that the empire existed were mainly found in the ruins of cities and temples. However, in 1911 archaeologist Hiram Bingham discovered the intact 15th century Machu Picchu. The site’s spectacular stone structures reflected the power and capabilities the massive Inca Empire had.

Machu Picchu - A significant site that gives proof of the Inca Empire’s existence

The Social Structure of the Inca Empire

All civilians were part of an ayllu which was the basic unit of Inca society. The ayllu was a number of families that worked together like one large family. The Inca society was based around three strict social classes. Few people had opportunity to improve their social status, which meant that once a person was born into a class they remained there for the rest of their lives. The three social classes were the noble classes (inca), public administrators and the commoners. Noble classes - Sapa Inca (emperor), high priest, royal family (direct relatives of their emperor), inca (those that had directly descended from the people who first established the city of Cusco) and inca-by-privilege (trustworthy people that were called upon by the emperor to be part of the Inca government). Public administrators - Curacas (leaders from the tribes that were conquered), tax collectors and record keepers (kept track of who had paid their taxes and where the civilian’s supplies were).Commoners - Artisans (worked on crafts such as pottery and gold jewellery for the nobles and farmers (the largest and most important class in Inca society because of the crops they provide the upper class with).

The English term Inca Empire is derived from the word Inca, which was the title of the emperor. The Inca Empire was an empire that ruled over the majority of the west coast of South America from 1483 to 1533. It was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America that was run by a number of successful governments that created a well-sustained society. The administrative, political and military centre was located in Cusco, today known as Peru. The people of the Inca civilisation referred to their empire as Tawantinsuyu which was divided into four regions and can be translated as The Four Regions or The Four United Provinces. Under the reign of Pachacuti the empire reached its height with an estimated population of ten million people.The monarchy used a number of methods, from conquest to peaceful assimilation to also take control of the population in the Andean mountain ranges. The official language was Quechua, which was spoken in a number of dialects. The Inca leadership encouraged the worship of Inti - the sun God - and imposed that it be the dominant religious figure.

Farmers - Throughout the Inca Empire the farmers spent long and hard days in the fields harvesting crops.

The destruction of the Inca Empire

Daily Life in the Inca Empire

Daily life of a peasant - The peasants worked extremely hard for long hours. The only time they were allowed not to work was during religious festivals. The peasant men worked as farmers and the women stayed at home cooking, cleaning, making clothes and looking after the children. Daily life of a noble - The Inca nobles had a much easier lifestyle than a peasant. Many owned land and had important government jobs. They didn’t have to pay taxes unlike the peasants.

The Inca Empire was conquered by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro and his army in 1533. Prior to the arrival of Pizarro, the empire was already severely weakened by civil war and diseases such as smallpox.

A colourful Inca tunic made by a peasant woman

Inti - In Inca religion, Inti the sun god is believed to have been the ancestor of the Incas and the head of the state cult who was worshipped and imposed by all throughout the empire.


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