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The Inka

Image by Cesar Carlevarino Aragon

The Inca or Inka civilization was a vast empire that flourished in Peru between 1400 and 1533 CE. Known as Tawantinsuyo (“Land of the Four Corners”), the Inca Empire extended across western South America from modern Quito and part of Colombia in the north to Santiago and part of Argentina in the south, thus It was the largest empire in the Americas and the largest in the world at that time of its existence. To better administer such a big empire “Tawantinsuyo” was divided up into four “suyu,” which intersected at the capital, Cusco. And each suyu at its time was divided into provinces. The supreme monarch was the Inca ruler who resided in Cusco.                                                                 

The historical origins of the Incas are difficult to identify since in spite of its great achievements, this civilization did not develop a written language so their history has been passed throughout their generations in the shape of a legend. According to the best know myth, in the beginning, the creator god Viracocha came out of the Pacific Ocean, and upon reaching Lake Titicaca, he created the sun and men and women. These first people were buried into earth and only later did Viracocha made them emerge from springs and rocks (sacred pacarinas) back into the world. The Inca’s lineage, specifically, was brought into existence at the site of Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco) by the sun god Inti himself. They regarded as the chosen few, the 'Children of the Sun', and therefore the Inca ruler was Inti's representative and embodiment on earth.

The harshness of the Andean environment was no impediment for the Incas to conquer people and exploit landscapes in such diverse settings as plains, mountains, deserts, and tropical jungle.


Their unique art and architecture gained them soon the recognition of those whom they did conquer. Finely-built imposing buildings were found all over the empire and their spectacular adaptation of natural landscapes with terracing, highways, and mountaintop settlements continues to impress modern visitors at such world-famous sites as Machu Picchu.


A process of regional unification began from the late 14th century CE, and from the early 15th century CE, with the arrival of the first great Inca leader Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui and the defeat of the Chanca in 1438 CE, the Incas began to expand in search of production resources, first to the south and then in all directions.

They eventually built an empire, which stretched across the Andes, conquering the Lupaka, Colla, Chimor, and Wanka civilizations along the way. Once established, a nationwide system of tax and administration was instigated which consolidated the power of Cusco.

From 1527 to 1532, brothers Huáscar and Atahualpa fought over the Inca Empire. Their father, Inca Huayna Capac, had allowed each to rule a part of the Empire as regent during his reign: Huáscar in Cuzco and Atahualpa in Quito. When Huayna Capac and his heir apparent, Ninan Cuyuchi, died in 1527 (some sources say as early as 1525), Atahualpa and Huáscar went to war over who would succeed their father. What neither man knew was that a far greater threat to the Empire was approaching: ruthless Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro.

The army of Atahualpa captured Huascar and murdered him. At its time, the conquistadors ambushed Atahualpa in Cajamarca and captured him. Atahualpa promised that his people would pay a ransom in gold and silver for his liberation. Although the ransom was paid, he was accused by the Spanish of killing his half-brother and for being a pagan. He was condemned to death in 1533.

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