25 Jul 2019
Posted in Archaeology, Architecture, Culture

The Inca: A (very) brief history.

On a visit to Peru, you’ll learn about the incredible Inca, who were responsible for some of the country’s most amazing sites. Machu Picchu, of course. Ollantaytambo. Coricancha. Sacsayhuaman…

Here’s a short history of the Inca to get you oriented in time.

Peru’s population can be traced back to 2500 B.C., when farmers and fishermen settled in the fertile river valleys of the north coast. These people—among them the Mochicas, Nazcas, and Chimús—were the ancestors of modern Peruvians. The Mochicas, who reached their height near A.D. 500, were capable farmers. The Nazca culture is best known for its huge, mysterious drawings etched into the desert sand. The Chimús were great city builders who flourished from A.D. 1000 to 1450.

Peru’s greatest ancestors, however, were the Inca, literally the Children of the Sun. The rise of the Inca was swift, and anthropologists believe that is because they did not obliterate the cultures of the Indians they vanquished. Instead, the Inca allowed conquered people to live as they chose, with the exception that everyone was required to worship the sun.

The Inca were masters of dry masonry (stone-building without the use of mortar), irrigation, terrace building, farming, architecture, metallurgy, engineering, weaving, and pottery. Machu Picchu, the Inca city made of stones that interlock like so many fingers, is the finest example of dry masonry in existence today. When we consider the Inca’s accomplishments, what is most remarkable is that they were achieved without benefit either of the wheel or a formal system of writing. Instead of writing, the Inca relied on khipu, an intricate and highly accurate knot-tying system of record keeping.

From A.D. 1000 to 1300, the Inca moved north into the fertile Cusco Valley until, by the 1500s, their empire stretched along the Andes from southern Colombia to northern Chile. Silver and gold deposits on their land made them wealthy—and a natural target for invaders.

In 1524, Inca Emperor Huayna Cápac died of measles. His premature death opened the way for a dynastic struggle between his two sons, Huáscar (from Cusco) and Atahualpa (from Quito, Ecuador), each of whom had inherited half the empire. Atahualpa emerged victorious, but the conflict left the Inca society fractured and vulnerable just as Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro and his 180 soldiers moved into the area (1532). After executing Atahualpa later that year, Pizarro claimed Peru as a colony of the Spanish crown.

For information about a visit to Peru, contact Jane Franklin at jfranklin@rcrusoe.com or call 888-490-8019.

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