INCA LIFE

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In less than a century, the Incas developed and knitted together a vast empire peopled by something like twenty million Indians. They established an imperial religion in some harmony with those of their subject tribes; erected monolithic fortresses, salubrious palaces and temples; and, astonishingly, evolved a viable economy – strong enough to maintain a top-heavy elite in almost godlike grandeur. To understand these achievements and get some idea of what they must have meant in Peru five or six hundred years ago, you really have to see for yourself their surviving heritage: the stones of Inca ruins and roads; the cultural objects in the museums of Lima and Cusco; and their living descendants who still work the soil and speak Quechua – the language used by the Incas to unify their empire. We’ve included but the briefest of introductions to their history, society and achievements


The mountain Huayna Picchu overlooks the ruins of Machu Picchu

Inca society

The Inca Empire rapidly developed a hierarchical structure . At the highest level it was governed by the Sapa Inca , son of the sun and direct descendant of the god Viracocha. Under him were the priest-nobles – the royal allyu…
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Expansion and control

In Inca eyes the known world was their empire, and expansion therefore limitless. They divided their territories into four basic regions, or suyos , each radiating from the central plaza in Cusco: Chincha Suyo (northwest), Anit…
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Economy, agriculture and building

The main resources available to the Inca Empire were agricultural land and labour, mines (producing precious and prestigious metals such as gold, silver or copper), and fresh water, abundant everywhere except along the desert coast. With…
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Arts and crafts

Surprisingly, perhaps, Inca masonry was very rarely carved or adorned in any way. Smaller stone items, however, were frequently ornate and beautiful. High technical standards were achieved, too, in pottery . Around Cusco especially, the art of…
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Religion

The Inca religion was easily capable of incorporating the religious features of most subjugated regions. The setting for beliefs, idols and oracles, more or less throughout the entire empire, had been preordained over the previous two thousand…
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