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Ancient Latin American civilizations are of the great interest to scientists. Incas - the creators of one of the mightiest civilizations in South America. They reached a highly developed social structure, conducted complicated surgeries, mastered the art of mummification and built stone structures without using cement. This civilization has left majestic monuments such as Machu Picchu and Pisac. And yet, having a powerful centralized state, the Incas were conquered by a small force of Spaniards.
The word “Inca” could mean “king” or “ruler”. Thus, the Inca is the name of the aristocracy class - the descendants of a small ethnic group that lived in the valley of Cuzco in the beginning of the XV century. However, the recent archeological data show that the rise of the Inca state started between XIII and XVI centuries.
There are two versions of the Incas origin - two myths. The first one begins with a description of cosmological events in Tiwanaku. According to another version Incas’ first ancestors emerged from the mountain cave Pakaritambo. It is likely that the myths about Pakaritambo and Tiwanaku complement each other.
It is not easy to trace origins of the Incas. Many of key episodes are reconstructed on the assumptions. In the mountainous regions of the Central Andes the Inca Empire was not the first state formation. Before the Incas their lands inhabited Wari and Tiwanaku civilizations. In many newly discovered ancient Inca settlements were found traces of Wari civilization, which had fallen by 1100. Unfortunately, the written sources concerning those times are unreliable. The information from the chronicles of those times helps to understand the principles of Andean Indians community organization, their mythology and cosmology. These chronicles do not help to determine the sequence of historical episodes.
Important growth factors for Inca civilization were the natural conditions of the region. In the Central Andes there were no conditions for the extensive agriculture. Every piece of land required a complex and laborious cultivation, but gave stable and large harvests. In the warm valleys and oases of coast there were collected two or three crops a year. The Indians of Central Andes used different forms of melioration such as artificial irrigation, terracing of slopes, sowing in recess in order to use the groundwater or on the contrary to avoid waterlogging. At the beginning of our era the unified irrigation systems were created in some coastal valleys. Thousands hectares of waterlogged valleys near the Lake Titicaca were cultivated. Even nowadays Andean peasants cultivate such fields. Incas also used guano (the excrements of seabirds) as a fertilizer. This fact was proved by the findings of ancient Indian’s things during mining of guano in these later days.
The next important question is how did the rulers of Cuzco manage to create an empire? National ideology is an unsteady foundation for multinational unions, which demand political symbols appropriate for different national groups. Incas began to create special elite subculture long before their great conquests. Incas gave their quite ordinary ethnic traditions a new status and a form. An independent tribal group turned into a community of aristocratic families which controlled a multilingual population of the valley of Cuzco. The Indians of the Central Andes recognized the new, ethnically neutral power of Cusco. Incas treated their opponents without prejudice and were indifferent to their cultural characteristics. In this way the rulers of Cuzco were able to reach an agreement with a variety of opponents. Local aristocracy often obeyed of their own free will.
In consequence of political integration in the Central Andes formed a state, with population about 10 million. At the end of XIV - early XV century Cuzco probably evolved from the chiefdom to the city-state and controlled the valley length of about 40 km. The stage of the city-state for Cuzco did not last long.
The Spanish cleric Miguel de Cabello Balboa in his chronicles defines the emergence of the empire in 1438, when the Incas conquered the neighboring Chanka people. The fierce battle with Chanka marked the beginning of the era of conquest. The enemies were thrown back, partly destroyed and partly displaced from their lands. If the Incas used only such methods of conquest, they would likely fail. However, their following campaigns were intended not to completely crush the enemy, but to subdue. It was a transition from a robbery to exploitation of conquered lands.
Inca quite consciously manipulated the inhabitants of the Andes who were tired of war and had a desire to live in peace and order. In those days mores were cruel and tribes were constantly at war. This is confirmed by the evidences of archeology: the settlements of the late intermediate period were situated closely to the tops of mountains that gave them an advantage - the convenience of defense. For several centuries preceding the rise of Cuzco, the population concentrated in the mountain refuges. The country was tired of endless wars and was ready to accept to any force that could bring peace. There were suitable conditions for the formation of the Inca Empire.
The political circumstances were favorable. At the beginning of expansion there was a developed economic base for the huge state. The brilliant achievements of previous eras in combination with rare richness in natural resources became the material base for the growth of the empire.
The Inca also used intergroup elite marriages to stabilize cross-generational unions. The earlier Inca rulers chose wives among daughters of community leaders inside the Cuzco Valley. Ant the last Inca emperors used to marry their full sisters, but they also could take secondary wives from the noble families. This strategy strengthened connections between the king’s family and other influential groups.
Pachacutec is one of the greatest Incas kings. His most responsible and wise decision was the right choice of the conquest strategy. He began to advance mainly in southern and south-eastern directions. In the middle of the XV century, the Incas intervened in the struggle between the Aymara chiefdoms, and as a result subdued the area around the Lake Titicaca relatively easily.
The lands around the Lake Titicaca were fertile. The surrounding mountains were rich in gold and silver. Incas defeated the local tribes and got a large trophy - herds of lamas and alpacas. It was an outstanding success, because the army of Cusco got pack animals, clothing and food. Pachacutec announced these animals of the royal property that was a significant contribution to the state economy.
Pachacutec’s heir was his son Tupac Yupanqui. During the northern military campaign old and young leaders worked together. After this campaign, the Inca state finally strengthened itself in the status of empire.
The rulers of the Inca empire maintain order I their domain due to reasonable domestic policy. They reshuffled population in rebellious provinces: they sent loyal inhabitants to occupy the places of rebellious once, and troublemakers had to settle down in the heartland of the empire. The rulers took care about the infrastructure of the state. Convenient roads connected empire towns and villages in one network. Roadside storehouses provided troops with provisions.
During the reign of Huayana Capac (approximately 1493) the empire had reached prosperity and power. This is evidenced by the construction of a new palace Quispiguanca. For this building the workers had to drag huge stone blocks on a distance of a thousand miles from Cuzco. Huayana Capac placed his new capital in the southern side of the valley. His small army of workers drained marshes, planted fields and gardens around Quispiguanca.
Each new Inca king built a new palace for himself and his royal family. Archeologists have found ruins of a dozen manors that belonged to at least six rulers. Although the ruler could move the capital to another place, after the death his mummy had to be carried back to Cusco. There his relatives often visited him for advice because Incas’ ancestors were key elements of their everyday life.
The Inca Empire was founded on force and its rulers were usually unpopular figures. The ruling Inca often had opponents. This situation was favorable to the conquerors. In 1531, the Spaniards headed by Francisco Pizarro invaded the northern town Cajamarca. They captured the king Atahualpa and executed him after eight months of imprisonment. Feud between Atahualpa and the aristocracy of Cuzco helped Spaniards who skillfully manipulated the contenders for the throne of the empire. In 1533, a young prince Manco Inca Yupanqui was crowned and became Pizarro’s puppet. Soon, in 1536, Manco attempted to rebel against the invaders, but his army defeated. They found a refuge in Vilcabamba the city in the jungle. The Incas did not realize that the Spanish invaders were formidable enemies. These two civilizations were completely different. Their clash became a dramatic end of the great Inca Empire.
Thus, the great Inca Empire grew due to reasonable governance of its kings and outstanding agricultural technology, which led to a surplus of food and cloth. Their plain labor built the entire economy. The Inca kings were good governors, but they also used offensive despotism that undermined the foundations of power. But the empire collapsed under the influence of external factors. Isolation and lack of communication experience with white strangers allowed the small troop of Spaniards easily defeat the mighty army of the Incas.
Bauer, Brian S., and R. Alan Covey. "Processes of State Formation in the Inca Heartland (Cuzco, Peru)." Accessed February 26, 2015. http://users.ipfw.edu/sutterr/P370/BauerCovey.pdf.
Conrad, Geoffrey W., and Arthur Andrew Demarest. Religión E Imperio: Dinámica Del Expansionismo Azteca E Inca. Madrid: Alianza Ed., 1988.
"Inca Empire - Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine." Inca Empire - Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine. Accessed February 26, 2015. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/04/inca-empire/pringle-text/2.
Julien, Catherine J. Reading Inca History. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2009.
Kolata, Alan L. Ancient Inca Case Studies in Early Societies. Vol. 12. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 298.
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