The Incredible Inca Civilization

The Inca civilization occupies a special place in history. The reign of the Incan empire started around 1438 AD, and lasted till 1533, when the last stronghold was conquered by the Spanish in the final battle. Apart from its remarkable administrative policies and structure, the Inca civilization had a knack for spinning fine yarns, as evident from their oral accounts of the past, which contributed immensely to their rich folklore. According to the Incans, it all started when four brothers and four sisters came out of the centre cave, Qhapaq Tuqu (or the principal niche) at Tampu T'uqu (Tambo Tocco). The people who came out from the side caves were regarded as the forefathers of the Incas. Ayar Manco, who is a formidable figure in Incan mythology, was one of the brothers who came out of the cave, alongwith Ayar Cachi, Ayar Auca and Ayar Uchu. Ayar Cachi possessed enormous strength, and was tricked into going back to the cave by his brothers, while Ayar Uchu wanted to stay back to watch over the people, and was instantly turned to stone after his avowal, and Ayar Auca decided to travel by himself, and parted ways. Now, only Ayar Manco was left with the four sisters, Mama Ocllo, Mama Raua, Mama Huaco and Mama Qura. Legend has it that Ayar Manco had a gold staff, and when they reached Cusco, which would later become the famous capital of the Inca empire, it sank into the ground. In the battle that ensued between the people who lived there, and Manco Capac's force, the latter came out victorious, and eventually the Incan empire was founded. Apart from the significant role of Manco Capac in Incan mythology, some notable historians are of the opinion that he was the probably the first governor of the Inca empire, and the founder, and these events occurred in the early 13th century. This was just the beginning of an empire which would continue to extend further, both in terms of territory and influence.

The Kingdom: Ayar Manco's Inca Empire was a small city-state. He was the first Sapa Inca (the only Inca), and in 1438, the Inca Empire began to extend under Pachacuti's reign (the 9th Sapa Inca). It is widely believed that Machu Picchu, the now famous historical site, was initially built as an estate for him. The official language was Quechua, and the empire (also referred to as Tawantisuyu) was divided into four provinces, viz., Chinchaysuyu (North), Qullasuyu (South), Antisuyu (East), and Kuntisuyu (West). The expansion of the empire continued even after Pachacuti's death, and at its glory, the entire Inca Empire consisted of Peru, and a massive portion of modern Ecuador, northwest Argentina, western and south central Bolivia, north and central Chile, as well as southwest Colombia!

The law, and the government: The Inca Empire lacked codified law, but there were local force affiliated to the state, which consisted of 'tokoyrikoq' (he who sees all) inspectors. While the inspectors were related to the Sapa Inca, their work, surprisingly, were free from the bureaucratic pressure. As for administration, the chief priest (Willaq Umu) was accorded a very high status, just second to the emperor. As with most ancient kindgoms, religion and administration were not mutually exclusive, and shared a close rapport, as local religious traditions were very significant, and so was the Oracle at Pachacamac.

The people, culture, and religion: At one point, the population of the empire reached an estimated 4-37 million! But high mortality rate posed a problem. A coming of age ceremony or 'rutuchikuy' was held once the child reached the age of three. Besides this, there were rituals associated with attaining sexual maturity. The Inca women were mostly weavers, and one interesting facet of their societal structure was that the women owned lands and herds of animals. Arts and crafts included ceramics, which were accentuated with the depictions which often involved their daily activities, even relationships, and warfare. As for numerical mastery, it is believed that the people were well-acquainted with the concept of equinoxes and solstices, although they couldn't predict eclipse. Talking about measurements, the units ranged from the very basic use of human body parts, for instance, the distance from the thumb to forefingers, and other local units, the basic being the thatkiy (roughly around 1 pace). The quipu strings were used to store numerical information, and the numbers could be calculated on yupanas, something similar to the functions of an abacus, but unfortunately the knowledge of using them were destroyed by the Spanish, after they took over the Inca Empire. Apart from their ingenuity with the quipu strings, the Incan architecture must also be mentioned. Machu Picchu, which is a brilliant engineering feat, showed the best of the empire, as the stone blocks which were built probably during Pachacuti's time, stands intact even today.
The people were polytheists (believed in many Gods), and were staunch followers of the beliefs of reincarnation, and they also believed that being burnt to death would hinder the process. As for other practises, the Incans had this obsession with a conical shape of the head, as they believed it separated the nobles from other social classes, and to achieve this shape, it was common to wrap the heads of babies with straps of cloth, tightly. Human sacrifices were also a normal aspect of the Incan way of life. When Inca Huayna Capac died, 4000 people (which included servants, court officials, concubines) were sacrificed with him! There were also instances of sacrificing children. The famous Mummies of Llullaillaco,  rediscovered in 1991, are the remnants of this Incan tradition.

The glory of the Incan Empire raged proudly, but couldn't remain so forever. The massive empire was prone to attack from the Spanish, which started in 1526 when Francisco Pizarro and his brothers discovered the territory, and came back in 1529 with a motive to take over the empire. The situation only worsened for the Inca Empire, ravaged by that time by its internal conflicts, and the dramatic political drama took a devastating turn with the war of succession between Huascar and Atahualpa, who were the sons of Sapa Inca Huayna Capac. This internal tension was definitely the last of their concern, as diseases like smallpox, measles, typhus etc. ensured the further deterioration of the conditions inside the Incan territory, and eventually in 1533, Atahualpa was executed by the conquerors from Spain. But things didn't go as planned for the Spanish, as they too weren't spared from the woes of betrayal and the struggle for power, and taking advantage of this situation, Manco Inca Yupanqui (brother of Atahualpa) who had previously cooperated with the enemy, captured Cusco, only to lose it again, and eventually fled to the mountains of Vilcabamba, where he ensured the continuity of the once proud Incan Empire for 36 years. In 1572, with the execution of Yupanqui's son by the Spanish, the Neo-Incan Empire too saw a poignant end. The history of the Inca Empire is a marvellous one, with its magnificent past, and the conquests and rich culture, and it is still a favourite of historians and researchers alike, who continue to chase the ghost of the ancient empire.

Post Written by - Lopamudra

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