The Inca Empire was established in the 13th century and was the world’s largest empire in the early 16th century. It was created as the last chapter of the Andean civilization, and scientists say it was one of the five civilizations in the world that were pristine. That is to say that they were indigenous, not just a derivative from other civilizations. Based on the Andean mountain range, at its peak it covered modern day Peru, large parts of Ecuador, western and south central Bolivia, northwest Argentina, north and central Chile and small parts of southwest Columbia. Estimates say that 40.000 Incas had governed over 10 million subjects that spoke 30 different languages. Its last stronghold would be conquered by the Spanish Empire in 1572, ending the reign of the largest empire in the world at the time. Its capital was the city of Cusco, and its greatest leader was the ninth Sapa Inca, which meant son of the sun god, well known today as Pachacuti.
Conquest, Administration and Society
The empire would achieve its greatest extend under the leadership of its successors. The most intriguing part of the empire was the way it was run, since it had no monetary based economy, no written language, and used knotted strings called “quipu” for recording the passage of time and for mutual communication as well. The Incas were also renowned for building monumental wonders and roads made of mountain -slope stones, summits and making use of the difficult terrain to establish impressive agricultural innovations. Since the Incas had no monetary based economy, goods and services were exchanged by reciprocity between individuals, groups and their leaders. As taxes require money, the way Incan rulers “taxed” their subjects was with the requirement of labor owned to the empire by each individual. In return they reciprocated land, food and drinks in celebratory feasts for their citizens.
The empire itself was perhaps one of the most diversely populated, with various cultures and peoples being under the rule of something between 15.000 to 40.000 Incas. According to their mythology, the Incan people had originated from the three caves ascribed to their oral history. Out of one of these caves Ayar Manco emerged, who according to historical records was most likely the founder of the Inca civilization in the city of Cusco, carrying a magical staff of pure gold, and saying the wherever the staff fell, the Incan people would settle there.
The first appearance of the Sapa Inca was in 1438, called Pachacuti-CusiYupanqui. Upon what his ancestors had established, Tupac Qupancui had later on expanded the new empire, thus being able to govern much of the Andes. Under the governance of Pachacuti the city of Machu Picchu was built, perched above the Sacred Valley through which the river Urubamba flows, some 80 kilometers northwest of the city of Cuzco. Machu Pichu was situated 2430 meters above sea level, as a summer retreat or as it is most likely, as an important agricultural station. The leaders of the Incan army were the sons of the Sapa Inca, and had led their people on a conquering of their neighbors, namely, the rival kingdoms either through war or by diplomacy. As a way of teaching their subjects the importance of maintaining the peace through law and taxation, they forced them to pay a large quill full of live lice every four months. The religion the Incas practiced was related to those found in Central America, yet without the gruesome need of sacrifice. Their chief deity was the Sun, while the rest of the pantheons were thought as the original dwellers living in the three caves from their origination. They embodied natural phenomenon as rain, earthquakes, rainbows, and additionally, they were the gods of the sea, the trees, gods of fertility and also gods teaching the people emotions such as honor, courage and the ability to cultivate the earth.
To distinguish the nobility from the common folk, they practiced cranial deformation by wrapping the soft skulls of their newborns in tight cloth wraps to shape them into a conical form. In the later days of the empire however, they indulged in incestuous relationships. Every physically-capable male individual of the empire was a soldier, making the Incan army the most powerful at the time. As every male was required to participate in a war in any capacity, every city, every village, every corner where people lived gave levy to the empire. The weapons and armor used by the army of the Incan Empire were made of bones, wood, bronze, copper, animal hides and skins. The most amazing thing performed by the Incas was perhaps the successful surgeries they administered on their peoples; skull surgeries performed to alleviate fluid build-up from wounds with a success rate of 90%! Precious metals and minerals along with ceramics detailing the tales of their exploits and various textiles were gathered and brought to the nobility for reverence, yet none of these matched the sacred magical coca plant for which they were invaded for.
The end of the empire came in two forms, first of small pox caught from trading with various cultures from Central America that was brought to them by the conquering Europeans, and secondly, from the butchering administered by conquistadors from the Spanish Empire. Francisco Pizzaro and his brothers had started to explore South America after the Spanish had established their base of operations in the New World after destroying the Aztec Empire and subjugating the indigenous peoples of Central America. They came upon the Inca Empire in 1526.
Seeing the wealth presented before them, they asked for permission for conquering the empire and had it approved from the Queen of Spain in July 1529. Thus, they formed New Castile. Pizzaro governed with it. When the conquistadors began their warpath in 1532, they found the empire wrecked by civil war among the two brothers Huascar and Atahualpa vying for rule and devastated by the smallpox. Armed with only 168 men, asingle cannon and 27 horses, Pizzaro conquered by talking their way out of conflict, and when the conflict eventually came, they had the technological superiority over the Incas, and had managed to acquire Atahualpa as a hostage and held demanding ransom of gold and silver, land and acceptance of Christianity. They were given gold to fill the room where the Incas were imprisoned and twice the amount of silver, nevertheless, Pizzaro deceived them. With the hold of the only one remaining who could rule over the Incan Empire, (Huascar was assassinated elsewhere) the empire soon fell, and in August 1533, Atahualpa was executed, while the rest of the Incas that stood defiant were hunted down for heretical practices.