The Ancient Inca

Machu Picchu (Photo: Keith Graves)

A Quipu

The Inca civilization arose from the highlands of Peru sometime in the early 13th century.

From 1437-1533, the South American Incan Empire was at their peak in development. Many compare the Incan civilizations with the ancient Roman society.

They had established elaborate road systems, governmental hierarchy, artistry, as well as counting systems which helped them dominate the greater area of South America. The pathways known as the Incan Trails were used as a means of carrying messages throughout the kingdom; it was a well evolved communication system.

The Incan people accounted for everything using a very complex method of counting called quipu which recorded their data using knotted cords, separated by colour and size, and the quipucamayocs (accountants) managed them.

The Inca’s history was based on a creation story. The oldest written account known today in South America is called the Popoh Vhu. It told of the beginning of the world which inspired a complex Incan society and gave rise to their expert masonry. A great example of such architecture can be found in ‘the lost city of the Incas’ known as Machu Picchu.

The ancient city is located on top of a mountain, 8000 feet in elevation. It is virtually untouched since inhabited by the Incas. Due to the elevation the Spanish conquistadors missed Machu Picchu, and it soon became a safe place for the escaping Inca during the time of the conquest.

Although the Incan Empire was large and advanced, it flourished for only a short time; it lasted roughly a century. The Inca culture was highly sophisticated, but most information about them was lost during the time of conquest. The Spanish chroniclers, who provided us with witness information, generally observed the Inca with a European bias and destroyed most of their decorated cities leaving us with little evidence of a once great culture.

Today archaeologists work to uncover some of the buried mysteries to further our knowledge of the Inca.

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