The Incas were a distinct people with a distinct language living in a highland center, Cuzco. They were an ancient people, but had been subject to the regional powers during the entire history of South American urban cultures. They began to expand their influence in the twelfth century and in the early sixteenth century, they exercised control over more territory than any other people had done in South American history. The empire consisted of over one million individuals, spanning a territory stretching from Ecuador to northern Chile.
Unlike the military empires in Central America, the Incas ruled by proxy. After conquering a people, they would incorporate local rulers into their imperial system, generously reward anyone who fought for them, and treated well all those conquered people who cooperated. So, in reality, the Inca "empire," as the invading Spanish called it, was not really an empire. It was more of a confederation of tribes with a single people, the Incas, more or less in control. Each of these tribes was ruled independently by a council of elders; the tribe as a whole gave its allegiance to the ruler, or "Inca." The "Inca" was divine; he was the descendant of the sun-god.
The social structure of the Incas was extremely inflexible. At the top was the Inca who exercised, theoretically, absolute power. Below the Inca was the royal family which consisted of the Inca's immediate family, concubines, and all his children. This royal family was a ruling aristocracy. Each tribe had tribal heads; each clan in each tribe had clan heads. At the very bottom were the common people who were all grouped in squads of ten people each with a single "boss." The social unit, then, was primarily based on cooperation and communality. This guaranteed that there would always be enough for everyone; but the centralization of authority meant that there was no chance of individual advancement (which was not valued). It also meant that the system depended too much on the centralized authority; once the invading Spanish seized the Inca and the ruling family, they were able to conquer the Inca territories with lightening speed. Conquered people were required to pay a labor tax (mita ) to the state; with this labor tax, the Incas built an astonishing network of roads and terraced farmlands throughout the Andes.
Agriculture was tough business in the Andes. The Incas actively set about carving up mountains into terraced farmlands—so successful were they in turning steep mountainsides into terraced farms, that in 1500 there was more land in cultivation in the Andean highlands then there is today. The Incas cultivated corn and potatoes, and raised llama and alpaca for food and for labor.
Of all the urbanized people of the Americas, the Incas were the most brilliant engineers. The Huari-Tiahuanaco performed amazing feats of fitting gigantic stones together, and the Nazca designed mind-numbingly huge earth-drawings that still exist today. But the Inca built massive forts with stone slabs so perfectly cut that they didn't require mortar—and they're still standing today in near-perfect condition. They built roads through the mountains from Ecuador to Chile with tunnels and bridges. They also built aqueducts to their cities as the Romans had. And of all ancient peoples, they were the most advanced in medicine and surgery.
The language they spoke was Quechua which they imposed on all the peoples they conquered. Because of this, Quechua is still spoken among large numbers of Native Americans throughout the Andes. They had no writing system at all, but they kept records on various colored knotted cords, or quipu .
The central god of the Incan religion was the sun-god, the only god that had temples built for him. The sun-god was the father of the royal family. There were many gods among the Incas, but the sun-god outshone them all. The Incas also believed that there was a heaven, a hell, and a resurrection of the body after death.
At its height, the Inca civilization crashed into the European expansion. In 1521, Herman Cortés conquered the Aztecs; this conquest inspired Francisco Pizzarro to invade the Incas in 1531. He only had two hundred soldiers, barely enough to walk the dog. However, he convinced the ruler of the Incas, Atahualpa, to come to a conference at the city of Cajamarca. When Atahualpa arrived, Pizzarro kidnapped him and killed several hundred of his family and followers. Atahualpa tried to ransom himself, but Pizzarro tried to use him as a puppet ruler. When that failed, Pizzarro simply executed him in 1533. Over the next thirty years the Spanish struggled against various insurrections, but, with the help of native allies, they finally gained control of the Inca empire in the 1560's.
The Legendary "Lost City of Machu Picchu" is without a doubt the most important attraction in Peru and one of the world's most impressive archaeological sites. Built by the Incas on the summit of Machu Picchu (Old Peak), over- looking the deep canyon of the Urubamba river in a semi-tropical area 120 Km. (75 miles) from the city of Cuzco at 7,000 feet above sea level.
Machu Picchu is also one of the Inca's best kept secrets. They did not leave written records and Spanish chronicles make no mention of the citadel. Discovered in 1911 by the American professor Hiram Bingham. The building style is "late imperial Inca". It is thought to have been a sanctuary or temple inhabited by high priests and the "Virgins of the Sun". Excavations revealed that of the 135 skeletons found, 109 were women. No signs of post-Conquest occupation were unearthed.
The original entrance to the complex is on the southwestern side of the citadel at the end of the Inca Trail, a short walk away from "Intipunko " (Sun Gate), the ancient final check point to Machu Picchu. The present entrance on the southeastern side leads to the agricultural section.
The complex can be divided into three distinct sections: Agricultural, urban, and religious.
The agricultural area consists of a series of terraces and irrigation channels that serve dual purpose as cultivation platforms and as retention walls to avoid erosion. Smaller buildings next to some large terraces are thought to have served as lookout posts.
The urban section starts at the wall that separates it from the agricultural area. This group of buildings were constructed on the ridge that descends abruptly to the Urubamba valley. In the southern part of the section are found a series of niches carved in a rock known as "the jail" with elements that include man size niches and underground dungeons.. Stone rings would have served to hold the prisoner's arms.
The group of refined structures next to "the jail" is known as "the intellectuals' quarters", with tall walls, nooks, and windows built with reddish stone. These are considered to have been accommodations for the Amautas (high ranked teachers). One of the buildings has several circular holes carved on the rock floor named the "mortar room" believed to have been used for preparation of dyes.
The largest urban section in Machu Picchu, located in the northwestern part, is reached by a 67 steps staircase and involves a group of buildings not as finely constructed as other parts of the complex.
The central plaza that separates the religious from the urban section, has a great rock in the center. The religious section contains splendid architecture and masonry work. One of the most important and enigmatic is probably the Intihuatana shrine, this block of granite was presumably used to make astronomical observations.
Descending the hill next to this site is the Great Central Temple, a three walled building with fine stonework and an attached smaller temple called the "Sacristy". Next to this structure is another three walled building, known as the Temple of the Three Windows, so called because of the trapezoidal openings on the east wall. Directly across is the Royal sector, with ample buildings typical of Inca royalty. A very important structure in this section is the "Temple of the Sun", a circular tower with the best stonework of Machu Picchu. Its base forms a cavern known as the Royal Tomb. Recent studies show that the actual purpose was for astronomical observance.
Huayna Picchu, "young peak" is as much a part of the site as the buildings of the citadel. The towering granite peak overlooks Machu Picchu to the North with a steep, well- preserved original Inca path, well worth the one hour climb for an astounding view of the citadel and the entire valley.
The Temple of the Moon, located halfway down in an underground chamber on the north side of Huayna Picchu, is a fairly recent discovery. The access to this site is rather difficult and diverges left from the main trail. It contains finely carved structures on large boulders. The trip up and down takes about three hours.
In the 14th century, almost 200 years before Pizzaro arrived to conquer the Incas, a young prince had a dream in which a spirit appeared and identified itself as Viracocha Inca, son of the sun and brother of the first king of the Inca dynasty. The spirit said that a northern tribe, the Chancas, was preparing a revolution against the monarchy, and serious consequences would follow.. The Chancas did rebel, and the prince subdued them. But rebellion was common, and the Inca priests concluded that a much greater danger was implied in the warning. The priests interpreted another meaning: One day, bearded foreigners who were "masters of the lightning" would arrive from the sea to herald the fall of the empire.
The prince became the eighth Inca king, and the people gave him the name Viracocha. He commissioned the construction of a temple with twelve winding halls leading upward to a statue of a tall, bearded man dressed in a tunic. He held a chained, ferocious animal that had the claws of a leopard. King Viracocha carved the statue with his own hands in order to create an exact image of the spirit in his veridic dream.
Several omens occurred as the years passed. One day in the sky over the capitol city of Cusco, a condor (the sacred messenger of the sun) was attacked by a swarm of falcons. The wounded condor fell into the city square and was given medical aid by the priests, but it died anyway. The Inca sages were greatly disturbed because they saw it as an omen of bad times to come.
In an audience before Huayna Capac, the 11th Inca king, a soothsayer interpreted an awesome sign that had appeared in the sky: three halos (red, green and brown) encircling the moon. The sage said:
"The Moon, your Mother, tells you that Pachacamac, the Creator and giver of Life, threatens your Family, your Realm, and subjects. Your sons will wage a cruel War, those of royal Blood will die, and the Empire will disappear."
Since there were only twelve halls in the Temple of Viracocha, and Huayna Capac was the 11th king, he correctly feared that the kingdom would end with its next ruler. Huayna Capac also worried about a party of light-skinned, bearded foreigners who had come ashore to the north, wielding strange weapons that erupted with fire, as spoken of in earlier prophecies.
On his deathbed, Huayna Capac addressed his priests and officials thus:
"Our father the sun has revealed to me that after a reign of twelve Incas, his own children, there will appear in our country an unknown race of men who will subdue our empire. They doubtless belong to the people whose messengers have appeared on our shores. Be sure of it, these foreigners will reach this country and fulfill the prophecy."
The foreign messengers were Vasco Nuñez de Balboa and company, who arrived at Tumbes in 1511. The Spaniards returned in 1532, well armed for conquest under the command of Francisco Pizzaro. Within a few years after the death of Huayna Capac from smallpox, his two sons went to war against each other. Atahualpa won and assumed the throne as the 12th Inca, just in time to lose the empire to Pizzaro on November 16, 1532.
The Q’ero (Long-haired ones), the last of the Incas, recently revealed their prophecies of the End of Time to Alberto Villoldo, who has published them. The Q’ero are awaiting the next Pachacuti (He Who Transforms the Earth), and expect it to be the end of the world as we know it. The signs of upheaval have begun, and will last four years. A new humanity will emerge from the chaos. The prophecies announce the beginning of a new "millenium of gold", and speak of "a rip in the fabric of time", through which will come a luminous being. The signs of the times include: the drying-up of high mountain cochas (lagoons), the near-extinction of the condor, and great solar heat. Afterwards, we shall emerge into the fifth Sun.
The Inca End time prophecy
The new caretakers of the Earth will come from the West, and those that have made the greatest impact on Mother Earth now have the moral responsibility to remake their relationship with her, after remaking themselves.
The prophecy holds that North America will supply the physical strength, or body; Europe will supply the mental aspect, or head; and the heart will be supplied by South America. The prophecies are optimistic.
They refer to the end of time as we know it-the death of a way of thinking and a way of being, the end of a way of relating to nature and to the earth.
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