The rise and fall of the Incan Empire and the influence of the Chimuby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Describe the culture, rise, and fall of the Inca Empire. How did the Chimú culture influence the Inca Empire?
While blood flowed freely in the streets, tears flowed freely throughout the Inca Empire—tears wept by the Inca people and "tears wept by the Sun"  as the Incas called gold, the metal sacred to their greatest god, the Sun. It was the year 1533, and Francisco Pizarro had executed the Inca,  Atahualpa, despite the huge ransom of gold the Incas had collected in an attempt to free their leader. Pizarro took the gold, then executed Atahualpa anyway. Thus began the end of the vast Inca Empire. Within less than a decade, Spain controlled the entire empire. Where had the great Inca Empire come from, and how could the Spaniards subjugate the huge empire so quickly? This discussion of the Incas and their empire will propose answers to these questions about the origins, culture, and fall of the Inca Empire in due time.
Scholars have trouble tracing much, if not most, of all South American history today for a number of different reasons. For one reason, many South American civilizations did not have a written language; for a second, historians and other such people have not deciphered many South American languages. And thirdly, many oral traditions passed down to the descendants of ancient South American civilizations have a great deal of mythology and legend mixed up with them. This renders it hard to get a clear picture of even those civilizations which ancient Spanish historians wrote about when the conquistadors conquered South America. However, archeology helps validate (or disprove) the oral histories or the South American Indians and gives some sort of picture, however imperfect, of the origins of many of the ancients.
As far as can be determined, the Incas originated in the Andes Mountains of Peru around the thirteenth century AD. According to their own legends, a creator god named Tici Viracocha came out of Lake Titicaca  and killed the people living around the lake who had angered him somehow. He then created the first Inca, Manco Capac, and his sister along with the sun, moon, and stars. Tici Viracocha gave Manco Capac a gold scepter and told him to build a city where this scepter disappeared into the ground with one blow. Manco Capac went on to found the city of Cuz'co on the location where the ground supposedly swallowed up the scepter at the first blow. Manco Capac then took his sister as his wife and founded the Inca Empire.
In reality, Manco Capac and the Incas probably originated from a number of small tribes named the Colla.  Prior to the thirteenth century, these tribes lived around Lake Titicaca. They spoke Quechua  and sometime around the thirteenth century, some of them moved from the highlands, founding Cuz'co  and conquering a small area of land around it. Their leader bore the title "the Inca" which in Quechua meant "child of the Sun" since his followers thought that he had descended from the Sun. Considered a deity himself, he also acted as the high priest of the Sun. Most, if not all of the Inca nobility had descended either directly or remotely from the royal family.  This nobility eventually occupied the whole city of Cuz'co.  Although the Inca had many wives,  his first wife was always his full sister, called the Coya. In the Inca's absence, the Coya could rule. 
However, several centuries before the Inca founded Cuz'co, a cultural group named the Chimú lived in a kingdom further to the north of Cuz'co on the Peruvian coast. Founded around 1000 AD, the Chimú lived in the coastal valleys of northern Peru. Yunga, the language of the Chimú, has entirely disappeared, and the culture left no written record, but the Incas preserved some small knowledge of the Chimú. Its government was strict and supposedly enforced a harsh code of law. 
Though a culture based on agriculture, the Chimú had skilled artisans who created ceramics, wove baskets and particularly textiles, but most of all, developed metallurgy. Artisans worked the most with gold and silver, and the nobility accumulated large quantities of gold and silver, as well as other other Chimú products in the capital of Chan-Chan in the Moche Valley. Chimú workers built buildings primarily out of adobe and decorated them with bas-relief and stucco.
Another important thing about the Chimú culture, they developed the concept of mit'a, or the labor tax. Mit'a was the certain amount of work that each person owed to the state. Reciprocity also developed under the Chimú. Under reciprocity, all people helped each other; a man would help his neighbor who would, in turn, return the help when needed. Men and women worked for the government, which in turn helped them with food or other necessities in case of famine, disaster, or simple poverty.  Lastly, the Chimú also developed a very sophisticated system of irrigation as a result of the sparse rainfall but abundant rivers full of run off from the Andes.
Both of these empires, the Chimú and the Inca, existed simultaneously by the fifteenth century, although the Inca Empire had not expanded but rather had stayed centered around Cuz'co. But with the advent of the ninth Inca, Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, the empire began to expand. Just before Inca Yupanqui came to the throne, the Inca Empire conquered the Chimú. Under Inca Yupanqui and his son Topa Inca Yupanqui, the Inca Empire grew until the Inca had conquered many other contemporary civilizations, including the Nazca, Mochica, Huari, and Tihuanaco in addition to the Chimú. This huge empire stretched at least 4,800 km along the west coast of South America and included most of modern day Peru along with half of Chile and parts of Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina. At its height, the Inca empire was twice as large as Spain and contained around 12,000,000 people who spoke at least twenty different languages.  Tawaintisuyu,  the name given by the Incas to their land, was divided into four provinces—Chinchaysuyu, Kontisuyu, Antisuyu, and Kollasuyu. All of these provinces came together at Cuz'co, the capital.
After conquering the Chimú, the Incas learned numerous things from the Chimú culture. They instituted the concept of mit'a in the Inca Empire, and with the huge, resulting workforce at their disposal, the Incas were able to accomplish numerous large-scale projects. Utilizing the workforce in conjunction with their advanced knowledge of engineering and architecture, they built canals and aqueducts,  bridges and tunnels,  and many buildings and other structures able to withstand the earthquakes that frequently shook the empire. Workers quarried huge stones, then worked them until they fit together in an irregular, geometric pattern.  In fact, the stones of these walls, buildings, and fortresses fit together so well that they did not even require mortar, and after completion, one could not fit even a knife blade between the stones. Despite the numerous, and frequently violent, earthquakes that occur in South America, many of the Inca structures not destroyed by the Spanish conquistadors still stand.
One of the keys to controlling the huge Inca Empire was its roads. Roads built by the Incas rivaled even those built by the ancient Romans. Actually, the main difference between Roman and Inca roads was that most of the roads built by the Incas traversed much more difficult terrain than did those of the Romans. However, the roads built by the Incas did not have to accommodate the wheel, the wheel remained unknown to the Incas until the arrival of the Spanish. Nevertheless, the Incas built an extraordinary network of roads throughout their whole empire. These roads contained bridges, both of stone and rope, tunnels, causeways built across sand and marshes, and sometimes even stairs cut into the face of a mountain. In fact, the Incas even planted trees and shrubs by their roads where they could, and had streams of water flowing by the roadside for thirsty travelers.  All in all, the Incas built at least 23,000 km of roads throughout the empire.
These roads allowed the well-trained Inca army to easily conquer and keep in submission those people in the lands along South America's west coast. In addition to the Inca's armies, messengers lived in huts about ten to twelve miles apart on all the roads. Called chasquis, these messengers carried messages to and from the Inca. They also sometimes took fresh produce, fish fruit, or vegetables, to Cuz'co for the Inca's meals. At each station, the chasqui would pass his message or produce on to the next chasqui, who would take it to the next post, and so on and so forth, until the last chasqui reached Cuz'co. Although the Incas did not have a written language, knotted cords called quipu were used to help keep track of statistics such as censuses and taxes. Although some researchers believe that quipu not only recorded statistics, but also acted as a sort of written language of the Incas, no one knows for sure.  Chasquis did use the quipu, however, to carry statistics (or messages) from one part of the kingdom to another.
Despite the quality and large extent of the roads in the Inca Empire, most people under Inca rule did not have the freedom to move around the kingdom wherever they wished. After conquering a region, the Incas would move the indigenous people to another part of the empire and settle other groups of people in the newly acquired land. All the groups of people in the Inca Empire consisted of a basic, "common descent family group" called an ayllu.  Land was assigned to each of these clan-like groups, then divided among the individuals of the group.
Officials divided up all the land in the Inca Empire into thirds—one third for the Sun, one third for the Inca, and one third for the people. Inca law required farmers to cultivate the land of the Sun first, then the fields belonging to the old, sick, widowed, orphaned, and active soldiers. Then they could tend their own fields and then those of the Inca. Resources cultivated from the Sun's lands went to support the numerous temples, priests, and virgins of the Sun while part of those from the Inca's land were collected and stored in large storehouses in case of times of need such as famine, disaster, or simple poverty. During such times, the Inca would order the distribution of such stores. Crucial to this system was the Chimú concept of reciprocity by which all the people helped each other, with all the men of an ayllu pitching in to help each other, and even the Inca himself helping those in need.
Another huge task planned and undertaken (that succeeded!) by the Incas was the building of agricultural terraces or andenes  As an agriculturally based society, the Incas needed as much farm land as possible, but the Andes impinged on the size of the arable land in the Inca Empire. Therefore, workers built andenes in the highlands and mountains of the Andes, transporting incredible amounts of earth up the rocky slopes.  Because of the difference of altitudes, the Incas could utilize "vertical complimentarity,"  a system in which farmers could cultivate many different crops at the same time. These andenes worked as a result of the advanced irrigation used by the Incas. For fertilizer, the Incas used guano, composed primarily of the feces of guano birds  Farmers raised corn, potatoes,  sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes, chili peppers, coca, cassava, quinoa (a type of grain), and cotton. They also raised guinea pigs,  ducks, llamas, alpacas, and dogs.
Although advanced in many other ways, the Incas, however, did not have money or merchants. As a socialist nation, the very centralized government (however kindly and beneficially) controlled almost every aspect of the lives of those it ruled, and most of the people did not have the opportunity to create a capitalistic economy. In addition, the Incas did not really value gold except for the fact that it was the metal sacred to their greatest god, the Sun. Thus, they made very beautiful things such as jewelry and decorations out of it to honor the Sun, but valued things such as their textiles more.  Much of the gold of the Incas originally came from the Chimú, and after conquering that nation, the Incas brought artisans from Chan-Chan to Cuz'co to work gold and teach Inca artisans how to work it. Coricancha, the greatest temple (of the 300 to 400 temples to the Sun in Cuz'co) in the whole empire to the Sun, means "the Place of Gold" in Quechua.
One other amazing fact about the Inca Empire: it climbed to the height of its glory in a little less than a century, from about 1438 to 1532. Yet despite its glory, when the Spanish came to South America, it rapidly proved fatal for the Inca Empire. Even before the Spanish, led by Francisco Pizarro, traveled to the Inca Empire, the smallpox they brought with them traveled on ahead of them. This disease killed about two-thirds of the Inca population before Pizarro ever crossed the Andes. and when he came, he found the country in a civil war. Huayna Capac, the previous Inca had died in 1527 of smallpox, and two of his sons were fighting over the kingdom. Along with the help of some of the people the Incas had previously conquered, the Spanish quickly overthrew the Incas. However, did idol worship have anything to do with the downfall of the Incas? In Exodus 20:3 (NIV), the first of the ten commandments states, "You shall have no other gods before me." And yet, the Incas worshiped the Sun and even the Inca, a man, as gods. At times, the Incas even made human sacrifices to the Sun  although less often than other South American civilizations such as the Aztecs. Thus, perhaps as a result of immoral practices God allowed less than 200 Spanish soldiers to conquer the mighty civilization.
up9In the Inca culture, parents presented all young girls around the ages of eight to ten to certain officials. These officials would chose the prettiest of the girls to serve as Virgins of the Sun. As the son of the Sun, the Inca could take as many of these girls as he liked as wives. Unless chosen by the Inca to be one of his wives, though, these women spent their time tending sacred fires in the temples of the Sun and weaving beautiful textiles for burnt offerings or other uses.
up13James Q. Jacobs, Prehistory of the Andean Peoples, 30 April 1998, <http://www.jqjacobs.net/andes/andes_prehistory.html> (26 January 2004).
up19Viviano Domenici and Davide Domenici, "Talking Knots of the Inka," Archaeology, Vol. 49, No. 6 (November/December 1996), <http://www.archaeology.org/9611/abstracts/inka.html> (26 January 2004).
up23Photius Coutsoukis, Peru The Incas, 4 July 2002, <http://www.workmall.com/wfb2001/peru/peru_history_the_incas.html> (26 January 2004).
up26They actually raised guinea pigs (cuy) for their meat. Incas also ate llama meat, and raised llamas and alpacas for their wool which the Incas wove into beautiful textiles. Llamas also served as beasts of burden but were not ridden.
up28Holzmann, Incas, Aztecs & Mayans.
Usually Inca sacrafices consisted only of animals such as llamas, grain, flowers, textiles,
and so on and so forth. Only on very, very special occasions did the Incas sacrafice humans.
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