Empire Of Peru Essay, Research Paper
The empire of the Incas was a great, although brief, period in Peru’s colorful past. There were many differing tribes that inhabited the land pre-Inca empire. However, the last of the people to inhabit Peru (pre-Spanish Invasion) constructed a vast empire that homogenized the tribes, and replaced the differences with a highly developed kind of welfare state.
The Wari, Chankas, and Chan Chan are just a few of the other peoples that had populated Peru at various times. It would be a difficult task to list the many tribes that existed in ancient Peru, seeing as how none of them kept any written records. This is due to the fact that a written language didn’t even exist in Peru until the invasion of the Spaniards, and that is when we get the most initial information of the Inca civilization. Aside from written records we must fall back on archeology to piece together the puzzle of this great empire.
The Incas were established in the Andian mountains. More specifically, in the Cuzco valley. There they wared for many years with the Chancas. It was the Inca victory, in 1430’s, over their neighbors that began their great militaristic expansion. However, it wasn’t until the middle of the 15th century they began their imperialistic expansion. They did so under the ruler Viracocha Inca. In as little as 30 years, the Inca domain was enlarged and unified more than a thousandfold by Viracocha’s son. At the height of its dominion, the empire encompassed the entire Andean region, extending 2,000 mi.
The fact that there was no written language makes the closely knit Inca state all the more remarkable. The state was ruled by an emperor that required total obedience from his citizens (yes, even the conquered were citizens), but their welfare was well attended to. The state owned almost everything and could draft people to work in mines or on public projects. Priests, government servants, the aged, sick, and widowed were provided supplies from imperial storehouses. The large royal family formed the nobility; a privileged, Quechua-speaking Inca class governed colonies. Lesser officials formed a minor nobility. The empire was administratively divided and subdivided, down to local communities. The only way they had to relay information in this intricate state was on knotted strings called quipas. Unfortunately, we have no way of translating said quipas.
Perhaps the most famous example of Inca architecture is the once lost city of Vilcapampa. Though, it is probably better known by the name given to it upon its rediscovery: Machu Pichu. It is impressive that such a large city was built so high in the Andes, and remained so well hidden from society up until the early 1900’s by the mountain of Machu Pichu. The real awe is in the enormity and attention to detail of the structure.
The basic structure of the city is much like that of a huge fortress, which is what it is believed to be. The outer wall is constructed of huge blocks of stone that take after the Egyptian style. That is, the blocks are wider at the bottom then they are on top. Continuing up the wall, the blocks grow smaller. This gives a visual effect of sturdiness, which is definitely a quality the architecture holds, seeing as how nothing other than friction holds the pieces together. On top of that, the stones fit together so well that one can’t even wedge a pocket knife blade between the stones.
The perfect fit of the stones holds true for all structures within the fortress walls as well. It is believed such a good fit was achieved by friction. By this I mean that on top of the existing blocks another was placed and meticulously moved back and forth over the other. The sheer mass of one block would apply enough pressure to grind away at the other, so you were left with a perfect fit.
The other impressive fact of Machu Pichu is in the post and lintel construction of the doorways. Most of the stones were quite large, so it leads one to question how the Incas managed to get such a large stone atop two tall, vertically placed, stones. Evidently the inhabitants had knowledge of simple machines, because it is believed that a mound of earth was built next to such lintels to create an inclined plane. A wood platform was placed on the mound and more pieces of wood were used as rollers to aid in reducing frictional force when pushing the lintel on top. After the structure was erected, the mound was removed.
The one aspect of architecture that is not all that impressive is the thatch roofing. It was a fairly dry climate in the Cuzco valley, so a water proof roof was not all that necessary. While not all that wet, the climate was very windy, so the means by which the roof was attached had to be strong. This was achieved by tieing the thatch down to wooden posts in the walls, therein lies another architectural feat. It was necessary to drill holes into the bricks of the walls, and using a chisel ran too great a risk of splitting the stone. So a piece of bamboo was spun by hand, with liberal application of sand and water, to construct a drill press.
The religion of the Incas was polytheistic one with a strong connection to agriculture. The supreme Inca deity was Viracocha, creator and ruler of all living things. Other major deities were the gods of the Sun, Thunder, Stars, and goddesses of the moon, earth, and sea.
The Sun was the most important servant of the Viracocha, the creator. With the harsh climate of the high Andes, it is easy to see why the Sun God is such an important figure. The Incas attributed him with protecting and maturing crops. He was most commonly depicted by a gold disk with a human face, adorned with rays of light.
Next in this hierarchical scale came the Thunder God. He, in turn, was the servant of the Sun God. To this deity, the people would pray for rain for their crops. He was pictured as having a large club, with which he made thunder; a sling in one hand that created a bolt of lightning, and adorned with flashy garments which were responsible for the flash that followed a lightning bolt.
The Stars were not a god, but rather, children of the Sun and Moon Gods. Venus was the main representative of the children, with the constellations being the rest of them. Certain constellations were patrons of certain human activities. The Pleiades watched over the health of seed. The Lira watched over flocks, and the Machaqway watched over wild animals.
The Moon Goddess was the wife of the Sun. She was responsible for calculating months and regulating festival calendars. Legend has it that she once shined brighter than the Sun. There was a struggle once, and the Sun God covered her in dust so she would never be as bright again.
There are two Mothers, one of the Earth and one of the Sea. The Mother Earth is yet another Goddess attributed with crops. Prayers to her consisted of requests that she protect and fertilize the fields. Her representation was that of a long stone that was placed in the fields. The Mother of the Sea was primarily worshipped by coastal fisherman.
When ever the Incas conquered a people they would strictly impose their Gods. However, they always respected the local deities, and never defaced any place of worship. So long as the conquered worshiped the Inca Gods, they could also worship their local Gods. This practice is responsible for the numerous amounts of Gods in this multiple God religion of the Incas.
Personaly, I have always been skewed in favor of the Inca civilization. This has been due largely to my ancestral relation to them. I have always known of Machu Pichu being breath takingly beautiful, and that was all I needed to form my judgment of greatness. This research, however, has shown me how I never realized the complex nature of these people. Of course, knowing this now only enforces my prior belief in the greatness of the Inca Empire.
Bankes, George. Peru Before Pizarro. E.P. Dutton (New York, NY, 1977).
Bingham, Hiram. Lost City of the Incas. Duell, Sloan and Peace (New York, NY, 1948).
Prescott, William H. The World of Incas. Pierre Waleffe (Minerva, Geneva, 1970).
MSN Microsoft Encarta. (1997-99). Concise Encyclopedia Article [internet].
“Peru the Land of the Incas” [internet]. http://home.att.net/~jgarciaduran/index.html