AN04a4_Ch16: Peoples and Empires in the Americas: The Inca Create a Mountain Empire
Timeline: 3rd – 16th C.
FQ: To what degree are the Inca comparable to the great civilizations of the ‘Old’ world?\
Main Idea: In the Americas, social complexity and sophistication were integral traits of many Native American peoples. The Inca built a vast empire supported by taxes, governed by a bureaucracy, and linked by extensive road systems.
I. Vocabulary: Refer to Crossword Puzzle.
II. The Inca
1. Time: 14th – 16th C.
2. Place: The Western coastal region of South America from Ecuador to Chile and stretching eastward across the Andes mountains and into western Amazonia.
3. Circumstance: It’s true that civilized societies don’t just disappear. They merely evolve or are assimilated into a dominant society. This is very true of the Andean region. The archaeological record provides evidence of numerous ancient societies that predate the Inca or were contemporaries of them. One of the most famous of these pre-Incan peoples were the Moche (~9th C.) of coastal Peru. The Inca Empire was the largest empire (in total land) that ever existed south of the Equator. Much of its success stems from its administrative techniques.
B. Politics & Society
1. Sapa Inca: Highest on the political hierarchy. He is Pharaonic in that he is a monarch with a divine nature=> Son of the Sun.
2. Nobility: Second to the Sapa Inca, this is the social strata that the Inca occupy as a group. From here also come the ‘priests’ of the Inca faith.
3. Subject Peoples: The conquered as well as those who joined the empire willingly comprise the remainder of the political hierarchy. Like classical Rome, local autonomy was common in the empire. There were ~ 3 million subjects at the civilization’s height (includes Inca and those under their rule).
4. Food as a Political Tool: The Inca were unmatched in the agricultural sciences. They produced numerous varieties of food crops in abundance. So successful were they that the chroniclers estimated a three-year supply of food stored in warehouses to avoid periods of famine. Another sign of their success in this area was in diplomacy. The Inca used their abundant sources of food to entice would-be competitors/ enemies to join their empire. Chroniclers stated that anyone in need was given food.
5. Major Cities
a. Cuzco: Southern & Overall Capital (Consider the relationship between Rome and Constantinople early in the 4th C.)
b. Quito (Northern Capital)
6. Mita System: A form of tax that is payable with labor. Part of the tribute that subject peoples had to pay to The Inca was in the form of labor. This labor would be used for public works projects (build and maintain the road system). Annually, each subject area would agree to provide a certain number of laborers to work a certain amount of time. The Inca would allow men to return to their homes to address their family needs (harvesting crops, repairing homes, etc…) and allow the sick and elderly to be exempted. Anyone who avoids his labor duties would be punished and/ or deprived of the benefits of Inca rule (i.e. food given from storehouses during times of failing crops).
1. Animistic: It’s believed that the royal family was descended from the sun god. Even to this day, there is an annual celebration in honor of the sun god, Inti.
The natural environment is alive with divine entities (huacataca) representing nature’s forces. These spirits are from former ancestors and/ or created by Viracocha.
Places where the presence of these spirits was strong or a portal existed between the divine and natural world were called ‘huaca’.
2. Major Deities
b. Apu Inti (Lord Sun)
c. Pachamama (Mother Earth)
3. Ancestor Worship: During times of religious celebration the mummified physical remains of ancestors would be removed from their tombs, paraded and placed on a seat of honor at the banquet tables. Food and beverage would be served to them as they were fully incorporated into the planned festivities. Clearly, there was a belief in an afterlife that added depth to the animistic beliefs.
4. Rituals: Since the Inca Empire was a diverse society of ‘inclusion’, deities and rituals of conquered peoples were incorporated into imperial religious ceremonies/ practices.
a. Role of Sacrifices: Much like the Mexica, Maya and other peoples of Meso-America, human life was the most valuable item. Hence, the sacrifice of human life would constitute the highest form of reverence to a deity. A difference within the Inca culture is that female sacrifices appear to have been more common.
b. Method of Sacrifice: Unlike the Mexica, the Inca attempted to offer a human sacrifice without mutilating the body. Clearly, signs of Incan beliefs that body and spirit are eternal reveal themselves here [refer to notes above regarding mummified ancestors & earlier lessons on the role of the Ka in Egyptian religion]. Garroting (strangulation by using a cord) and drowning were two common methods of sacrifice with minimal body mutilation.
D. Achievements & Contributions\
1. Extensive Road Network
Well maintained and used by messengers who would run from one post to the next; once there they’ll hand the message to the next runner who continues the journey in the same fashion. Rope bridges spanned the gaps that were common in the mountainous regions. The bridges were an extension of the road network.
a. Domesticated Animals
– Guinea Pigs
b. The Sea
Fish was an abundant source of food for those living along the coastline. With the mountainous landscape of western South America, arable land for farming was not common. This area remains one of the best fishing spots in the world.
c. Technology and Adaptation
– Food Preservation: Food crops could be freeze-dried with the help of the Andean environment.
– Pharmacology: The coca plant was valued for it’s religious and medicinal applications. It provided excellent pain relief and a specific dosage will put someone unconscious. In this state, surgical procedures have a higher success rate.
– Terrace farming was a technological innovation that helped convert mountainous terrain into agriculturally productive land. The advantages are clear:
– The ‘step-like’ structure prevented soil erosion during rainfall.
– The varying altitude of each ‘step’ or terrace created a micro-environment. As one goes up or down the mountainside, each terrace’s elevation changed and so did the environment. This scenario provided farmers an opportunity to hybridize crops. The farmers of the Inca empire produced ~300 varieties of potato.
– This is a truncated list of Inca crops that have, and continue to, feed our world. These crops, along with others, provided a level of nutrition (vitamins, minerals, calories, amino acids) that was unmatched in the Eastern Hemisphere: Corn, Potato, Peppers, Quinoa, and Amaranth.
3. Construction Techniques: Structures within the cities contained architectural designs that were suited to the diverse terrain of this vast empire. Most amazing is the ability to fit massive stones together so that there edges fit snuggly with no visible gaps. So little space exists in the seams of these structures that one would be hard pressed to squeeze a sheet of paper between the stones.
The stones require no mortar (ex. Cement, concrete, mud) to hold the stones in place. Since this region is often subjected to earthquakes, the stones within these structures shift along with the earth thereby dissipating the energy of the quake. The end result is a structure that remains intact and structurally sound. Meanwhile, nearby modern buildings that are constructed with techniques more familiar to us rarely escape severe damage.
III. Summary: Why it matters now.
The Incan system of government was similar to some socialist governments in the 20th century.
– Slide Presentation
– World History: Patterns of Interaction