Inca: Empire in the Clouds
About the time that the Aztecs were building Tenochtitlan, a group of tribes was coming together in South America. They called themselves the Incas. After conquering a powerful enemy in 1438, the Incas started a period of expansion that created a mighty empire. This empire would eventually extend more than 3,000 miles along the western side of South America.
As the Inca Empire grew, so did its capital, Cuzco. It was perched high in the Andes Mountains. The Incas managed their empire with great skill. Following a victory they would place a colony of loyal Incas among the conquered people. The Incas would become part of the community, teaching the conquered people about the Inca religion and the way of life.
Like the Aztecs, the Incas were master builders. They built castles, temples, and other structures, whose impressive ruins can still be seen. They developed a construction technique of fitting large stones together without using mortar.
Unlike Mesoamerican civilizations, the Incas had no system of writing. However, they did have a decimal system of numbers. The Incas carried out their calculations on a quipu which was an array of colored strings. By tying knots in the strings in varying patterns, the Incas could add and subtract. This allowed them to keep track of food supplies, trading goods, and events.
The Incas built a fine system of roads to enable the leaders to keep in touch with all parts of their far-flung empire. At regular intervals along the roads, runners waited at way stations. Using a relay system, the runners would carry messages from one end of the empire to the other.
Care for the Living and the Dead
Inca priests were also doctors. They were skilled enough to perform brain surgery by cutting away part of the skull. We know from studying mummified remains that many patients survived these operations.
The Incas had a great respect for their rulers. When a ruler died, his body was mummified and placed in a “house of the dead.” At religious ceremonies, these remains were removed from their resting places and carried in parades so that the people could honor their rulers once again.
Copper, Tin, and Potatoes
In addition to their engineering skills, the Incas were also excellent metalworkers and farmers. Even before the Incas came to power, Andean people knew how to make bronze from tin and copper. Thus, sturdy bronze tools were available to Inca farmers and artisans.
One of the most important foods cultivated by the Incas was the potato. In the wild the original potato was only as big as a nut. Over time the potato was developed into hundreds of varieties suitable to different growing conditions.
Inca farmers used a digging stick, or foot plow. A row of men would line up in a field and turn the soil. Women would come along to break the clods of earth and plant the seeds.
The Incas are just one of the first Americans. They have lived a very interesting life that has shown us how creative and skilled they were during their time.
Photo Credits: Google Images