The Incas were people living in a most advanced civilization. Their way of living has long since fascinated and held our imaginations since the first artifact was recovered. The Incas ruled a land that was slightly larger than Peru. The land was surrounded by two large and parallel mountain ranges with high plateaus. The land was just about 3000 meters above sea level, smothered in Amazon jungle. Beyond the coast, no rain would fall and miles of desert would stretch as far as the eye could see. The Incas mainly depended on the ocean for food, using seine nets to trap and haul in their fish.
The Amazon rainforest which bordered the land provided various necessities such as food and skins from animals, bright feathers for religious purposes and so forth. The area in which the Inca’s lived also had a great many rivers running through it, assuring good irrigation systems and travel from one end of the land to another. The civilization never seemed to suffer droughts or famines, seemingly as there was plenty of water to drink and fish to feast on, which, on being caught by fishermen on big balsa wood rafts, would be returned to shore, salted and stored for future use.
The Incas worshipped nature as their gods. Inti, the sun god, and Quilla, the moon god were worshipped for their light during ceremonial occasions. Other important deities were the thunder and rainbow gods, as well as the bright planets such as mars. Over all, one great god named Viracocha reigned. Being properly translated into English, Viracocha means ‘the all’, which then loosely translates into ‘the creator’. He was the father of the sun and moon, and was thought of as an old man with white hair and beard.
He was supposedly the ruler of destiny and invisible to those but shamans and religious priests. As most countries or lands do, there was a ruler, somewhat a king of the country who looked after and maintained the well being of all the subjects in the land. One of the most well known was Atahuallpa who was said to have reigned well, yet died when refusing to convert to Christianity when Spaniards arrived to conquer the land. The Incas have no written records whatsoever, and what evidence Is found of their lifestyle is told in pictures, called Quipus.
Those who study the time during which the Incas lived suggest that they relied mainly on stories handed down by wise men, which then were written down in picture form by scholars. By no means did the fact that the Incas were illiterate mean that they were not learned. Through trial and error, simple logic as well as advanced thinking, the Inca Empire blossomed into a wealthy land. Incan society was very structured, each understanding their place in social status. The higher society was the Sapan Inca, the ruler and his wife.
Following them were the high priest and army chief. Finally, the chief officers and then the families of ordinary status. Family life back then was very difficult, yet Incans enjoyed their work and play. Most families lived in small villages surrounded by farmland, living in houses made from blocks of stone. The houses had no doors, were reasonably clean and there was no furniture. The families would sleep on mats and would eat a main meal once a day, squatting on the floor. Food was mainly stew, beans, maize and vegetables.
Maize cobs were roasted and guinea pigs were served on special occasions only. The family would work hard in play, singing while working in the fields, the women passing down stories about their culture to daughters as they made clothes or wove mats. The men would weave grass and fashion llama hide into sandals to wear during the day. Most boys would attend school and still be asked to help with daily tasks, though girls were generally supposed to stay home and help with minor things such as weaving baskets.
Some girls named Sun Virgins would eventually end up going to school and eventually ending up working for the ruler of the country. Such families were more privileged but their social status remained the same. In Incan times, there were craftsmen who spent their lives living in comfort because of their trade. Using nothing but gold or silver, they would fashion ornaments for religious purposes, devoting their whole lives to certain projects. In addition to craftsmen, there were potters.
Though the potter’s wheel wasn’t invented at the time, their hand crafted pottery were beautifully made from clay, fired in open furnaces and painted with red, purple, cream and black. The paints were from natural dyes obtained from forest plants. Herders were also important to the society. They raised alpacas, a breed of llama that made up most of their clothing. The vicuna, another llama was hunted for the ruler only, as clothes made from its hide were softer and more durable. Herders were mainly boys.
As llamas are pack animals, they grazed on mountain pastures and kept close together, the young herders would collect llama dung which in the morning would be carted off to the city to use as fuel. The clothes which Incas wore were finely woven but easily succumbed to weather changes. From a young age, girls would learn to weave and beautiful patterns emerged into the long tunics which both boys and girls wore. They also wore a long cloak on top of the tunic, though girls wore skirts in addition to their garments. The Incas lived in houses suited to their social status.
They were mostly decorated with objects nailed to the walls and were huddled close together. There was a main road that ran from one end to the kingdom to another, with plenty of houses along the way. In addition to that, there were rest houses as the road was long and arduous. Built further away were the palaces of the kings and queens, as well as those of higher status. Crime and punishment was a highly rare occasion. Crimes were rare since all Incans were provided with whatever they needed through their own hard work and rations given out weekly.
In the occasion that a theft was committed, the thief would have his hands cut off or his eyes gouged out. The thief was then left in the state with a begging bowl, but was given food and water daily. Throughout the whole Incan empire there was not a single prison. Death was merely sacrificial, of natural causes, or on rare occasion, denying of Incan faith. It was usually done by throwing the person over the cliff. The Incan empire ended when Francisco Pizarro stormed through the land during atahuallpa’s reign, demanding that all Incans should succumb to Christian faith.
When the leader atahuallpa declined, Pizarro’s men killed him, and the city being in turmoil without a leader were killed quickly, with over 3000 Incans killed in an hour, by 200 men from a foreign land. The Spaniards eventually took all the gold from the Incan empire as well as anything else they considered useful. Thus, a vast empire died within the span of a week. In conclusion, the empire was great, had it had an army ready on command, or animals such as horses for battle, they would have risen to be one of the greatest, most prosperous countries in the world.