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Inca culture
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Culture of the Inca Empire

For the inhabitants of the Inca Empire, as well as for cultures that preceded it, the water and land, were the basis of social order and their worldview. Despite the beauty of its landscapes, life in areas of mountains it’s pretty hard. Well, water is a scarce resource, which is accessed by seasons. In addition to a fairly rugged terrain, making agriculture a very hard work. For this reason the Incas sought to expand agricultural areas, building terraces complemented by complex irrigation systems.


Cultural Events of the Incas

Andean Worldview

The Andean worldview, based on two elements water and earth, created a sort of divine couple, the god of water and Mother Earth (Pachamama). In addition it was divided into three levels:

  1. Hanan Pacha, the upper world, inhabited by the gods, the god of water (depicted as a flying creature) and the stars, the sun, moon and stars
  2. Kay Pacha, the world below, and this world here, where men live.
  3. Uku Pacha, the world of the dead and the unborn.

Life after death

The Inca civilization as many civilizations in the world believed in life after death, being the death the prolongation of earthly life, therefore, the dead were buried with objects that could meet their own needs of the living. It is for that the sovereign dead were preserved by the panacas, and treated as if they had life.

Duality and Reciprocity

The way you see the world of the Incas, was based on duality and reciprocity. The first said, that everything in the world had a complement, and second, an institution through which nations subject or associated they lent support to the empire in exchange for certain benefits.


Political division of the Inca culture

The social pyramid was headed by the Inca and real panacas of Cusco (city that housed the families of the former rulers), and the popular classes made up of artisans, farmers, fishermen, and mitimaes yanas. Between them was an administrative class, priests and visitors who depended on the Inca, in charge of running the state system.

Social Pyramid

  • Royalty – Sapa Inca ("Capac Inca"), was the most important person of the empire, had authority as king of the Tahuantinsuyo. The Inca had absolute power over the Inca people, taking all appropriate decisions for the growing of the town. This government was centralized in the capital of the Empire, the city of Cusco.

    • Inca
    • The Coya: Wife of Inca
    • The Auqui: Son of Inca and heir
  • Nobility – In the Inca civilization, the rulers come mainly from two major lineages, Hanan Cusco and Hurin Cusco, the Inca death produces an political instability between the two lineages and the descendants of the last emperor, since when ascending a new Inca, it is formed an offspring or actual panaca. We know of the existence of at least a dozen panacas in the history of the Empire.
    It is estimated that there were more than 10,000 people belonging to the noble blood of the Inca Empire at the time of his fall, whom were serving works of administration and military. One of the strategies to ratify the Inca conquest of other peoples, was to make marriage alliances between local caciques and the daughters of concubines of the Inca, to create ties that allow the occupation without using force. It was also customary for the daughters of the cacique were delivered to the Inca, to be part of his harem.

    • Nobility of Blood: Other members of the Panacas (relatives of the former Inca). What were the real panacas? – They were the direct descendants of the Inca and formed the elite of the empire. They played an important role in politics Inca Empire, and its alliances and enmities, built the history of the Inca capital. It is said that there were other panacas, which played an important role in the past to Tahuantinsuyo.
    • Nobility of Privilege: People who emphasized by their services; Priests, Acllas and senior chiefs.
  • Ayllus – It was a form of family association extensive native of the Andes, with a common ancestry, who performed group work in a given territory in common. A group of ten ayllus formed a dodgy; a hundred were pachacas; a thousand guarangas and ten thousand, unus.
    This system greatly facilitates the population census conducted by the quipucamayocs, so it was possible to know exactly the number of working people in every region of the empire.

    • Hatun Runa: Peasants (they paid tribute).
    • Mitimaes: Responsible for colonize new areas and teach the people customs of empire. The popular class deserves two special mentions:
      Mitmaq or mitimaes, large family groups who were away from their hometowns to meet labor work in major construction, border surveillance, pacification of the conquered areas, among others. They were moved from place to place with their leaders, besides being forced to wear clothes with emblems to differentiate themselves from the native population.
    • Yanas: Serving the Inca and empire.
    • Pinas: Prisoners of war. And the yanas, people who lose contact with their ayllus and were taken to distant places to fulfill certain tasks. Mamaconas (female counterpart of the yanas) were young women recruited to serve in the acllahuasi, they were dedicated to make textiles and prepare chicha, religious and reciprocity purposes.


Expansion of the Empire

As the worldview reflected human concern for food security, the social organization of the empire, was aimed at productivity and expanding borders to earn higher farmland. The most important Inca age was between 25 and 50, a time when men and women reached the prime of life (farmers, soldiers or mitimaes).

The organization of the Empire, had to meet the growing needs of a rapidly expanding empire. A basic need that allowed support the nobility, the army and the bureaucracy. For this reason, the Spaniards in their raid to Cusco they found large colcas (stores), full of all kinds of food and utensils necessary for the maintenance of the Empire, from clothes and shoes to weapons. Possible only thanks to community work or mita.

The huge empire also added ethnicities and towns in a vast territory, but this was not enough to stop his fall. While the society managed to cover all basic needs, many liberties were restricted and regulated by strict social control.

The defeated ethnicities (desirous of revenge) allied with the Spanish invaders, to make possible the fall of Tahuantinsuyo. The same group of people that was able to lift the largest buildings in the most inhospitable places, and shaped almost at will, such rugged terrain and complex as Peru.


By Ticket Machu Picchu – Last Update, 03-11-2015