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Education in the Inca Empire
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How was the Inca education?

The Incas did not have any type of writing. That is why all the information about their form of education comes from the chronicles written by the Spaniards during the conquest and the colony. Likewise, the information was transmitted orally. Thanks to all these sources, today it can be concluded that there was education during the incanato. And it was intended only for the upper social classes.



Concha Cusco Museum - Representation of Inca customs
Concha Cusco Museum – Representation of Inca customs

What was the Inca teaching system like?

  • The education system during the incanato did not cover people in general.
  • It was dedicated specifically to the children of the Inca nobility, the children of the rulers of the villages and the women chosen for their beauty and social status.
  • The education in the incanato lasted 4 years and began at approximately 12 years.
  • As there was no written system, education was based on hearing and memorizing.
  • The teachers who taught were called ‘Amautas’. They taught with practice, repetition and experience.

What was the education of men like in the incanato?

  • The youth school was called ‘ Yachaywasi ‘ (House of Knowledge). There were several in the Inca Empire although the main one was in the current city of Cusco.
  • The children of the nobles received Quechua language instruction in the first year of education.
  • During the second year they learned about the Inca religion.
  • The third year they received education on the interpretation of the quipus.
  • The quipu was the only tool with which it was possible to keep an accurate record of the population and of the products that were produced and stored.
  • The fourth year was destined to teach Inca history.
  • In addition, throughout the time, they also received physical training and military techniques.

How was the education of women in the incanato?

  • The schools for young ladies was called ‘ Acllahuasi ‘ (House of the chosen ones). There were some in the Tahuantinsuyo (Inca Empire) although the main one was in the city of Cusco (in the current Convent of Santa Catalina).
  • Education for women was very different from what men received.
  • However, not all the girls of the Inca empire had the opportunity to go to schools.
  • Only some girls of high social class or of great beauty received education. In the end they were destined to the men of Inca nobility.
  • His education also lasted 4 years and consisted of cooking, weaving, spinning, preparing chicha and religion.
  • Only a small group of them did not maintain any contact with the outside world. They were named as ‘ Virgins of the Sun ‘. Its function was to prepare everything related to religious rites. No one could see or approach them.

How did the Incas graduate?

  • After 4 years of education (at approximately 16 years old), young people had the possibility of graduating through the ceremony of the ‘ Warachicuy ‘.
  • This graduation ceremony consisted of a series of physical and valuable tests such as wrestling, careers, strategy and more.
  • In the end, the young people who passed the ‘Warachicuy’ test in Sacsayhuaman. They received badges, a distinctive dress (earmuffs) and began their military or government life.

What was the education of the Inca people like?

  • The men did not have access to an education if they did not belong to the privileged Inca social class.
  • Thus, young people had a practical education since childhood to allow them to fulfill their daily functions such as planting, harvesting, fighting and more.
  • The parents were responsible for providing education for their children. They were also responsible for providing oral tradition about Inca myths and legends.
  • The parents were also responsible for providing sexual education to young people. This was seen as normal and everyday. Thus, part of the teaching consisted of techniques to prolong erections or how to masturbate.
  • Only some women of the town could access an education. These had to stand out for their beauty. An envoy of the Inca (or the Inca himself) was in charge of visiting the various points of the empire to choose them and take them to the ‘Acllawasi’.
  • The rest of the young women (the vast majority) received a practical education from their mothers: knitting, cooking, childcare, agriculture and more.

Who were the teachers during the incanato?

  • The teachers who taught the noble castes were called ‘Amautas’.
  • The amautas taught oral teaching to the young people who listened to them and memorized their knowledge.
  • The amautas were chosen because they were the wisest men of the Inca empire. They had knowledge of science, religion, history, mathematics and military strategies.
  • They were authorized to punish their young students. However, if they exceeded the punishment, they were also punished.

What were the schools like in Cusco?

  • The Inca Sinchi Roca established the first school for young people ‘Yachaywasi’ in the city of Cusco approximately the fourteenth century.
  • Then the Inca Pachacutec improved and expanded the ‘Yachaywasi’ to other parts of the empire.
  • The schools for young ladies ‘Acllawasi’ were a kind of religious cloisters where no man could enter.
  • The most important ‘Acllawasi’ were in Cusco and in Pachacamac (south of Lima). Currently, the latter is in a state of conservation and can be visited.
  • On the basis of the ‘Acllawasi’ of Cusco, the current Convent of Santa Catalina ‘was built in the city of Cuzco.

What were the sciences developed by the Incas?

  • Inca education had high developments in various sciences such as astronomy, medicine, mathematics and surgery.
  • In medicine , the Incas stood out for the ‘cranial trepanations’. These operations were necessary during periods of war.
  • In mathematics , the Incas made their constructions based on physical geometric calculations. Thus, the walls of Machu Picchu, Tipón, Sacsayhuaman, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Choquequirao, remain untouched until today.
  • In astronomy , the Incas identified constellations, stars, seasons, solstices and equinoxes. This information served to better choose planting and harvest time.
  • The oral tradition was an important pillar in Inca education. In this way, the Incas transmitted legends of their foundation and the creation of the world.

Key aspects in Inca education

  • Inca education was a privilege of the upper social classes. The people (the vast majority) learned practical tools simply at home with their parents.
  • This educational system worked thanks to the cultural vision in which there was no individuality. The man and the woman belonged to a great system in which each piece (family) was important.
  • Climbing socially was not allowed in the incanato.

Oral tradition

The quipus

  • The quipu was an instrument used by the Incas to maintain accounting and statistical information in the empire. It consisted of a series of wool ropes where knots stood out.

Laws

  • The Incas possessed basic and easily understood laws that maintained order in the empire. Disobedience was punished exemplary with whipping and even death.
  • The Inca laws were:
    • Ama Súa (Quechua word that means ‘don’t be a thief’).
    • Ama Kella (Quechua word that means ‘don’t be lazy’).
    • Ama Hulla (Quechua word that means ‘don’t be a liar’).

Amautas

  • The amautas were the masters of the upper Inca social classes. They taught in the ‘Yachaywasi’ the young future Inca rulers.
  • They were chosen for their wisdom in laws, history, mathematics, morals and military techniques.

Mamaconas

  • The mamaconas (or mamacunas) were the teachers of the young ladies who resided in the ‘Acllawasi’. They were instructed to be priestesses, virgins of the sun or new mamaconas.
  • They were chosen for their knowledge in religious rituals as well as their ability to cook, weave, prepare chicha and other household chores.

 

By Ticket Machu Picchu – Last updated, August 1, 2019