Inca Civilization History
A glimpse into the mystical world of the Inca - and the Spanish invasion that decimated their world.
The Inca of Peru have long held a mystical fascination for people of the Western world. Four hundred years ago the fabulous wealth in gold and silver possessed by these people was discovered, then systematically pillaged and plundered by Spanish conquistadors. The booty they carried home altered the whole European economic system. And in their wake, they left a highly developed civilization in tatters. That a single government could control many diverse tribes, many of which were secreted in the most obscure of mountain hideaways, was simply remarkable. But, who were the Incas? What was their life like? And how did their end come about?
No one really knows where the Incas came from. While they share similarities with the ancient Egyptians, there are also marked differences. Interestingly, as with nearly all ancient peoples, Inca legend claims that the original people were flood survivors who ‘by hiding in a hollow up on a very high mountain peak, were saved and repopulated the whole earth.’ The parallel with the Bible’s Flood account is striking.
Inca society was made up of ayllus, which were clans of families who lived and worked together. Each allyu was supervised by a curaca or chief. Families lived in thatched-roof houses built of stone and mud. Furnishings were unkown with families sitting and sleeping on the floor.
The Inca were a deeply religious people. They feared that evil would befall at any time. Sorcerors held high positions in society as protectors from the spirits. They also believed in reincarnation, saving their nail clippings, hair cuttings and teeth in case the returning spirit needed them.
The religious and societal center of Inca life was contained in the middle of the sprawling fortress known as Sacsahuaman. Here was located Cuzco, the home of the Inca Lord and site of the sacred Temple of the Sun. At such a place the immense wealth of the Inca was clearly evident with gold and silver decorating every edifice. The secret of Inca wealth was the mita. This was a labor program imposed upon every Inca by the Inca ruler. Since it only took about 65 days a year for a family to farm for its own needs, the rest of the time was devoted to working on Temple-owned fields, building bridges, roads, temples, and terraces, or extracting gold and silver from the mines. The work was controlled through chiefs of thousands, hundreds and tens.
Inca society continued uninterrupted in this way for hundreds of years. The appearance of light-skinned strangers during the rule of Atahuallpa, however, was to forever change things for the Inca. Deadly plague would soon sweep through the Inca empire. Those that survived had to face the swords and cannons of the invading Spanish. After leading the Spanish to more gold than they had ever before seen, even Lord Atahuallpa was strangled by his Spanish captors. Thus, a proud and highly organized people who at one time numbered to about 6 million, was crushed and the sun had set on the golden age of the Inca empire.