The rise and fall of the Inca Empire

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How did the Inca Empire rise and fall, developing settlements like Machu Picchu, engineering farmland and massive stone formations, whilst only lasting 95 years?

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The Incan Empire was the largest civilisation in the Americas before 1492, and the largest in the world at its time; they extended from Quito and Santiago across the west of South America. They conquered other people and used the harsh Andean environment to their advantage, forging landscapes from simple plains, treacherous mountains, scorching deserts, and tropical rainforests, to unique art and buildings. They changed natural places spectacularly, leaving modern day professionals impressed with world famous sites such as Machu Picchu.

Ancient fortress Machu Picchu (built between 1438 and 1471), once home to around 1000 people is found in the Andes above the river Urubamba.

According to Inca legend, in the beginning, Viracocha (the creator god) emerged from the Pacific Ocean. He arrived at Lake Titicaca and created the sun and all cultural communities; the god buried these first people, and they emerged later from sacred pacarinas (springs and rocks) back into the world. The Incas became existent at Tiwanaku (pronounced ‘Ti-a-huan-a-co’) from Inti (the sun god); they considered themselves as the chosen ‘Children of the Sun’ - their ruler was Inti’s bodily representation on Earth. The first Incas settled in the Valley of Cusco and Manco Capac, which later developed into their capital, Cusco.


                                           The Incas developed extremely fast; speakers of their language Quechua became the noble class who dominated the important jobs within the Empire. Thupa Inka Yupanki (from 1471) expanded the empire by over 4000 kilometres (2500 miles). They called their empire Tawantinsuyo (‘Land of the Four Quarters’ / ‘The Four Parts Together’); Cusco was regarded as the centre of the world, and ceques (sacred sighting lines) spread to each quarter - Chinchaysuyu (north), Antisuyu (east), Collasuyu (south), and Cuntisuyu (west). Stretching over 5500 kilometres (3400 miles) from north to south, the Inca Empire spread across ancient Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, and Columbia.

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Government and Administration

The Incas kept lists of their kings (Sapa Inca); we know of Pachakuti Inka Yupanki (reign 1438-63 CE), Thupa Inka Yupanki (reign 1471-93 CE), and Wayna Qhapaq (the last pre-Hispanic ruler, reign 1493-1525 CE). Two kings may have ruled at the same time, and queens may have had some powers, but it is unclear in the Spanish records. The Incas mummified their rulers; the mallquis (mummies) were ...

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