History Of The Inca Empire

2195 words (9 pages) Essay

27th Apr 2017 History Reference this


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The Inca Empire was located in present day Peru. The civilization arose in the early 13th century from the Peru highlands. The religious beliefs of the Incas differed broadly from those of the invading Spaniards. The Incas believed that humanity came into existence via trial and error of the Sun while Spaniards used the Catholic doctrines that followed the biblical version where creation is considered a unique act of divinity. Being a community of diverse beliefs, the Incas had creation stories that explained nature by use of analogy. For example, the community would justify the conversion of human beings into rocks by gods as they created new creatures, by use of such tales. Some Andeans were able to understand Christianity after persistent efforts of Friar Domingo who correlated Andean myths and symbolism to those of his faith (Gade 39).

He used the local Quechua dialect to relate/analogize Christian beliefs. For instance, through analogy Andeans were able to relate angels to helpers of their gods Viracocha, Ataguju and Catequil, and decipher any misconception associated with such pedagogies. From a political aspect, the indigenous authorities had a highly stratified political organization with hereditary rulers selected by a team of elders and the entire kingdom was ruled through an aristocratic system. All the taxes levied on the people were considered fair and wealth was communal. Indigenous authorities also used religious specialists to advice on the seasons of planting and harvest, to receive victory by asking their deities for strength during battles and to provide remedies for sickness or catastrophes threatening the community. They considered their beliefs and culture sacred and this where their reverence stemmed for these leaders. The Spaniards on the other hand had their religious and leadership originate from the king of Spain (i.e. the Spanish government) who ensured that power was exercised over the indigenous people so as to gain wealth and free labor from them. In Peru, the Spaniards and Creoles practiced Christianity. They lived in cities which exercised jurisdiction over their land and resources. This meant they had political supremacy over the indigenous people who were conquered during the Spaniard invasion of the Inca kingdom. They were able to easily conquer the Incas because they eliminated their king. This crippled their hierarchical leadership because they did not garner enough time to appoint another king from the set lineage. The symbiosis of ecclesiastical and government authorities of the Spaniards and Creoles gave them political mileage over the local population as was marked during the succession ceremony of Charles V as the king of Spain (Wilson 118).

Inca and other Andean traditions survived because of the resilient nature of the community systems that were well established in their culture. The Andean aristocracies were highly revered by the natives, and without their consent labor would not be released to the Spaniards and Creoles. This means that the cultures were strongly encouraged in the regions overseen by such aristocratic leaders. Moreover the symbolism of deities in the native religion correlated with the sculptures and statues of the Catholic religion. This encouraged the native people to maintain aspects of their beliefs that were somewhat similar to those of Christianity. Nonetheless, change occurred at this point because the indigenous people began to grasp and adapt to the lifestyle of the colonial powers through intermarriage and joint religious celebrations. Ethnic classes were determined by property ownership and land tenure. The more wealth one had in these terms, the high-esteemed one was. Since the Spaniards and Creoles introduced these systems to favor their conquest of the local people, they were of the highest ethnic or social class while the conquered Incas and other Andean groups were of the lowest class (McEwan 142). Gender conflicts were rampant in Peru. Men and women of Spanish and Creole descent were obviously favored by the established colonial structure. Individuals with proven privileged ancestry from the conquerors received favor by means of association. In all the societies, whether local or Spaniard affiliated, the women were considered second-rated to men.


Lima and Cuzco are regions mentioned as an important part of South American history. Lima and Cuzco were similar in their layout which was symmetrical in structure. Lima had a series of straight streets emanating from a central plaza endowed with a church, town hall and the pillory.Cuzco on the other hand consisted of indigenous settlements that had rounded homes within their symmetrical design. The major institutions in Lima were those of Spanish origin with the central plaza as described earlier while Cuzco had simple Inca and Andean homesteads. The evolution of Lima started prior to that of Cuzco.it was once an open unprotected town with minimal defenses (i.e. a small fort, some artillery with no moat, bastions or walls of any kind). The construction of walls began in 1685 when it became necessary to form a safe military and economic haven for its inhabitants. its “nakedness” was transformed with the building of an enclosure in the central part of the city with bastions and a defensive wall of adobe.Cuzco differed from Lima in that it had old Inca walls and lacked any constructions with Spanish influence until reforms took place under Queen Isabella’s urban policy around 1582.Cuzco was one of the towns literally founded on top of existing indigenous groups (Silverman 126).

Politics played a key role for both Lima and Cuzco because the rules and culture originated from the leadership which was mainly Spaniard. The use of policia in Lima signified life in the community whose citizens were organized into a republic. Moreover, the res publica described the citizens as being governed by law. According to a judge in the high court of Lima (i.e. Juan de Sol√≥rzano), laws formed a protective ever vigilant palisade. In Cuzco, forced urbanization of the natives into “reducciones”governed by policia proved ineffective because the indigenous people returned to their cultural ways and failed to conform to this form of administration. The inhabitants of Lima were Spaniards and this facilitated their development which was not comparable to that of Casco where the deities of the natives strongly influenced their culture. Furthermore, natives and blacks inhabited Cuzco in large numbers. This meant they automatically suffered ethic discrimination from their Spaniard conquerors. Evidence of this is the manner in which they underpaid the native and black workers when the constructions of towns were in progress. Also when the Spaniard administrators questioned the less orderly of the layout in Lima, the town officials defended themselves by saying that the peripheral areas of their city were inhabited by natives and blacks who did not form a significant/considerable part of the population (Andrien 186).

Faith formed the most important component of South America’s spiritual walls. Lima and Cuzco invoked different saints. This created a complex religious patchwork in the spiritual fabric of this part of the world at that time. All the inhabitants of both towns integrated particular saints through the use of volve paintings, processions (commonly resembled by the festival of Corpus Christi in Cuzco, and recital of prayers. For example, recital prayers were evidenced where Cuzquenos invoked Lady of Mercy to save the remainder of their city during a great earthquake in 1649. Verification of the conversion of the few natives in Lima to the Catholic religion marked the emergence of the first New World Saints. One specific saint who is proof of this is Santa Rosa de Santa Mari whose cult was initially tied to Lima (Wilson 98).

Question 3 Discussion

Textiles and more especially garments are “documents” of Inca culture because they incorporate the aesthetics, religious and social values of these people. Preserved garments from the Inca and early colonial periods provide insights into the mindset and traditions of the Andeans. The male garment was called the uncu.It is a knee-length sleeveless tunic made from uncut lengths of cloth which are either of a single length or multiple lengths sewn together. When constructing the single length, the weavers needed to know the accurate arm and neck openings during weaving. A unique scaffolding element such as heavy yarn or a stick was used as an anchor to reverse the warp yarns at the neck position so as to fashion a fully finished neck opening without cutting any threads. After weaving, the fabric was turned ninety degrees, folded at the shoulder line and stitched down the sides. The edges and seams would then be meticulously covered with embroidery. The result is a virtually seamless garment in which the front and back, and inside and outside are identical and complex. The primary formats comprise the “checkerboard” tunic, the “Inca key” tunic with repeating geometric pattern of diagonal bars and squares in the upper section and horizontal bands along the lower section, or waistband tunics and those with small square geometric patterns called tocapu forming an elite representation of the Inca. Evidence of this uncu was found on the remains of a young boy in the high peaks of the Copiapo volcano in Southern Andes. The fastening technique of knots between the uncu and its mantle is depicted in the drawings of Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala (Silverman 141).Men’s mantles were undecorated and not as finely woven as those of women. The second type of uncu is that for women called anacu. It was a large untailored rectangular cloth wrapped around the body. Metal pins were used to fasten the top edges which met at the shoulders, leaving the rest to drape. A wide decorated belt was tied around the waist. Proof of these garments was discovered on the bodies of young women and girls frozen in high-altitude mountaintop shrines in the 1980s.Similarly dressed miniature figurines were found with these remains. Before they were found, the main sources of the garments were preserved in the Pachacamac archeaologiclal site about seventeen miles south of present day Lima. The uncus must have been worn folded in half with the stripes oriented horizontally which was uniquely a female design concept. The shoulder mantle worn by women is called a llidla. It was the hallmark of a woman’s identity in society (i.e. the color, design and pattern depicted her position in society, origin, region, clan and marital status). Llidlas were rectangular with tripartite design counter posing patterned and solid color areas (Horswell 134). They were two basic sizes with the long ones meant to be folded in half and the short ones worn unfolded. In addition to these two garments worn by women, there was the nanaca which was worn folded on the head. The women’s’ uncus were more intricate in design,material,color and symbolism while the mens’had no status affliations.similarities of the uncus lie in the colors which tended to match when both parties were involved in certain rituals and ceremonies (Andrien 106).

The high quality cloth termed cumbi made a great contribution to the textile industry of the Inca. It was used by the royal administration to set itself apart from the other indigenous Andean cultures. The garments made from cumbi were worn by the royal family, other nobility, religious officials and those accorded the privilege by the king. Despite the Spanish invasion that nearly destroyed the Inca kingdom, the cumbi style of weaving has been passed down from one generation to another since the pre-colonial times. There have been a few modifications due to Spanish influence over time but the superiority of the Inca textile industry has been preserved in the highland villages throughout the Andes (Horswell 168). The textiles that were worn by religious leaders are considered an important treasure to the Incas. Remnants of these sacred garments (i.e. q’epi) have been safeguarded by some Inca descendants in the Coroma village, southwest region of Bolivia. Textiles indeed formed a significant portion of the culture and creativity of the Andean communities.

Work cited

Andrien, Kenneth. Andean worlds: indigenous history, culture, and consciousness under Spanish rule. Albuquerque, New Mexico: UNM Press, 2001

Gade, Daniel. Nature and culture in the Andes. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1999.

Horswell, Michael. Decolonizing the sodomite: queer tropes of sexuality in colonial Andean culture. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2005.

McEwan, Gordon. The Incas: new perspectives. Oxford, USA: ABC-CLIO, 2006

Silverman, Helaine. Andean archaeology. London, UK: Wiley-Blackwell Publishers, 2004

Wilson, Jason. The Andes: a cultural history. Oxford, USA: Oxford University Press, 2009

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