Meet the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, when he landed in Peru back in 1532, not even in his craziest dream could believe that he will find a unimaginable and almost unlimited riches. He found and empire in full bloom, with temples paved in pure gold.
One of the most amazing temples in south America is called The Coricancha, or Temple of Gold, boasted an extraordinary ornamental garden, where the clods of earth, maize plants complete with leaves and corn cobs, were fashioned in shiny silver and a gold. Nearby the place grazed a flock of 20 golden llamas and their lambs, watched over by solid gold shepherds. Inca nobles strolled around on sandals with silver soles protecting their feet from the head streets of Cuzco.
The Inca called their empire ”Tahuantinsuyu”, or Land of the Four Quarters. It stretched 2,500 miles from Quito, Ecuador, to beyond Santiago, Chile. Within it’s domain were rich coastal settlements, high mountain valleys, rain-drenched tropical forests and the driest of deserts in the world .The Inca controlled perhaps 10 million people, speaking a hundred different tongues. It was the largest and advanced empire on earth at the time. One of the most fascinating facts are that when Pizarro executed its last emperor, Atahualpa, the Inca Empire was only 50 years old at that time.
The true history of the Inca is still being written and it’s a living breathing mystery. According to one story, four brothers emerged from Lake Titicaca. One day during a long and exhausting journey, all but one disappeared. Manco Capac was the only one who survived to plunge a golden staff into the ground where the Rios Tullamayo and Huantanay meet. He founded the sacred city of Cuzco.
The Sacred City of Cuzco, a living breathing testimony of the Inca empire.
Cuzco is placed in a mountain valley 10,000 feet above sea level. It was the center of the Inca world, it’s their most important city. The first emperor, Pachacuti, transformed it from a modest village to a great and impotent city, laid out in the shape of the brave puma. He also installed Inti, the Sun God, as the Incas’ official patron, building him a great and impotent temple.
He did something else, something brilliant, which explains the Inca’s sudden rise to power and glory. He expanded the cult of ancestor worship of their gods. It’s been told that when a ruler died, his son received all his earthly powers, just the powers but none of his earthly possessions, not a single one , All his land, buildings, and servants went to his ”Panaqa”, or other male close relatives. The relatives used it to preserve his mummy and sustain his political influence.
Fun fact, in the inca empire the dead emperors maintained a living presence in the empire. A new ruler had to create his own income in own wealth. The only way to do that was to grab new lands, subdue more people, as a way to expand the Empire of the sun.
Life in traditional Andean villages was fragile. One married couple would help another planting or harvesting crops and other consumables. They would receive help in their own fields in return. The Inca tailored this practice of reciprocity of give and take the call this “trueque”, they din’t need any kind of currency.
Their cities centered on the great plazas where they threw vast parties for neighboring chiefs. This festivities continued for days on end, sometimes lasting a month. Dignitaries were fed, and given gifts of gold, jewels, and textiles, this was very common and in some parts of Peru this events are still present to this very day, Only then would the Inca make their requests for labor, to increase food production, to build irrigation schemes, to terrace hillsides, or to extend the limits of the empire considerably.
Machu Picchu and its role in the Empire.
There is no denying that the Incas were great builders. They loved stone , almost as much as they revered gold. The magical Machu Picchu, a frontier fortress and a sacred site, a mystic column, the hitching post of the Sun, is carved from the living rock. Another slab is shaped to echo the mountain beyond. The temples and fortifications at Machu Picchu were constructed from vast, pillowy boulders, some weighing 100 tons or more. yet the incredible thing is that they constructed wi this without the help of a mortar.The joins between them are so tight as to deny a knife-blade entry. A vast labor force was required to built this behemoth. There are records of 20 or more men, working on a single stone, chipping away.
Every mile and a half they built way stations as resting points. Bands of official runners raced between them covering 150 miles a day. A message could be sent 1200 miles from Cuzco to Quito in under a week This runners were called ”chasquis”, everyone was expected to contribute to the empire. Land was divided in three. One third was worked for the emperor, one third was reserved for the gods, and one third the people kept for themselves. All were required to pay taxes as tribute.The Incas could not write. Tax collectors and bureaucrats kept track of things with a ”kipu”, a sort of abacus that also carry massages withing its knotted strings. Varying lengths, colors, knot-types, and positions, enabled them to store enormous quantities of information.
Despite its glory, the Incas was a brittle empire, held together by promises and threats. One tragic day the Spanish leader Francisco Pizarro captured and ransomed the last Inca emperor, Atahuallpa for 24 tons of pure gold, an overkill fortune even today, after receiving thir payment they strangled Atahuallpa Away. When Pizarro executed the last emperor, the Inca empire rapidly collapsed. Catholic priests demanding allegiance to a new for them religion call roman catholicism. The Christian god soon replaced Viracocha, despite this event the beauty and mystery of the Inca empire is is stiil intact in their traditions and monuments