Inca 1300 – 1550

Major Accomplishments: nited South America's west coast for two hundred years, 4000 mile long Inca road, Machu Pichu, Quipu rope record keeping system

Inca Empire Video:

The Inca Overview
The Inca began their rein in the year 1350.c.e. The Inca were a loose confederation of tribes ruled by a royal family. The Inca was a costal empire that at its peak covered an area close to two million square kilometers stretching along South America’s eastern coast from nowadays Quito, Ecuador to Santiago, Chile. Inca rulers were able to control their empire easily with the magnificent and extensive road system they created. This allowed the Inca to better communicate across the empire thus allowing for rapid deployment of troops to troubled spots. The roads also made it possible for the Inca to transport the huge boulders which ultimately led to the construction of some of the Incas greatest creations such as Macchu Picchu.

Inca Beginning
After a long time migrating throughout the Andes Mountains the Inca finally settled around Lake Titicaca. For a while the Inca lived as one of many peoples in the region until Pachacuti came to power around 1438.c.e. Pachacuti began a series of military campaigns that greatly expanded the Incas authority. It is said that Pachacuti was a great warrior, so much so that Inca legends state that he fought battles so furiously that he inspired the stones in the battle field to fight alongside him. This could be one of the reasons why he was given the name Pachacuti which means “earthshaker”. Pachacuti’s campaigns were long and brutal but all ended in victory, extending the Inca’s borders even further across the Andes Mountains.   

Inca Roads
The grand and seemingly infinite Inca roads were the empires most important accomplishments, stretching nearly 4,000 miles across the land. The roads were centuries ahead of their time. So good that when the Spanish came to the new world they were amazed with the roads, six carts wide, with trees providing shade for travelers. Some of the Spanish even stated that the Inca roads were better than those of Spain. Considering the fact that the Inca had not yet invented the wheel thus not having any carts or chariots you would wonder why their roads would be so wide? Some experts believe the roads were designed in this way for easy transportation of boulders from the quarry to the building site could be easier.

Inca Stone Building Technique
Another huge accomplishment by the Inca was their incredible stone buildings; not only were they able to build in places that seem inaccessible, like the tops of mountain ridges, but just the way these buildings were constructed was amazing. The Inca did not have bricks; instead they used stones to pound the boulders smooth. This way they could be placed between other boulders without the use of mortar. This is why when looking at an ancient Inca wall it can tend to resemble a puzzle. The greatest site in which the Incas made that uses this type of building style is known today as Macchu Picchu.



Inca Dynasty  (1350-1550)

Inca c. 1350 – 1550


  • Western coast of S. America
  • Total Pop: 10 million

Inca Politics

  • Capital at Cuzco, religious center Machu Pichu
  • 4000 miles in length
  • Made up of hundreds of tribes loosely ruled by the Inca
  • Empire included deserts along the coast, jungle and high mountain villages
  • Loose confederation of tribes
  • Smart captives were trained/brainwashed in Cuzco to rule for Inca and then sent back home to be Incan governors
  • Maintain authority by trading supplies to “good” regions and not to “bad” regions
  • Constant need to expand in order to support the trade/bribery with other regions
  • Divine Kings
  • Emperor and principle wife seen as gods
  • Inca nobility dominate the bureaucracy
  • Macchu Picchu

Incan Economy

  • Agriculturally based –
  • terraced farming,
  • different crops based on location and altitude
  • Lots of labor/workers necessary for transport of goods
  • Excellent Roads/infrastructure for transfer of goods from coastal desert to jungle to mountain villages
  • Trade from different regions provided lots of different food to eat
  • Domesticated and bred hundreds of varieties of potatoes, tomatoes, peppers

Incan Religion

  • Religious tolerance but must worship Incan gods
  • Polytheistic, sun god is most importantþ
  • Human sacrifice rare
  • Great Inca – emperor, descendant of the sun god

Incan Social Life

  • Diverse geography = diverse population
  • Social hierarchy
  • Kings/nobles
  • Merchants/rich
  • Farmers
  • slaves
  • land/money split to several heirs kept people more equal in wealth
  • “Mita” – obligation to the empire (military service/public works)þ
  • women have almost no rights but work hard farming and run the home

Inca Intellectual life and Art

  • No writing!
  • Incan Knots (Quipu) used to keep records of taxes, population, trade and names
  • Mummies are common
  • Nazca lines in the desert sand form animal shapes (possibly festival dancing patterns?)
  • Quipus (FYI only)
  • Quipu means "to tie".
  • A quipu was composed of a rope to which a collection of counting-threads, each about 60 centimeters long, were tied.   
  • Information was recorded on the threads using different materials, colors, ties and placement. The most important information was placed on the leftmost thread. Yellow, white, and red represented gold, silver, and soldiers, respectively.
  • In a population census, men and women were counted on separate quipus, in which the:
    • 1st thread recorded persons over the age of 60
    • 2nd thread recorded persons between 50 and 60 years ...
    • 8th thread recorded babies, 0-1 years.
    • When an event was to be recorded, a Quipu was used to store facts. The story itself had to be memorized and could be retold using the Quipu's recorded facts. Interpretation of a Quipu was complicated because every counter, Quipucamayo , used his own system of ties and retold information from the Quipu orally


Inca Dynasty Multiple Choice Questions:

1. How were the Incas different religiously from the Aztecs?

a.      The Incas were tolerant religiously compared to the Aztecs

b.      The Inca didn’t consider rulers to be gods

c.      Machu Picchu was the capital of the Aztecs while the Incas had no religious capital

d.      The Incas were monotheist.


2. Where was the Inca capital located?

a.      Amazonian  river valleys

b.      wide open coastal deserts

c.      high in the Andes Mountains

d.      Near Lake Titicaca


3. Which of the following is true about the Inca civilization?

a.      Inca empire used the theocracy system for ruling

b.      The Inca had a well-known written language

c.      They had Incan moral code, which was: don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t be lazy

d.      Most popular food eaten was bread.


4. How did the Incas keep records of population and economy?

 a.      rope tied with knots called quipus 

 b.      a phonetic alphabet 

 c.      various colored marks on their temples 

 d.      a hieroglyphic writing system 


5. ________ was the great Incan ruler who established a large, powerful empire in the 1440s.

 a.      Topa Inca 

 b.      Pachacuti 

 c.      Pizarro 

 d.      Moche