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Incas

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The Macchu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Sit...

The Macchu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site near Cusco in Peru, at twilight by Martin St-Amant via Wikipedia

The Inca Empire began as a small kingdom of Quechua-speaking Indians in the central Andean highlands.

In the 11th-century, the Incas built a sacred capital at Cuzco, the City of the Sun, which would have been the South American equivalent of the Vatican. By the 15th century, the Inca empire had extended along the entire western region of South America into Bolivia.

The Incas had a complex system of roads, which were more like walkways, too steep and bumpy for wheeled vehicles. There existed an equally complex system of agriculture, apportioning different types of yield to different levels of hillside land.

An abundance of pottery has been found at archeological sites. Incas made jars to brew and drink beer and they ate off plates. They also had impressive aquaducts for drinking, bathing and irrigation, along with an intricate system of knotted ropes (quipu) for keeping accurate records of agricultural stores.

While the Incas did not possess writing as we understand it, they used the complicated quipu system, which is only partially deciphered today, to great advantage. It has been suggested that the quipu follows a different type of logic than ours.

Incas placed a high value on cloth. More than a practical, economic or aesthetic commodity, cloth signified dignity and status to the point where soldiers refused to fight if not presented with adequate garments.

The Incas had an efficient messenger service consisting of a series of runners, not unlike the ancient Greeks. They had no money. Taxation was collected through mandatory agricultural labor on the King’s lands. At the height of the empire, the Incas built massive gold-covered temples. They were conquered in the mid-16th century by the Spaniard, Francisco Pizzaro, and were subsequently Christianized.

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