Peru - A History of the Incas

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By Cj Simmo

The Incas adopted Cusco as its holy capital in AD 1438, giving it the name Qosqo, meaning 'bellybutton ' or 'navel of the world'. Its rise in appreciation as a vital centre coincided with the emperor Pachacuti coming to power, at a point when the Incas were actually making themselves known throughout South America.

Although the Incas were around for over 300 years, the mark they made on the history books was only truly in the last 100 years of these. Prior to the Inca Empire, it was pretty different cultures that dominated society "the Moche, Nazca and Tiahuanuc. Each culture was characterised by their architecture, ceramics, jewellery or textiles, which are marked with their explicit symbols and patterns. These cultures coexisted simultaneously for hundreds of years, usually peacefully, but in later years the Tiahuanuco culture became particularly dominant throughout most of Peru. Assorted tribes developed inside these cultures and internal war faring shortly caused the Tiahuanuco culture to slowly disappear. It got replaced by a bunch of small empires along the coast, the most notable being the Chimu who created the Chan Chan complicated near Trujillo. Inland, 3 clans developed, including the Incas who, under the rule of Manco Capac established themselves at Cusco around AD1200. It took the Incas over 200 years to develop from a large tribal unit into an Empire.

Once established, the Inca Empire swiftly became the biggest and strongest ever witnessed in South America. The name Inca originally applied only to the Emperor, but today refers to the full nation of some 20 million Indians. At their top, the Incas ruled over territory stretching 5500km from southern Colombia to the Maule River in central Chile, and eastwards as far as the fringes of the Amazon Basin.

Many sides of the organisation and structure of Inca society were inherited from prior cultures. Using the existing cultures and clans, utilising buildings and towns, the Incans developed on what was already there. That's not to say the Inca's relied completely on what had been before them and they set about assembling large fortresses, urban and agricultural centers and temples.

The Incas have become well known for their impressive design. They came up with a system of carving massive, multi-angled stone blocks with remarkable precision. The stone used was frequently terribly hard igneous rock, like granite, which is particularly difficult to cut. Though these blocks are all irregularly formed, they interlock perfectly. The walls were built to resist the considerable seismic activity common in the Andes.

Rambling around the city centre we caught glimpses of this famous Inca inheritance "cobbled streets coated with the remains of the wonderful Inca design. In many cases more modern buildings had been assembled right on top, and next to the Incan stonewalls.

When the Spanish arrived in Peru in 1526, under the command of Francisco Pizzaro, it heralded the demise of the Incan Empire. Impressed by the in depth mineral deposits of the Inca Empire, Pizzaro sailed back to Spain to recruit a regiment of fortune hunters. The Inca were warriors, with a powerful and powerful armed forces but they were no match for the 160 Spanish guns Pizzaro had enrolled and they quickly crushed a 40,000 strong Inca force.

In 1532, the Inca leader, Atahualpa was ambushed and held for ransom, but even 20 tons of gold and silver did not buy the release of the caught Inca leader. In 1533 Atahualpa was 'tried ' and executed. By 1535, the Inca society was totally overthrown. In the same year Pizzaro set up the town of Lima, which quickly replaced Cusco as the major commercial centre for the Andean nations. The new Inca ruler Manco Inca managed to flee from Cusco with a division of 50,000 and held out till 1572 when the resistance finished with his capture and beheading after a failed rebellion.

In the act of defeating the Incas, the Spanish managed to dismantle the majority of the Incan temples, fortresses and fine buildings. The arrival of their own architectural concepts concerned knocking down structures and utilizing the stones for their new buildings, frequently just placing their new buildings on top of existing foundations.

This is no more obvious than at the church of Santo Domingo. Also known as Coricancha, it's a fine example of the Spanish culture imposing on Incan history. The church comprises of a fabulous courtyard, in the centre of which is an. Octagonal grey-stone coffer. Called the Cusco Automobile Urumi (the Exposed Naval Stone), it presumably represented the center of a field planted by the Incans with corn fashioned out of pure gold. The stone was especially symbolical and had been trapped by countless Incan churches. The Spanish proceeded to build the church around it, plundering the 55kg of gold that once covered the stone. The Inca site was forgotten until a quake in 1951 that demolished the church, exposing the quake resistant Inca block foundations beneath it.

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