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The Inca Empire

The Incas (from the early 13th century)

Lima History & Cultures (Part 6)

The Incas, the most well-known pre-Hispanic culture in Peru, were only the last highly advanced culture in a series of great ancient Peruvian civilizations. The Incas arose in the early 13th century in the Cuzco region where they built up a small city state named Qosqo (Cuzco). They originally represented one of these small and relatively minor ethnic groups, the Quechuas. Gradually they began to expand and incorporate their neighbors.

For the following 200 years their expansion was regionally limited and slow. However from 1438 onwards the Incas under their ruler Pachacuti set out from their capital Cuzco to conquer or by forming alliances peacefully assimilate huge parts of Peru's Andes mountain range turning the Inca civilization into the most powerful nation of South America and marking the starting point of the great Inca Empire. Pachacuti's son Tupac Inca followed in his father's footstep and continued the expansion of the empire.

He began conquests to the north in 1463, and continued them as Inca ruler after Pachacuti's death. From 1493 onwards his son Huayna Capac added significant territory to the south. By the late 15th and early 16th century, the Inca Empire, named Tawantinsuyu or Tuhuantinsuyu, had reached its maximum size spanning from today's Ecuador and a small part of Colombia in the north along the coast and Peruvian Andes over Peru to parts of Bolivia, Argentina and Chile in the south.

The Incas at the Central Coast of Peru

The central coast of Peru and the area we know today as Lima was incorporated into the Inca Empire from 1460 to 1470. It seems that the assimilation was peaceful by forming alliances with the regional leaders. While the Incas usually repressed conquered tribes erasing their culture and tradition and forcing the Inca structures, administration, procedure, methods, language and believe on them, in the Lima region it seems likely that the Incas at least partly diverge form their norm. Of course the Incas imposed a political and administrative reorganization, but allowed most "old" rulers incorporated in the new units to retain their political and administrative powers. Regarding urbanism and architecture the acculturation seems to have been reversed.

As common the Incas built enormous administrative or religious centers or rebuilt and added to older ones. But contrary to the usual practice they were influenced by the geographic location, available building materials and customs of the coastal region adopting typical local characteristics and only combining them with Inca urban planning and architecture. The same applies for agriculture and craft works.

There is little evidence that the normally dominant Inca culture imposed their way in these areas on the local customs leaving only small traces of their influence. Instead it seems that after the reorganization of the area the Incas directed their focus in the coastal region more on improving and extensively expanding the existing road network connecting all important local administrative and religious centers, uniting the valleys of the rivers Lurin, Rimac and Chillon as well as linking this part of the great empire with the north, south and east.

Inti (Sun god of the Incas) VS. Pachacamac (Creator god of the coastal region)

Like in all other conquered regions the Incas tried to impose the worship to Inti, the sun god. As the influence and power of Pachacamac, the god worshipped at the coastal region before the arrival of the Incas, was still so great and by far outshone Inti, the Incas were in a no-win situation. The worship for the sun god Inti in the Inca Empire was axiomatic and unalterable, but the veneration of Pachacamac in the coastal region was out of necessity respected and even practiced by the Incas themselves. This coexistence of the two gods was simply achieved by altering the Inca mythology a little bit and unceremoniously "nominating" Pachacamac as the sun god's brother. This way all were happy. Unique in the history of the Inca Empire the new religious complex to honor the sun god Inti at the ancient city of Pachacamac was built next to the religious temple of the god Pachacamac where he was adored.

Archaeological sites built or altered by the Incas

As mentioned above the Incas were extraordinary urban planners and architects. They built great monuments or remodeled existing ones in conquered regions putting their mark on the area and showing their influence and power. In the coastal region they might have been influenced by the local customs, but nevertheless they were industrious doing so as well.

When arriving at the coast the Incas quite quickly realized the importance of the ancient city of Pachacamac in the south of today's Lima and the creator god Pachacamac. Although respecting Pachacamac and the cult around it, the Incas modified the already existing structures, temples and other buildings to their needs. They built remarkable new pyramids and temples, among them the Templo del Sol (the Temple of the Sun) next to a temple dedicated to his "brother" Pachacamac, the Acllahuasi (The House of the Chosen Women), also known as "Mamacona", the Plaza of Pilgrims and a palace for the local Inca ruler named Taurichumbi Palace.

Another important ancient city in the Lima region was Maranga (parts of it still can be found in the Parque de las Leyendas in San Miguel). As usual the Incas altered and modernized the complex. Pyramids and structures built by preceding cultures like the Ichma or Lima Culture were reconstructed and used as storage facilities or cemeteries, walls were plastered and the access roads paved. New huacas like the "Huaca La Palma" were built. Old buildings of the Maranga in the north were re-occupied by farmers who constructed very basic houses with the old "adobitos" of the Lima Culture.

Almost the same happened in other great pre-Inca complexes: the ancient city of Armatambo (once located in today's district of Chorrillos at the Morro Solar) was occupied and modified to the Inca's needs. Unfortunately today only the remains of the foundation of one ancient building, the Huaca San Pedro, are left. In Limatambo, the second biggest pre-Inca city after Maranga, that was located in the area of today's districts of San Isidro and La Victoria, the Incas started to use the old ceremonial complexes as tombs. So did they in the Puruchuco Complex (located in the district of Ate) which also served as administrative and ceremonial center. Numerous other ancient structures within the valleys of the Chillon, Rimac and Lurin valley were occupied by the Incas and used as administrative or ceremonial centers. Unfortunately most of them disappeared over the centuries and especially in the 20th century where they had to give way to the urban expansion of the capital.

The End of the great Inca Empire

After Huayna Capac's death, the son of Tupac Inca and grandson of Pachacuti, who from 1493 onwards added significant territory in the south , the great Inca Empire was divided between two of his sons: Atahualpa was supposed to rule the northern part of the empire with its center in Quito, and his half-brother Huascar the southern part of the empire from Cuzco, the traditional Inca capital. The division led to civil war between the half-brothers for control over the complete empire.

The war which ravaged Inca cities, wreaked havoc on the economy and decimated the population considerably was only resolved in 1532 when Atahualpa defeated his brother. Soon afterwards the Spanish conquerors arrived. Weakened by the war and additionally by civilization diseases like smallpox that had swept to the Empire earlier from already conquered Panama the Spaniards had an easy job defeating the Incas. The execution of Atahualpa, the last free Inca emperor, left the leaderless kingdom open to complete subjugation by the Spaniards and marked the end of the Inca Empire.

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