top of page


Home > About Peru > History > The Incas

About Peru

The Incas

From 1,200 to 1,533 AC



According to legend Manco Capac and his sister (and wife) Mama Occllo born from the foam of Lake Titicaca. Their father, Inti or Sun God, gave them a gold staff with the mission to found the capital of the future empire in the place where the sacred staff sank into the earth, which happened in the valley of the Huatanay river in Qosqo (navel of the world - Cuzco in Spanish).


Historically, there is no certainty about the origin of the Incas. The most commonly accepted hypothesis is the displacement of the elites of the Tiahuanaco civilization from the Titicaca Lake to the north to escape sudden invasions.

statue cuzco square
Inca dinasty


The 14 Incas:

1,200 – 1,230 (aprox.) – Manco Cápac (Powerful Chief)

1,230 – 1,260 (aprox.) – Sinchi Roca (Magnificent Warrior)

1,260 – 1,290 (aprox.) – Lloque Yupanqui (Memorable Southpaw)

1,290 – 1,320 (aprox.) – Mayta Cápac (Where is the Mighty)

1,320 – 1,350 (aprox.) – Cápac Yupanqui (Mighty and Memorable)

1,350 – 1,380 (aprox.) – Inca Roca (Magnificent King)

1,380 – 1,400 (aprox.) – Yáhuar Huáca (Crying Blood)

1,400 – 1,438 – Wiracocha Inca (Sea Foam)

1,438 – 1,471 – Pachacútec (Transformer of the Earth)

1,471 – 1,471 – Amaru Inca Yupanqui (Supreme Overlord Shrewd)

1,471 – 1,493 – Túpac Yupanqui (Luminous and Memorable)

1,493 – 1,525 – Huayna Cápac (Powerful Servitor)

1,525 – 1,532 – Huáscar (Gold Chain)

1,532 – 1,533 – Atahualpa (Valuable warrior)

Around the year 1,200 AC, a group of families reaches the valley and settled in this small territory. Then, for more than two centuries, the Incas dominate the valley of Cuzco, perpetually fighting against neighboring ethnic groups. During the reign of the first eight kings (Inca in Quechua), the Inca kingdom had little extension.

The expansion of the Inca Empire

Viracocha, the eighth Inca, abandons the city of Cuzco to escape the Chanca invasion, his worst enemies. One of his sons, Cusi Yupanqui, who later took the name of Pachacutec, managed to defeat the Chanca in 1438 and the victory his father recognize him as his successor instead of his brother Inca Urco.

Ambitious and brilliant strategist, Pachacutec quickly begins his conquests. In 30 years, manages to create the Tahuantinsuyo (The Four Regions), expanded by his son Tupac Yupanqui an empire of 1,800,000 km2 / 700,000 sq mi (more than seven times the size of Great Britain) and 5,000 km / 16,500 ft long (from southern Colombia to the central Chile), much of the territory located in the Andes mountains, subjecting peoples by force or by alliance.

localization south america

Kon-Tiki expedition

boat across pacific

Several chroniclers at the time of the conquest as Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, relate the trip of the Inca Tupac Yupanqui (son of Pachacutec), sailing on rafts with 20,000 men from the present coast of Ecuador and reached the Nina Chumbi y Huaga Chumbi islands (current Galapagos) 972 km / 604 mi from the coast and the Tuamotu Islands (now French Polynesia) 6,800 km / 4,225 mi. The Norwegian exporer Thor Heyerdahl in support of these writings will test the theory that people from South America could have settled South Pacific islands in pre-Columbian times.

Heyerdahl organizes an expedition in 1947 from the port of Callao in Lima with a similar boat as recorded in illustrations by Spanish conquistadores and across the Pacific with five assistants, a distance of nearly 7,000 kilometers (4,300 mi) in 101 days until Raoia in the Tuamotu islands. His theory is debated by several scientists.

Great works

Pachacutec completely transforms the city of Cuzco and many of the most monuments we can see today were constructed during Pachacutec's reign, including the magnificent Koricancha (Temple of the Sun), the impressive religious center Saqsayhuamán on the hights of the imperial capital and the majestic Machu Picchu.

To expand his empire, 60,000 kilometers (source: Unesco) of paved roads were built through the Andes, the Qhapaq Ñan, a gigantic work necessary to allow movement of military troops, administrators and also the chaskis, these messengers that transmit instructions throughout the empire.

fortress inca cuzco
Inca civil war


The next Inca, Huayna Capac, consolidates the empire to the north, establishing a second capital in Quito (Ecuador) and marries the daughter of a local king. Atahualpa, son of this union becomes his choice to succeed him. His other son Huascar in Cuzco, being the legitimate heir claim to the throne, which triggers the division of the empire and causing a civil war during the next five years. Tactically superior, the winner Atahualpa orders the execution of his brother and stays in Cajamarca (northern Peru) until the arrival of the Spaniards.

Social organization 


The Inca or Sapa Inca (the king in the Quechua language) was a descendant from gods Inti (sun) and Viracocha (the Great Creator of the universe). His legitimate wife is called Coya and the Hereditary Prince is known as Auqui. The Inca and the nobles also had many concubines.


It was two kinds of nobility, noble blood and noble by privilege (converted by reward because of a heroic action), who occupied the most important positions in the administration and army of the empire.


The people were known as the Hatun Runa (big man in Quechua) designating the common man. The Mitimaes were settlers moved into the conquered territories to manage or work, the Yanaconas were officers serving the nobility and the Piñas were the prisoners of war and people considered dangerous for the Tahuantinsuyo (Inca Empire), subject to the hardest jobs.


The Ayllu was the basis of social organization. This term refers to a group of people linked by a common denominator: a bond of blood, territory, economic (the same type of work) or language. Each Ayllu had its chief, the Curaca.


Ñusta was the name given to the Princess of royal blood, and also to the teenage virgins symbolizing the earth not yet fertilized during ceremonies honoring the Pachamama (Mother Earth) which is represented by an old woman.

The three systems of work in the Inca Empire



It was a system of compulsory labor for all adult men, but not women, a form of tribute to the Inca government such as the building, roads, bridges, aqueducts, temples, construction, mineral exploitation, etc.



It was the community work for the benefit of the Ayllu and the Sun (Inti), a tax on labor and per turn, each family carrying their own tools and food.

The families participed in construction of community center, irrigation canals, fortress, mines, farming the state land, as well as help on the farm of disabled people, orphans and elderly.



It is a traditional form of mutual help between the members of the ayllu to farm work and construction of houses: "today for you, tomorrow for me" and in return food and drink is served during the work days. This tradition continues in many rural communities in Peru, helping in the kitchen duties, pasturing and housing construction.

Andean cosmology or trilogy


The Andean world is divided into three regions or energy levels, each represented by a deity:

the Condor

(that personify wysdom) - is the Hananpacha or universe of heaven, spirits and gods.

The Puma

(power) - represents the Kaypacha, the terrestrial world where men live.

The Snake

(Intelligence) - symbolizes the Ukupacha, the underworld where the dead and the forces of fertility live.


Andean Cross or Chakana

It is the representation of this trilogy, each side with three steps symbolizes the trilogy and the central hole represents Cusco, the navel of the world.

Inca religion


The Incas had a pantheistic religion, ie that their gods were representations of force of nature as the Pachamama (Mother Earth), the Apus (mountains), the Quilla (moon) and others.

The most revered gods were Viracocha (creator of the universe) and Inti (Sun).


Ceremonies and rituals were regularly organized to honor their gods and the Hatun villcas (priests) commonly practiced llama sacrifices. Human sacrifices were outstanding, just in case of natural disasters, using children or adolescents with perfect bodies.


Acllas or Chosen Women

Girls under ten years were selected throughout the whole empire, for its beauty and ability in crafts. Her education in the art of weaving, cooking and religion, took place in the Accla Wasi (Wasi=home in Quechua) under the supervision of the Mamacunas. At the end of their training, they could choose between civil life (married to nobles), or religious, dedicating his life to the worship of the sun. Some became the Virgenes del Sol (Virgins of the Sun), women held in sacred places where they practiced mysterious secret rites.

The Inca moral code


Ama Suwa – do not steal

Ama Llulla – do not lie

Ama Qilla – do not be lazy



It was the main activity in the Inca empire and the Incas became experts in this art, reaching adapt to the terrain and rigorous climate of the Andes. Although the were not the precursors of crops on terraces, the Incas had perfected the irrigation techniques.

The best example is the complex of Moray (between Cusco and the Sacred Valley), an agricultural experimentation center consists of circular terraces, which allowed the Incas to develop a large number of varieties of potatoes, corn, quinoa and other edible plants.

experimental center Inca


altitude sickness motion
cermal editions
bottom of page