January 1, 1438 - Incan Empire Culture

By Madie Wright

The Incan Empire was vast and complicated, with complex social standards often regulated by the government. Some even compare the Incan Empire to today’s socialism. From religion to education to architecture, the culture of the Incan people was advanced, unique, and intriguing.

The Incan Empire had one religion that had two major gods. The first is Viracocha, who was born out of Lake Titicaca, which was thought of as a very holy lake. Viracocha created the heavens, earth, sun, and moon. He was often depicted as an old man with a beard wearing a robe and holding a staff. He was so sacred, people didn’t use or say his name. The second god, Inti, was the god of the sun. Inti was often seen as a generous god. The Inca thought that Inti caused solar eclipses when he was angry, and they sought to satisfy him again with human sacrifice. Incan rulers were all thought to be direct descendants of Inti, which gave them their right to rule. The god Inti had a festival called Inti Raymi, where people would perform ritual dances, give food offerings, and perform animal sacrifices, especially white llamas. Occasionally there would be human sacrifices as well.

The government controlled many social and cultural standards for the Incan people. Education was provided by the government for upper class boys to learn skills the Inca thought important. The students would study Quechua, the language of the Incan Empire, Incan religion, Incan history, and how to use the quipu. The quipu was a system of recording numbers used by the Incan government to keep track of populations, soldiers, food, etc.. Some people also studied law and military.

The Incan government provided for the Incan people. They had special care for aged and disabled people. They also had food storages ready for times of famine and war. This was achievable by freeze drying extra food. Farmers grew more food than what was necessary, and were fed well so that they could work hard in their farms, despite being very low class and poor. The extra food was stomped on to extract the water, and left out in the sun to dry. Then the food was left out in the night to freeze. This process preserved the food exceptionally well, allowing for large amounts of long term storage. When the food was needed, the Inca simply added water and it was ready for consumption.

Farmers were low social class. An Incan’s social class could be discovered based on the clothing they wore. The more decorative and finely woven the clothing was, the more wealth and status a person had. A very wealthy person would wear clothes made from Vicuña wool, which was as fine as silk. The colorful patterns woven into people’s clothing often told stories. Weaving was a very important art to the Incas.

Aside from clothing, social classes could also be distinguished by what ayllu a person belonged to. An ayllu is a group of houses that worked together and supported each other. Often, ayllus would be divided by family and social status. The Incas used a 10 based number system, and ayllus were split into 10s, 100s, 1,000s, and so on.

Finally, the Inca had standard architecture used throughout the Empire so that people could easily recognize Incan towns and buildings. Three different types of stone were used. The stones were carved with harder stones and bronze tools into perfect rectangles that fit together so precisely that mortar was unnecessary. To lift and place the several ton stones, ramps, levers, ropes, and poles were used. The buildings were very stable and have survived many earthquakes and disasters.

Although often overlooked, the culture of the Inca matters a lot to world history. Although the empire eventually collapsed, many people today still have culture and practices from the Inca, especially in Peru. Incan architecture is extraordinary and many buildings still stand today. Many methods developed by the Inca are still in use today as well, such as freeze dried food and the 10 based number system. From food to religion to architecture, the Incan Empire is complex and intriguing.

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