The Incas originated as a tribe in 1200 B.C. in the Cuzco area of southeastern Peru. The alternate names of Incas were Inka, Tahuantinsuyu or Tawantinsuyu. They worshiped gods of nature. They believed in omens and dreams. These people called themselves "the Children of the Sun". Around 1438 C.E, under the command of Emperor Pachacutec, the Inca people defeated the neighboring Andean tribes and laid the foundation of the Inca Empire.
Over the next 100 years, the Inca Empire grew into a vast empire. The descendants of Pachacutec continued the expansion of the Empire and made it the most powerful civilization of South America that spread from Equador to Chile. The Inca Empire was quite short-lived, just shy of 100 years, until the coming of the Spaniards in 1532.
In Inca social structure, the Emperor, Sapa Inca was responsible for taking care of their people providing proper food and shelter. Though common Inca people have to work very hard, no one went hungry and no one was homeless in the Inca Empire.
There was almost no crime in the Inca Empire. Because everyone had everything they needed, people rarely stole things. As a result, there were no prisons. The worst crimes in the Inca Empire were murder, insulting the Sapa Inca and saying bad things about gods.
The punishment, being thrown off of a cliff, was enough to keep most people from committing these crimes. Adultery with a Sun Virgin wasn't worth it. The couple was tied up by their hands and feet to a wall and left to starve to death. If one made love to one of the Inca's wives, they would be hung on a wall naked and left to starve. Smaller crimes were punished by the chopping off of the hands and feet or the gouging of the eyes.
The Incas did not know the art of reading or writing. They passed on their knowledge orally. They kept records by means of a quipu which was a series of long, knotted strings. The education system was different for the common man and the nobility. While the nobility received high levels of formalized education, the general population received vocational training.
The Incas were polytheists, though their most important god was the Sun God, the Inti. They had a host of priests and priestesses who worshiped the gods and goddesses in the temples throughout the state. The Incas believed in offering sacrifices to appease the Gods. These sacrifices would usually be llamas or guinea pigs.
However, on very sacred occasions, children and women were also sacrificed. The Incas believed in afterlife and held their ancestors in great respect. They placed the bodies of their ancestors in tombs that they regularly replenished with food and precious goods. The "Inti Raymi" or "Sun Festivity" was the biggest, most important, spectacular and magnificent festivity carried out in Inca times.
Although healing ceremonies were commonly used by the priests to cure diseases, they also carried out a number of successful surgeries that included amputations. The patients were rendered unconscious using herbs, intoxicants or hypnotism.
The Incas built the best planned cities of their time. They built buildings made up of blocks of stones that are so well-cut that no mortar has been used to hold them together. In less than a hundred years, they built over 14,000 miles of road, much of which was paved. Some sections of road were over 15 feet wide. One road ran almost the entire length of the South American Pacific coast! Since the Incas lived in the Andes Mountains, the roads took great engineering and architectural skill to build.
To feed the millions of people in the Inca Empire, the Incas invented terrace farming so they could grow crops on the steep mountain slopes. They used systems of irrigation to catch the rainfall and the spring runoff from the snow-capped Andes mountaintops.
The Inca had no method of writing so they developed a system of knotted cords. The cords were various colours with single, double or triple knots tied in them and hung from a plain main cord. They were only read by an official called a Quipucamayoc.
The Incas also invented the lunar calendar for religious reasons. The Incas used special towers called "time makers" that told them when a new month was beginning. They had standard units of measurements and used a balance beam to weigh objects.
The Incas were famous for their gold. They were marked craftsmen of gold and silver. However, it is ironic that the gold that they considered as 'sweat of the sun' brought their end close, when their wealth was discovered by a fortune seeker, Pizzaro, in 1532.