The rich Inca heritage

Posted by Marianne Salmans

“The Incas created an incredible civilisation that learned to tame the geography of Peru”

Peru is synonymous with the Inca history in Latin America. Although the real power of this empire merely lasted 100 years, it has left an important footprint in history. The origins of the Inca empire lie in today’s Cusco. Here, in the 13th century a small community began to flourish and slowly grew into an empire that had its heyday in the 15th century.

Through military conquests and peaceful assimilation, this civilisation eventually covered a large area along the Andes Mountains, from Argentina and Chile all the way up to Colombia. At the height of its power, the Inca population consisted of 5 to 11 million people. The exact size and history are very difficult to determine because there are no writings from this period.

Inca architecture

The Incas created an incredible civilisation that learned to tame the geography of Peru. This ancient society lived in harmony with the rivers, the sun, the rain, the ocean, the jungle, and the cold drought of the Andes Mountains. The ingenious infrastructure of long roads gave access to every corner across the empire. Even today, the Inca trails are still the basis for important connections in the mountains.

The houses and temples are fascinating. Structures consisting of large stones that are seamlessly stacked on top of each other without the use of cement to create impressive buildings, resistant to the brutal force of earthquakes.

The use of terraces for growing crops is extraordinary. At the site of Moray, the Incas established an agricultural laboratory where the various climatic zones of Peru could be simulated using terraces. This way they could grow vegetables and fruits from all over Latin America in one single place. The knowledge and farming skills gained here were then applied at other Inca settlements.

The official language of the ancient Incas was Quechua; this was spoken in more than seven hundred local dialects, a reflection of the vast size of the empire.

The Incas disappeared with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors around the year 1531. They destroyed the Inca buildings (Machu Picchu was preserved because people did not know about its existence) and built Catholic churches and colonial squares, which now play a prominent role in cities such as Arequipa and Cusco.

Traveling through Peru, the influence of the Incas is still tangible, not only in the form of archaeological excavations, but also in the essence of Peruvian culture.

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