“The world is a complex and subtle place. There are millions of connections between every part.”1 The history of the world is indeed one of the most complex areas in which thousands of historians try to uncover the mysteries of the past. Out of all the interconnected kingdoms, empires and civilizations that have built the modern society, if even one hadn’t existed, our current world could be at a completely different stage of development. This is the case for most parts of our history such as the Romans, Egyptians and Mesopotamians but most of all, the Inca Civilization and its developed society are one of the most vexed anthropological wonders of the entire history.2 It is mainly because the empire had overcome myriads of complex problems and had become one of the most amazing societies the world has ever seen.
Inca Civilization was the civilization that had never developed any form of writing but managed to keep its dominance over an enormous area,3 the civilization that had accomplished skull surgeries and other amazing scientific advancements way before modern science was developed,4 and the civilization that was capable of developing irrigation and permaculture on their own at an extreme altitude of approximately 4000m above sea level.5 This proves to us of the greatness of the Incans and even though there were other ancient civilizations in the world such as Ancient Rome, Mesopotamia, Indus Valley and many others, that have accomplished amazing tasks, Incans are indeed superior to them in many aspects.
Moreover, the Incans, in their own way, had a very rich and advanced culture that other civilizations would marvel at. Inca Civilization, one of the most marvelous and civilized group in the world, was arguably the most civilized society compared to others in the New World such as the Mayans and the Aztecs for many reasons such as their extremely long-lasting history, their enormous area of control in one of the harshest geographical conditions and their superiority in structural engineering skills. We would have been able to learn much more about the incredible Incas if they had kept any written records, however, even without them, we can see how glorious and magnificent it would have been in its golden times.
Although the height of the empire, the golden times for the Inca Civilization, was in the early stages of the 2nd millennium CE, the history of the Inca Civilization reaches much further into the past than many kingdoms and civilizations known to today. Even though it is speculated that the Incan Empire had existed from 1200 to 1572,6 it is clearly just a political representation of the culture that has been developing over thousands of years.7 The Mayans, the mysteriously lost people in the region of today’s Central America, are quite well-known even though their first recognizable culture only emerged around 2600 BCE, while the classic period of Mayan Civilization started to decline even before the year 1000 CE.
8 In comparison, the Aztecs had not even founded their capital city, Tenochtitlan, until the year 1325, while their first evidence of existence had been proved to be around the early 2nd millennium CE.9 Distinct from these two Mesoamerican civilizations, the Inca Civilization had a much deeper and longer history than any societies in the entire continent of the America and of the whole world. There are evidences that people settled in the Andean area around 10000 BCE and the tribes of hunters and gatherers develop to become pastoralists, with knowledge of agricultural technology, at an amazing time period of approximately 2500 years before Common Era, managing to do so in an extremely high altitude of the Andean Mountain Range.
10 As well as the fact that the Inca Civilization started far before all the others, all three civilizations had actually fallen at the same time when the Spaniards came to conquer the New World. Although the Mayan culture still existed at the time, its decline since the 10th century makes their cultural and social history much shorter and the Aztecs were dying down due to a devastating famine in the year 1450.11 However, the Incan Kingdom was still very alive and the beginning of the 2nd millennium was the rise of the Inca to their greatest power that enabled them to conquer a large area. Because of the fact that the Inca Civilization had such a long time to develop and advance in its history, they became the most dominant, powerful and civilized society of people in both of the continents.
Long history of any civilization is definitely an important element of their greatness and development but there is another equally impacting factor to immoderate greatness of all civilizations: the amount of conquered land. One of the most fascinating things about Inca Civilization is that they not only had time to develop and advance in many aspects, but also was able to control an enormous area of the South American landmass at such a difficult environment.
The land that the Incan Empire controlled totals up to 950,000 km2, being the largest in the New World, proving that the land under Inca’s control was not only larger than Mayans and Aztecs but all the small groups of indigenous people spread around the two continents.12 The land occupied by the Aztec culture was only 7800 km213and Mayan culture’s land under control was not even a quarter of the area under Inca Empire’s control in comparison.14 The Incas, after conquering the Chimu kingdom15 and many other small societies, made their land cover up the entire length of the Andean Mountain Range, the longest mountain range in both of the continents of Americas.
Under Thupa Inca, the Incan society was able to expand rapidly16 and the entire kingdom stretched approximately 4800km from north to south.17 Compared to the current world, the empire stretched partially into the Amazon rainforest to the east, covered almost the entire pacific coast on the westbound, reached up to what is now Ecuador to the north and covered parts of Chile and Argentina to the south. Compared to the tiny little areas controlled in the Mesoamerican regions by the Aztecs and the Mayans, Incans were clearly demonstrating their capabilities of being able to run an enormous kingdom in “the harshest environmental conditions known to man”,18 the top of the Andean Mountain Range, at a very early stage of our human history.
The accomplishments of the Inca Civilization were clearly superior to the two Mesoamerican cultures in many different aspects such as their conquered land and their far-stretched history to the beginning of human existence but the Incas also excelled in architectural skills and technologies to build great and marvelous buildings. Arguably, a lot of the structures that the Incans built were definitely superior to even the pyramids of the Mayans and the temples of the Aztecs. It is still a mystery for today’s historians as to the exact method that the Incans used to build the structures that they built. A common example of the masterpiece of Inca’s architectural accomplishment would be the famous representation of the Inca culture: Machu Picchu.
From the common buildings that were built at countryside to the most marvelous structures such as the terraced city of Machu Picchu or the Huallamarca Pyramid, most of the architectural structures built by the Incans were made of gigantic boulders fitted together so perfectly that not even a knife edge could fit through.19 How were the ancient buildings, on top of steep mountainside, built with the rocks and boulders that can only be found at the very bottom of a valley? Just by human labour, it would need hundreds of people to move the rock from the bottom to the top and it would face many obstacles such as streams and steep hills. This is one of the most complicated and mysterious questions that historians are trying to figure out even today and the fact that Incans had managed to accomplish such great tasks without modern tools or materials clearly tell us how great and skilled their entire society was.
Although it seems impossible, the researchers speculated, with good reasons, that one of the mottos of Inca Civilization was that “human labour could accomplish anything.”20 Their use of a tool named scribe to perfect the shape of a rock and their use of series of boulders to irrigate farms were just ingenious compared to the tasks of the Mayans and Aztecs.21 Also, the Incans had very well-developed systems of roads; highways that followed the top of the mountains, amazingly stable bridges that connected at the perfectly convenient spots and the long roads that went through the deserts near the coastal regions. The roads were all made up of, similar to the buildings, huge rocks interconnected together and laid on the ground for transportations to be efficient and the roads to be strong.
The roads connected every city to the capital city, Cusco, and many other roads connected other major cities to each other. The length of the roads that the Incan Empire had built added up to be quite longer than half the circumference of the Earth, which is an engineering feat that was unheard of.22 Compared to the road systems that Aztecs and Mayans had, the Incan highways were clearly superior and it shows us how fascinating the Inca civilization would be if it were to have existed today. The amazing tasks that Incan architectural engineers were able to accomplish communicates to us the only one true thing that we can be completely certain about the Incans and that is the fact that Incans were the most civilized, developed and advanced civilization in the New World’s history.
The Mayans and Aztecs were developed and were amazing in many aspects but when compared to the Inca Civilization, their light seems to fade away because of the Inca’s immoderate greatness. That is partly because of the large land that the Incas managed to control without any written record, their amazingly long, rich and valuable history that helped shape such a unique civilization and because of their amazing architectural skills which were superior to anything in the world at the time. The fact that the Incans worshipped the sun as their most divine god had most likely prompted the entire civilization to be built up on top of an enormous mountain range.
The marvelous tasks and advancements that the civilization managed to accomplish in the region makes them not only the greatest civilization of the Americas but the most mysterious and marvelous society of people the world has ever seen. Even up to today, no one can be sure of exactly how all the buildings were built, what the Nasca Lines represent or the reason that the Incans first settled in such a bizarre environment but as this entire essay clearly proves, the seemingly disappeared civilization of Incans were indeed one of the greatest parts of the history.
Although the Spaniards, in the 16th century, sadly managed to conquer and perish the most mysterious and amazing civilization of the world, the rich culture and mysteries are still a great part of the South America. Its historical treasure is culturally still alive but by the loss of the empire, a lot of valuable traditions were lost so we must learn from our past to never make any mistakes such as destroying valuable parts of our world’s heritage and culture that once existed in South America’s Andean Mountain Range: The Incas.
Reference Page – APA Style
Burland, C.A. (1985) The Incas. London: Macdonald Educational Limited.
Gregory, J. W. (1931) The Ayar-Incas. New York: Blackwell Publishing.
Gruber, Beth. (2007). Ancient Inca: Archaeology Unlocks the Secrets of Inca’s Past. Washington D. C.: National Geographic.
Newman, Garfield. (2007). Echoes from the Past: World History to the 16th Century. Toronto, Ontario: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited.
Smith, Michael Ernest. (2003). The Aztecs. New York: Blackwell Publishing.
Barnes, Michael. (Director). (1997). Secrets of Lost Empires: Inca. [Film] NOVA Production.
Westbrook, Joel. (Producer). (1995). Inca: Secrets of the Ancestors. [Film] Time-Life Video and Television.
Inca Empire – MSN Encarta. Retrieved October 25th, 2008 from MSN Encarta. Web site: http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761560004/Inca_Empire.html
Mayan History – Crystalinks. Retrieved October 25th, 2008 from Crystalinks. Web site: http://www.crystalinks.com/mayanhistory.html
The Inca civilization: Inca rulers (Inca emperors) of the Inca Empire (Tahuantinsuyo). Retrieved October 24th, 2008 from Rediscover Machu Picchu. Web site: http://www.rediscovermachupicchu.com/inca-rulers.htm
The Inca – All Empires. Retrieved November 1st, 2008 from All Empires: Online History Community. Web site: http://www.allempires.com/article/index.php?q=inca
World Info. Retrieved November 1st, 2008 from Angelfire. Web site:
Yucatï¿½n(peninsula) – Hutchinson encyclopedia article about Yucatï¿½n(peninsula). Retrieved October 25th, 2008 from The Free Dictionary by Farlex. Web site: http://encyclopedia.farlex.com/Yucat%C3%A1n+(peninsula)
1 World Info. Retrieved Nov. 1st, 2008 from Angelfire. P. 1
2 Gregory, 1931. The Ayar-Incas. P. 555
3 Gruber, 2007.. Ancient Inca: Archaeology Unlocks the Secrets of Inca’s Past. P. 13
4 Inca Empire – MSN Encarta. Retrieved October 25th, 2008 from MSN Encarta. P. 2
5 Newman, 2008. Echoes from the Past: World History to the 16th Century. P. 459
6 The Inca civilization. Retrieved October 24th, 2008 from Rediscover Machu Picchu. P. 1
7 Westbrook, 1995. Inca: Secrets of the Ancestors.
8 Mayan History. Retrieved October 25th, 2008 from Crystalinks. P. 1
9 Newman, 2008. Echoes from the Past: World History to the 16th Century. P. 426
10 Newman, 2008. Echoes from the Past: World History to the 16th Century. P. 458
11 Smith, 2003. The Aztecs. P. 65
12 The Inca – All Empires. Retrieved November 1st, 2008 from All Empires. P. 1
13 Newman, 2008. Echoes from the Past: World History to the 16th Century. P. 427
14 Yucatï¿½n(peninsula) Retrieved October 25th, 2008 from The Free Dictionary by Farlex. P.1
15 Burland, 1985. The Incas. P. 14
16 Newman, 2008. Echoes from the Past: World History to the 16th Century. P. 466
17 Inca Empire – MSN Encarta. Retrieved October 25th, 2008 from MSN Encarta. P. 1
18 Westbrook, 1995. Inca: Secrets of the Ancestors.
19 Barnes, 1997. Secrets of Lost Empires: Inca.
20 Barnes, 1997. Secrets of Lost Empires: Inca.
21 Barnes, 1997.
22 Gruber, 2007.. Ancient Inca: Archaeology Unlocks the Secrets of Inca’s Past. P. 29