The Incas

I thought that learning about the Incas in the last section of class was one of the most interesting civilizations or ancient states that we looked at. First off, the fact that their empire was so incredibly large is outstanding to me. They were the only group of people in the region to unite both the South and North regions of their empire, which is one reason why it was so huge. Something that kind of seemed hard for me to grasp when we first discussed it in class, was the Inca idea of split inheritance. Split inheritance is a social practice in which a dead ruler is mummified and all of his prior possessions while living remain his even after he is dead. Things like his palace land or servants were all things considered his possessions after his death. The deceased ruler would attend all further meetings as well. (weird…?) There fore, the next ruler would in turn, receive nothing apart from his political power and political rights. As confusing as this seems at first, it actually helped expand the Inca state. This meant that the new ruler would have to build his palace within land that he conquered himself. The empire grew bigger and bigger because the rulers would want to gain as much land as they could to ensure a good afterlife. In order to build his new palace, he would use mit’a, or mandatory public labor that all adult citizens had to pay to the state annually. Wouldn’t this seem so strange if that was the way our government was today? What if that was the ideology of the modern United States? How far do you think we could expand? Would it end at North America or would we go overseas and take over European or African countries? I think that in modern times with all of our war technology, we would not get very far. We may expand on our Canadian and Mexican borders a little bit however, I think that if this were the way our government worked today, we would be in constant warfare and would not gain or lose any significant amount of land. What I liked about the Incas is that when they did conquer land and people, they did not instate their own rulers in those areas. They made a leading member of the local community a local ruler instead of kicking out old rulers. I think this is how they internally kept civil strife to a minimum for so long, although it was in fact one of the reasons for their eventual collapse, along with Spanish Conquest.


2 thoughts on “The Incas”

  1. I liked this post a lot, mostly because I find the Inca really fascinating too. The Inca have always been my favorite New World people and this class along with another, ANP 264, has taught me a lot about the culture and empire. It really is crazy that they gained so much land in such a short amount of time and that they did this because each ruler needed new land! I liked your thought on how what our country would be like if this is how the U.S. worked and I just want to add that back when our country first started we were kind of like that. Buying the rest of the U.S. didn’t happen in one presidency. The idea that the previous kings were also mummified is really kind of creepy. In a video we watch in my other ANP class (the link is below) is said they would leave the body out in the sun and then freeze them over and over again to leave the bodies basically ‘jerkified’ which is gross. It also showed, what I believe to be a prop, what one of these mummified kings would look like and it was scary – I don’t know why anyone would want that around for any amount of time.
    I also really like how you mentioned the people the Inca conquered and how they didn’t push their values on them. This is so different from the other people we’ve talked about and it’s pretty cool. They did make their conquered people do the worst jobs and the hardest work but they weren’t slaves and they could still practice their previous religion as long as they acknowledged the Incas. The Inca were a really cool population and I wish we knew more about them and that they’d lasted more than a century.

  2. I too found the concept of split inheritance in the Incan State to be of much interest. The thought of a dead guy owning possessions, land, even people and the practice of the mummies going to meetings seem quite bizarre, but we can see how split inheritance had deep political significance for the Incan conquest state. As you noted when a new ruler took the throne he had to acquire land to gain wealth so there was always the clear incentive of expansion. Obviously this is not a sustainable model, even if you successfully conquer everything you’ll eventually run out of land, and could only operate under the ideology that the earth is an infinite place/resource. But in the short term it was extremely successful. The Inca became the largest civilization, in geologic time terms, practically overnight. But I was also surprised to learn how short the civilization lasted (though the people still exist). Of course it was the Spanish colonizers and their smallpox that spelled the ultimate doom for the Incan state, but one wonders how far the Incan state could have expanded. I think is important to recognize that the Spanish, like other European powers, operated, under even more violent ideologies of expansion and conquest than the Incas. So when you say “What if that was the ideology of the modern United States? How far do you think we could expand? Would it end at North America or would we go overseas and take over European or African countries?” it is important to remember that this ideology is why amerika even exists in the first place, its called colonialism. Think about how far the british, french, spanish, dutch expanded during the european colonial period. They raped the whole world and all of its cultures. And amerika and other former colonial powers have found new ways to colonize periphery nations through evil financial dealings (IMF, world bank), warfare, corporatization (eg. McDonalds all over the world), and appropriating marginalized cultures. So what you’re talking about may not be so far from reality.

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