Cusco: Capital of the Incan Empire

While learning about the Incas, I became interested in learning more about the capital city of Cusco. Cusco is located in Southern Peru. The city is located in a valley in the Peruvian Andes Mountains. The valley was fed by two rivers, the Saphi and Tullumayo. Cusco was founded by Manco Capac in 1200AD. Later in 1438AD the Inca ruler Pachacutec expanded it and made it the center of the empire.

Cusco was an urban center for the religious, political, and organizational activities of the Inca. Only very important officials, nobles, and religious personnel lived in the city. Regular commoners did not live in Cusco. The only commoners living in Cusco were those who served the nobility and worked in the city. The ruler of the city, the Emporer, was known as the Sapa Inca.

The Koricancha, the Golden Temple, was a very important temple to the Incas. It was dedicated to the Sun god Inti. This temple was covered in gold. This gold was eventually taken off of the walls when the Spanish conquered and altered the city.

The Emperor’s Palace in Cusco was not like the typical royalty residence. There were many palaces because each new ruler made their own palace. When the former emperor died their mummy remained in their palace.

Sacsyhuaman was a fort protecting Cusco. It was originally built by the Killike who inhabited the area before the Inca, but the Inca expanded the wall. The massive stones are still there today. The expertise used while building this wall is amazing.. They didn’t use any mortar or substance to fill in the cracks between stones or hide gaps. The stones fit so well together they have held up for thousands of years and still don’t even allow a piece of paper to slide through the cracks.

The downfall of the Incas was ultimately disease and the Spanish Conquistadors. The Spanish Conquistadors conquered Cusco in the 16th century. They built baroque style buildings over the ruins of the once Incan capital. The inside of the church has an alter that was painted in gold that had once been Incan monuments. Some of the Incan elements are still present in the city such as water from an channel that runs through a courtyard built in colonial days.

There are still Incan structures left in Cusco today. Earthquakes pose a large risk to the historical city. Another threat to the preservation of the city is the lack of infrastructure and care of the site. If there is no push to take care of and preserve this city’s Incan structures, it is likely that either natural disaster or the current human activity will eventually cause the former Incan capital to crumble even further.

One thought on “Cusco: Capital of the Incan Empire

  1. I became interested in the city of Cusco as well but maybe not for as scholarly of reasons as yours. I just became interested because the name reminded of the Disney movie, Emperor’s New Groove. Nonetheless, the capital city of Cusco seemed rather interesting in many ways. Only allowing the elite and select servants who serve them to live there is something you don’t really see very often except in like, the Hunger Games… I’d rather not live in a place like that if I could avoid it but maybe it wasn’t that bad in Cusco. Although, if I were royalty then yeah it’d be the greatest place on Earth to live.
    You referenced Sacsyhuaman in your blog as the fort that protected Cusco and the design of the structures and walls they had. How they could create such incredible structures back then amazes me. I’m not saying i’m amazed because they were a primitive society because they were far from that. It’s just amazing how they’re still standing today! That’s gotta be a record somewhere. It’s too bad though that no matter how tall or thick you build your walls, something always seems to eventually get in and kill you. I’m talking about disease and the Spanish conquistadors. What a tragic way to go out for a great civilization. The Incan Empire could’ve ended in a battle for the ages but nope, disease brought along by the Spanish. Who knows, maybe if the Spanish learned to shower once and a while, the Incan empire would still be around today.

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