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History of the Paradoxical Inca Empire

Independent critical historical research allows us to understand the problem under study and summarize the available information to the current moment. It is also a particular form of reflective analysis that help to identify weaknesses and strengths in understanding a particular phenomenon or community’s history and predict strategies for future development. For the purposes of the present assignment, it was necessary to subjectively examine the history of the Inca Empire as one of the most striking examples of paradoxical civilizations. The Incas had no scientific and technological advancement by the standards of modern society. However, this did not prevent them from performing complex surgical operations and having a highly developed social system. This inconsistency creates a particular academic interest in the study of the Inca Empire. At the same time, the history of the Empire’s civilizational achievements is inextricably linked to the general chronology of ups and downs left as an encyclopedic heritage of the tribe. The present work seeks to assess the scientific, technical, and historical development of the Incas and describe the author’s personal interest in studying this topic.

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Primarily, it should be noted that the context within which he or she lives must play a role for the reader. For example, a modern reading of medieval novels or ancient Greek epics may seem difficult or even humorous to the student because the contexts of the author and the reader are too different. Similar statements seem to be true for the study of Inca history. When the reader is interested in particular aspects of their history, he or she tends to try it on the agenda of contemporary society. If inconsistencies arise, one usually speaks of inconsistencies in the data. For example, when one reads about the surgical achievements of a civilization that did not even know about human anatomy at the level of current medicine, one automatically begins to think about the unique features of the ancient world. Often some of the readers can explain such contradictions with the help of unscientific, fantastic factors, such as the action of extraterrestrial forces.

The author of this study is not inclined to justify the ancient civilizational historical progress by the action of supernatural forces and other conspiracies because these are unscientific methods. However, there is still interest in this controversy. For this reason, an explanation of the possible causes of technological progress in the context of the overall development of the Inca Empire forms the central part of this paper. More precisely, the following paragraphs do not summarize academic knowledge or provide a comprehensive meta-analysis of the available information but rather reflect reflexively on the accumulated knowledge and doubts about the study of Inca history.

It is worth noting that the Incas are the creators of one of the oldest civilizations in South America. Their existence is attributed to the pre-Columbian era when European colonizers had not yet had time to spread their cultural and political influence to the other continents. It is not known precisely when the Empire was created and up to what point it existed. Archaeological excavations show that the Inca flourished in the early 13th century when neighboring strong kingdoms in the Andean region collapsed due to prolonged drought (TED-Ed). Thus, the emergence of the Incas should be attributed to the natural evolutionary development of civilizations, when one generation is replaced by new, more adaptive, and stronger ones.

On the other hand, the story of the creation of the first capital is well known. It is noteworthy that the Incas were not only called an empire but initially, this status was assigned to the leader. In translation, the word means king or conqueror. At the same time, the Incas themselves called their Empire Tahuantinsuyu, which translates as the four corners of the world. This fact is not surprising since the capital opened the horizons for the inhabitants in all directions. The title of the founder of this tribe is traditionally given to the Inca Manco Capac, who in 1200, at an altitude of more than 3416 above sea level, founded the capital of the Empire in a mountain valley called Cusco (“Cusco”). The appearance of the capital was not accidental: at a time of internecine wars still surviving neighboring civilizations, the Incas, as previously fragmented tribes, decided to unite in order to survive. Developing and expanding in the Andes mountain valley, they were forced to develop technical tools to exist effectively. Thus appeared the first tiered terraces, the systems of sewage irrigation of crops and roads convenient for transportation, as the sources testify (Brady para. 9). As is often the case, civilization’s scientific and technological achievements could not go against the political component: to protect and conquer the Inca Yahuar Huacac created a regular army (Brady para. 9). In the end, all this led to the emergence of a powerful Inca empire with the capital city of Cuzco.

It is noteworthy that the Inca empire was not prepared to stop at current achievements. It is characteristic of states in principle to strive for constant development, and one approach includes military modernization. Thus, the Incas, under the leadership of Pachacutec Yupanqui set out on military campaigns in the south to conquer the lakeside territories of Titicaca (Brady para. 11). It is interesting to note that the Inca geopolitical system was not primarily focused on military raids. On the contrary, before attacking, the Inca ruler offered three times to the neighboring civilizations to come to peace and lay down their arms, and only in case of refusal to join them did they attack. It is worth saying that all these campaigns were successful, and Pachacutec Yupanqui significantly increased his state’s potential. At its peak, the Incas had over twelve million people from more than one hundred ethnic groups (Jarus). It thus became one of the most influential and prominent civilizational communities of the time on the entire planet.

The military campaigns often had one goal: to spread their political influence over new lands. This influence also had religious overtones, extending the idolatrous ideology of the ancient tribe. It is noteworthy that the veneration of mountains, rivers, and hills as deities among the Inca left a mark on modern world religions. For example, many temples and churches are traditionally installed in places as close to natural areas as possible. Although the Incas succeeded perfectly on the geographical path of conquest, they did not forget the resources. The Andean mountain meadows were rich in wild and domestic livestock, valuable natural resources, and, importantly, remnants of former wars. Collecting and using these tools of the trade drove the Inca’s scientific and technological progress because it was an exchange of experience. By looking at weapons new to them and studying previously unexplored animals and plants, members of the tribe developed and improved their qualifications and skills. Thus, military expeditions became a catalyst for developing civilian crafts, be they construction, effective government, or medicine.

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Much has survived about the wise rule of the tribe: many of the texts tend to call the leaders of the empire genius managers. All in all, this is not surprising given the ever-growing size of the country. In order to effectively govern all the Inca provinces, it was necessary to develop the political system qualitatively and spread the military presence throughout the Andean territory. At the same time, civil engineering continued to develop. Local architects extolled the dignity of the rulers and the history of the Empire, preserving them in the form of mountain stone sculptures. Among the most significant works is the preserved legacy of Machu Picchu as one of the new wonders of the world. Engineers continued to improve sewage systems and watersheds. In order to simplify the transportation system, the Incas created unique bridges out of plant resources, traces of some of which are still preserved today. The monetary system also evolved: to provide economic accounting for such a vast empire, it was necessary to create a system of advanced accounting. The famous knot methodology for counting became a preserved legacy of the computer code of the ancient Incas (Brady para. 17). As a summation, it can be said that military efforts accompanied civil progress, with the result that the Empire developed holistically.

It should be emphasized that the Incas were not the only civilization of their time. However, it was they who, unlike their competitors, were able to achieve unprecedented greatness and maintain a legacy in history. In many respects, the intensified progress of this civilization was the result of the Inca’s methodological approach to the social system. This concerned the Inca economic system and the labor requirements of the inhabitants. For example, among the tribesmen, only the very young and elderly received the right not to work, while all other citizens had a social obligation to perform labor. Labor in this context does not mean work in the form familiar to modern readers: the Inca had no companies or businesses as such. All labor was confined to agrarian and handicraft activity. Each family usually had its plot of land on which crops were grown. If farming was not relevant to the household, they were engaged in sewing, weaving, jewelry making, or pottery. For this reason, many different objects of everyday life and decorations of the ancient Inca have survived.

The political apparatus of the Empire is not peculiar to modern civilizations but is an excellent illustration of the laws and orders of ancient communities. For example, the Inca inhabitants had no meaningful political freedoms, but they were obliged to work and receive commensurate pay. This was not a form of slavery, and Inca citizens likely understood their role in contributing to the common good. Any wrongdoing or deviation from the social order was strictly sanctioned from above in terms of legal rights. The death penalty was prevalent among the Incas as an instrument of justice. Although these theses would easily seem unethical and inhumane to the modern reader, it is impossible to deny their effectiveness for the time. Thus, there was virtually no crime in the state, not even petty theft.

In many respects, the strict requirements for almost constant performance were justified by the prevailing economic system of the Inca. It is a fact that there was no money or even trade between people in the Empire. The particular form of taxes that citizens were obliged to pay for state resources was labor. Only in this way could the inhabitants pay their debt to the ruler and ensure the normal functioning of the entire state. However, this does not mean that the Inca had no trade. The evidence shows that the Empire established an international trade system and was engaged in imports (Mayer 51). This leads one to believe that one of the main functions of the whole Inca was not to promote economy and trade, as is characteristic of modern states, but to establish the functioning of society by dealing with the pressing problems of hunger, medicine, and labor.

As is often the case, external invasion leads to the demise of a stable system. This was also characteristic of the Incas, whose civilizational death came under the pressure of European capitalist colonization. At the head of two hundred Spanish conquerors, Francisco Pizarro landed on the South American continent in 1532 (Lynch para. 2). Unlike the Inca, the Spaniards were armed and protected by steel armor, firearms, and the might of European support. The Spanish intervention quickly crushed the Inca’s will because of the diseases of measles, smallpox, and plague introduced into the territory. Suppressed, exhausted, and sick, the Inca people could no longer resist the invasion and surrendered the capital in 1536 (Lynch para. 17). The perfect end of the Empire happened 36 years later, when the last ruler of the Empire, Tupac Amaru, was executed.

In conclusion, the history of the Inca Empire reflects the dynamism of its existence. This history perfectly demonstrates the well-known rule about the three stages of any civilization: prosperity, peak, and demise. Throughout their existence, the Incas achieved excellent scientific, technical, political, and military heights. This refers to the ingenious ideas of engineering and architecture, including Machu Picchu. Many people are inclined to call these achievements the results of the supernatural support of the Inca. However, the essay has shown that they are the result of natural civilizational development under pressure. However, despite all their achievements and military might, the Inca, who had become the largest civilization in South America, fell under the pressure of the European intervention of the 16th century. The Spaniards destroyed the cultural heritage of that civilization with utter cruelty. For this reason, only a few of the Inca objects of everyday life and culture have been able to survive to this day, deserving the status of a legendary legacy of a great empire.

Works Cited

Brady, Heather. “Lofty Ambitions of the Inca.” National Geographic, 2020.

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“Cusco – The “Middle of the World” in the Andes.” Peru Spezialist, 2019.

Jarus, Owen. “The Inca Empire.” Live Science, 2018.

Lynch, P. “A Skirmish at Cajamarca in 1532 LED to the Downfall of the Incan Empire.” History Collection, 2018.

Mayer, Enrique. “Redistribution and Trade in Inca society.” The Articulated Peasan, 2018, pp. 47-73.

TED-Ed. “The Rise and Fall of the Inca Empire – Gordon Mcewan.” YouTube, 2018.

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