American Indians * Languages * Tribes * Art

Inca [archive]

This article has been archived from the now-defunct MSU E-Museum ( for educational purposes. Please visit our Article Archive Index for further information. If the author of this article would like to make changes to it, or if you are the author of another article you would like us to add to our archives, please contact us.


Location: Andean South America

History: The Inca are known for their success in taking over neighboring kingdoms. Some territories were taken by force, others peacefully allied with the Incas. The conquered kingdoms were allowed to retain their individual cultural identities, though they were subject to Inca labor taxes. By the time of the Spanish conquest, the Incas controlled about 12 million people along the entire length of western South America.

The Incas had no form of writing, but developed an ingenious system of record-keeping. Because of the large size of the Incan empire, there was no central government. The Incas demonstrated a high degree of engineering ability in the construction of roads, bridges, farming terraces, and cities. The chief crop was maize, but cotton, potatoes, an edible tuber called oca and a grain called quinoa were also cultivated. Coastal peoples grew gourds, squash, chili peppers, fruit and legumes. Fishing from boats, the people used hook and line as well as nets and harpoons to gather marine life. Inca social life was based on status which was set for life.

Language: Each conquered town had their own language, however, the Incas imposed Quechua on them so that all might understand one another. Today, Quechua is still the indigenous language of the Andean region spoken today by approximately 13 million people in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Northern Chile, Argentina, and Southern Colombia.

Daily Life: Though the empire of the Incas faded into history, many of the ancient traditions lingered. Curing ceremonies are still used in the treatment of the sick. Many of the clothing styles worn by modern Andean people are descended from the ancient Incas. But many of the innovations in farming and organization were lost through the years.

Best Known Features: Well developed political systems and successful military excursions.


Ivan's Home Page in South Africa, electronic document:

Inca History and Culture Inca Son, electronic document:

Nelson, Steve. Empire of the Incas, electronic document:

Morosini, Piero. The Common Glue: An Alternative Way of Transcending Differences to Unleash Competitive Performance. Emerald Group Publishing, 2005.

Additional Reading

 Inca Language
 Inca Legends
 Civilizations of Peru

Sponsored Links

Read our article submission guidelines

Native Languages

Makah language * Keres * Kootenai county * Esha

Would you like to help support our organization's work with endangered American Indian languages?