The Inca were an American Indian people of western South America who settled in the altiplanos (high plains) of the Andean mountain region. Between 1200 and 1400 they subjugated neighboring tribes to form a vast and wealthy empire. Inca territory covered parts of present-day Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. The capital was at Cusco (in Peru). The civilization reached its peak during the latter part of the 1400s and into the early 1500s. The Inca had a multi-layered government in which the central authority of the emperor was balanced against the regional authority of chiefs. However, the emperor required absolute obedience from local rulers. Inca ruins indicate that they were accomplished engineers: They not only built an extensive system of roads and bridges to connect the provinces, but they built irrigation systems, temples, citadels, and terraced gardens on a grand scale. Machu Pichu, high in the Andes of Peru, is believed to be the last great city of the Inca. The Inca were skilled craftspeople who worked with gold, silver, and textiles (cotton and wool). The government controlled trade. There was no system of money; cloth, which was highly valued, was sometimes used as a medium of exchange. The Inca used llamas to transport goods. Canoes, rafts, and other boats were used in coastal areas and along rivers. Like the Aztec of central Mexico, the Inca were pantheistic (worshiped many gods), and they, too, at first mistook the Spanish explorers for gods.
The last of the great Inca rulers, Huayna Capac, died in 1525, and his sons subsequently fought over the empire. When the Spaniards, led by Francisco Pizarro (c. 1475–1541), arrived in 1532, they encountered a somewhat weakened Inca society. Nevertheless the people resisted the European incursion, and in 1536 they rose up in rebellion. The Inca were conquered by the Spaniards in 1537, and their vast territory came under Spanish colonial control.
See also: Aztec, Maya
The Incas arrived in the Cuzco valley in Peru c.1200 ad. When the Spanish invaded in the early 1530s, the Inca empire covered most of modern Ecuador and Peru, much of Bolivia, and parts of Argentina and Chile. Inca technology and architecture were highly developed despite a lack of wheeled vehicles and of writing. Their descendants, speaking Quechua, still make up about half of Peru's population.
In·ca / ˈingkə/ • n. 1. a member of a South American Indian people living in the central Andes before the Spanish conquest.2. the supreme ruler of this people.DERIVATIVES: In·ca·ic / inˈkāik; ing-/ adj.In·can adj.
in·ca / ˈingkə/ • n. a South American hummingbird having mainly blackish or bronze-colored plumage with one or two white breast patches. • Genus Coeligena, family Trochilidae: four species.