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With only a few exceptions, there were no traders in the Inca Empire. The Inca crafted magnificent objects from gold and silver, but perhaps their most striking examples of art were in the form of textiles. The Inca grew cotton, sheared wool and used looms to create their elaborate textiles. Inca stone-working abilities were also formidable. The empire reached its peak after the conquests of Emperor Huayna Capac, who reigned from until around To support this empire, a system of roads stretched for almost 25, miles roughly 40, km , about three times the diameter of the Earth.

As the Spanish conquered the Inca Empire, they were impressed by what they saw. In fact, the road and aqueduct systems in the Andes were superior to those in Europe at the time.


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Across the waters, the Spanish brought one of their strongest and invisible weapons with them — diseases that the Inca populations had never been exposed to. Smallpox wiped out much of the Inca population, including Capac and the successor he had chosen. After Capac's death, his kin battled for the power and his son, Atahualpa eventually succeeded. But the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro successfully lured and captured Atahualpa — eventually killing him and easily taking over Cusco with their more advanced weapons.

The Spanish, wanting to keep peace with the locals installed a "puppet king," Manco Inca Yupanqui, according to History. But him and his men were later forced to retreat to a village in the jungle called Vilcabamba, the last remaining bite of the Inca empire, until it disappeared in Today, many of the traditions the Inca carried out live on in the Andes. Textile making is still popular, the foods they ate are consumed around the world and archaeological sites like Machu Picchu are popular tourist attractions.

Even their ancient language, Quechua, is still widely spoken. This article was updated on Nov. Owen Jarus writes about archaeology and all things about humans' past for Live Science. Owen has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Toronto and a journalism degree from Ryerson University.

He enjoys reading about new research and is always looking for a new historical tale. Live Science History Reference:. Villagers in Cuzco, Peru, dressed in colorful shawls, or chompas, mingle with city-folk and tourists during a festival..

Incas For Kids | Who Were The Incas? | DK Find Out

Inca origins and expansion The Inca Empire is thought to have originated at the city of Cuzco in what is modern-day southern Peru. Cuzco Pachacuti ordered that the Inca capital, Cuzco, be rebuilt and strengthened. Three Incan mummies sacrificed years ago were regularly given drugs and alcohol before their death, particularly the eldest child called the Maiden shown here , to make them more compliant, researchers have found. Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor on. This process began when the Spanish imposed their own crops and forced people off traditional lands to farm and mine for the conquistadors.

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The local populations were devastated by war and, more significantly, by disease. Some researchers estimate that as many as half of the Incan population died soon after the Spanish conquest. Much of the traditional farming knowledge and engineering expertise was lost. The remnants of ancient terraces appear as lines of green on the mountains. Former irrigation canals carve hollows into the land. Today, in a corner of the Andes, people are breathing new life into ancient practices. Inspired by recent archaeological research, they are rebuilding terraces and irrigation systems and reclaiming traditional crops and methods of planting.

They do this in part because Incan agricultural techniques are more productive and more efficient in terms of water use. Archaeologist Ann Kendall began studying terraces in the Cuzco region of Peru in She intended to focus on Incan architecture and stonework, but she was soon captivated by the dry canal beds and terraces that beckoned from across the valley.

She decided to study the development and technology of the Incan agricultural systems with the idea of rehabilitating them. Over the years, she learned how the Incan builders employed stones of different heights, widths and angles to create the best structures and water retention and drainage systems, and how they filled the terraces with dirt, gravel and sand. The terraces leveled the planting area, but they also had several unexpected advantages, Kendall discovered. The stone retaining walls heat up during the day and slowly release that heat to the soil as temperatures plunge at night, keeping sensitive plant roots warm during the sometimes frosty nights and expanding the growing season.

Inca origins and expansion

And the terraces are extremely efficient at conserving scarce water from rain or irrigation canals, says Kendall. Over the past three decades, using archaeological details about the construction of terraces and irrigation systems, a development charity called the Cusichaca Trust, which Kendall formed in , rehabilitated and irrigated hectares of terraces and canals in the Patacancha Valley, near Cuzco. The project was a success: it improved water access and agricultural production, and local families maintain the structures today. Lessons from the Patacancha Valley are now being employed to restore Incan agricultural systems in other areas of Peru.

A worker from a nearby village swings a mallet and chips off the edges from a massive stone that has been hauled into the bed of an ancient irrigation channel.

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That rock will form one wall of the repaired channel. He and a half-dozen workers have been hard at work for a month already, and have rebuilt about a third of the channel. The work is part of a two-year project to mitigate the effects of climate change. The area is blanketed with terraces, most unused for centuries.


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  • It also was the center of power for the Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, during the s and early s. Many locals fled from the guerrilla fighters, abandoning farms and leaving the area with little farming expertise. Trainers from Cusichaca Andina schooled the community on how to repair the canal using local materials, which are cheaper than concrete and avoid the need to import materials from the city.

    One worker swings a pickax to carve out dirt and then shovels it aside. They use local clay to fill the gaps between boulders and alongside the earthen banks. When it hardens, the clay is watertight.

    Yellowing stalks of corn, quinoa and amaranth drape over and obscure the stone walls that have already been repaired. From September through December last year, local workers rehabilitated 54 hectares of terraces.

    History of the Incas

    By the spring of , the teams hope to rebuild nearly two miles of irrigation channels. In the few restaurants that can be found in nearby villages, rice trucked in from cities and the coast is on offer more frequently than the local quinoa. Jayo quotes a common city refrain that can keep those in the mountains from celebrating their own bounty: only the poor eat quinoa. In the latter half of the s, as remote mountain towns gained increasing access to radio, television and communication with the cities, local crops fell out of favor.

    But local grains are more nutritious and better suited to the Andean land and climate. So Cusichaca Andina has conducted educational training campaigns and given away seeds for quinoa, corn and amaranth. The seeds have been planted over 45 hectares, now used as demonstration sites to highlight how traditional farming practices of planting corn, quinoa and squash together, instead of in individual plots, can yield better results, as the crops symbiotically protect and nourish each other.

    After being soaked for days and frozen outdoors overnight to remove the bitterness, the potato is dried and can be stored for years. Approaches such as these might be crucial for poor Peruvian farmers. Glacial melt and the seasonal rains, the key suppliers of water, are already affected by climate change.

    The need for water conservation and agricultural development far outstrips the efforts and the available funding, Jayo says. But the idea does seem to be catching on. The Peruvian Ministry of the Environment, in a recent report to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, highlighted the importance of practices such as reclaiming diverse native Andean crops and rebuilding the infrastructure of pre-Hispanic irrigation.

    Mountainous regions around the world have a history of terracing. Kendall spoke at a terracing conference in southern China in She and 50 experts were taken by bus to view the extensive irrigated rice terraces and meet with farmers. But through the bus windows, Kendall saw evidence of dry terraces lining the hills and mountainsides, mostly abandoned and covered with vegetation—terraces potentially ripe for rehabilitation.

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