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Inca Empire

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Location of the Inca Empire
A view of Machu Picchu, "the Lost City of the Incas," now an archaeological site.

The Inca were a pre-Columbian civilization. Their empire was in the Andes of South America. The word Inca can also mean the emperor or king of the Inca people. It was the largest empire in America, and was large even by world standards. It existed shortly before Christopher Columbus arrived in America. The Inca ruled along the western coast of South America for a little over 100 years, until the Spanish invasion in the 16th century. The empire was centred around the city of Cusco, or Qosqo, in what is now southern Peru. This was the administrative, political and military center of the empire. In later years, it was also centred around Quito. The Inca were ruled by an Emperor known as the Sapa Inca. Throughout their empire, they built many good roads to make travel easy.

The Inca Empire was called Tawantinsuyo in Quechua, which means "four regions". The empire only lasted for about 100 years as the arrival of the conquering Spaniards in 1532 marked the end of their reign. Their main language was Quechua, but as the Incas were basically made up of many different groups there were probably many different languages as well.

The Inca Empire began around Lake Titicaca in about 1197. From 1438 to 1533, the Incas used conquest and non-violent assimilation to gain a large portion of western South America, that centered on the Andean mountain ranges. It included large parts of what is now Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.

In 1533, Atahualpa, the last sovereign emperor, was executed by the conquistador Francisco Pizarro. That meant the beginning of Spanish rule in South America. The Inca Empire was supported by an economy based on the ownership of the land.


  • Popenoe, Hugh, Steven R. King, Jorge Leon, Luis Sumar Kalinowski, and Noel D. Vietmeyer. Lost Crops of the Incas. Washington DC: National Academy Press, 1989.
  • De la Vega, Garcilaso . The Incas: The Royal Commentaries of the Inca. New York: The Orion Press, 1961.
  • Mc Neill, William H.. "How The Potato Changed The World's History." Social Research 66.1 (1999) 16 Sep 2006.

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