Inca civilization map
The Inca civilization flourished in ancient Peru between c. 1400 and 1533 CE, and their empire eventually extended across western South America from Quito in the north to Santiago in the south, making it the largest empire ever seen in the Americas and the largest in the world at that time. Undaunted by the often harsh Andean environment, the Incas conquered people and exploited landscapes in such diverse settings as plains, mountains, deserts, and tropical jungle. Famed for their unique art and architecture, they constructed finely-built and imposing buildings wherever they conquered, and their spectacular adaptation of natural landscapes with terracing, highways, and mountaintop settlements continues to impress modern visitors at such world famous sites as Machu Picchu.
As with other ancient Americas cultures, the historical origins of the Incas are difficult to disentangle from the founding myths they themselves created. According to legend, in the beginning, the creator god Viracocha came out of the Pacific Ocean, and when he arrived at Lake Titicaca, he created the sun and all ethnic groups. These first people were buried by the god and only later did they emerge from springs and rocks (sacred pacarinas) back into the world. The Incas, specifically, were brought into existence at Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco) from the sun god Inti, hence, they regarded themselves as the chosen few, the 'Children of the Sun', and the Inca ruler was Inti's representative and embodiment on earth. In another version of the creation myth, the first Incas came from a sacred cave known as Tampu T'oqo or 'The House of Windows', which was located at Pacariqtambo, the 'Inn of Dawn', south of Cuzco. The first pair of humans were Manco Capac (or Manqo Qhapaq) and his sister (also his wife) Mama Oqllu (or Ocllo). Three more brother-sister siblings were born, and the group set off together to found their civilization. Defeating the Chanca people with the help of stone warriors (pururaucas), the first Incas finally settled in the Valley of Cuzco and Manco Capac, throwing a golden rod into the ground, established what would become the Inca capital, Cuzco.
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