Cusco 2017 How does Incan city planning and layout within Cusco reveAL the CIVILISATION'S social hierarchy and theology?


In february of 2017, The students of Colegio menor went to Peru to test their various hypotheses about the Incan empire, its society, its architecture, religion etc. In this paper the students will have answered how does Inca city planning and layout within Cusco reveal the civilisation’s social hierarchy and theology. To answer this question, the students visited Peru, specifically Cusco the capital of the empire. On this trip students gathered information by primary sources and on the investigation done back in Quito Ecuador they gathered information thought trustworthy sources such as .org sites and .gov. Most methods consisted of asking the tour guides about the City’s organization, and paying attention to certain exhibits in certain museums that gave us valuable information in order to analyze the city layout and the way it contributed to their culture.

Broadly answered this paper reveals the connections between political strategies, government control, religious privileges and other factors of Inca life that was revealed throughout the analysis and investigation of the chosen question. Also it describes the discovery of two divisions of Cusco which was part of four other divisions within the empire which was represented on a traditional painting with holes that students found in a museum along with other data.

Cusco Streets (photo credit: Maria Emilia Andrade)

Research Question: How does Incan city planning and layout within Cusco reveal the civilizations social hierarchy and theology?

This research question specifically asks about the importance of Cusco's planning and layout, emphasizing how they influence and demonstrate the social hierarchy and theology of the Inca civilization. Cusco is mentioned specifically in the research question because it was the capital of the Inca Empire. As a result, Cusco's city planning and layout can illuminate Inca social hierarchy because of how they and where they built their homes, temples, and trade markets. Similarly, Cusco’s city planning and layout can reveal Incan theology, because we have learned that people who belong to the Inca civilization saw their religion as a priority and could be an important factor to how they decided to plan out their capital city layout given that everything had to lay according to the sun and the moon.It is important that we take in consideration this civilizations city layout as it can explain to us physically how they thought and how they developed such a big empire. To furthermore understand Inca civilization it is essential to perceive political control and if religion went above it.

Cathedral of Cusco (photo credits: Ana Teresa Neme)

Hypothesis: Cusco's city planning and layout will demonstrate how religion was the most powerful and influential factor in Inca civilization as well as respect for social classes.

We predict Cusco's planning and the layout has been significantly influenced by factors such as social hierarchy and theology as the people in charge of making decisions were the ones with most power and given that priests and religious leaders were the most powerful we would also predict that we will find important connections to the sun and the moon as we investigate. Furthermore, all buildings and important sites in Cuzco have some special connection to their gods and beliefs due to the way they are structured and the direction they are built; in fact, we could argue that no building would be built without the approval of a religious representative or a political leaders command. The city layout is most likely demonstrates how higher class and people in higher rank jobs have homes that are distinguished and closer to religious or holy sights.

Our hypothesis can be proven true if we find enough evidence from primary and secondary sources about how the buildings in Cusco were built and why. If the tour guides that the we encounter in Peru give us answers that prove our hypothesis statement about the influence of social hierarchy and theology in the city planning, then our hypothesis will be able to be proven. If we find contradictory information about the city layout that says that the city layout was not planned but just built as they grew or information that religion did not influence the decisions made by the government officials, then our hypothesis would be rejected.

Research Methods: Colegio Menor students were able to gather information through primary sources gathered on an academic field trip to Peru and weeks of investigation and information gathering through internet sources such as scholarly papers and .org sites.

Colegio Menor students were able to gather information through primary sources gathered on an academic field trip to Peru and weeks of investigation and information gathering through internet sources such as scholarly papers and .org sites. We answered the question by collecting evidence through trustworthy online web pages such as, the UNESCO website which is a site managed by the United Nations. We collected evidence from websites managed by universities or governments. The keywords we will used are: Cusco, architecture, theology, history, city planning, religious significance, Inca, and social hierarchy (all combined differently). In the field trip we will also be analyzing the primary sources such as important sites, temples, houses and ruins to determine a clear answer.

During the trip we took notes about the information the guides gave us, asked questions about the way the city’s layout, and tried to find brochures and important texts which contained legitimate information for us at sites in Cusco the analysis of the city planning. We tried to ask questions regarding Inca theology and social hierarchy to find a more professional point of view backed up with facts. Most of our questions were in a category of topics of religion, political leaders, government, architecture etc.

Cusco City (photo credit: Maria Emilia Andrade)

Conclusion: Cusco's city planning and layout was able to demonstrate social hierarchy as the city was built in an specific manner to benefit higher classes that descended from the first ancestors; also, Cusco's layout illuminated how theology was an important factor as it proved religious leaders forced the city to be in congruence with the sun and the moon.

We were able to confirm our hypothesis because the evidence indicates that the Incas organized Cuzco based on what the religious leaders said social hierarchy as religious representatives were at the top of the social and economic classes. Furthermore, we discovered certain extraordinary details about the ways that the Incas not only organized the city of Cusco, but also the way that they organized their entire Empire.

Inca theology finds to be influential in Cusco’s city structures as the temples built and locations they were built in were coordinated with their gods. Inti, was the most important God for the Inca and many structures were coherent to the belief of honoring him. As our guide in Peru was able to describe for us, certain roads were made so sunlight could shine through them at a certain time on a certain day. Roads in Cusco were not very symmetrical and straight as a way to honor the Inca Sun God. As we predicted, the Gods not able to communicate directly, were interpreted by religious leaders who took the decisions about Cusco planning and layout; indeed, the representatives of theology had the last word and Inca people followed this strictly proving that theology was a big influence in Cusco's city planning. This included a system in which the Incas represented the city of Cusco in a diagram, and created a big hole in the middle. this hole had many lines expanding from it, containing smaller holes in the line. These holes each represented a religious site within the Inca empire.

Cosco Organization (photo credits: Ana Paula Larrea)

Inca architects took the summer and winter solstices in great consideration since most of their royal residences faced the sun rise and aligned with the sun in the winter solstices . Furthermore, the Incas honored the Gods and their leader to such extent of making the city of Cusco look like a puma from an aerial view. Within the empire, the Puma was often view as a sacred animal, and therefore the fact that their main city was organized in such a specific way, is important as it clarifies that the Gods and religious leaders dictated how, where, and when the roads and city layout was organized. Another important piece of evidence we found was that the entrance to important temples or royal house had layers on the inside of the door frame. Each extra frame helped people identify if the given structure was a house a royal residence or a temple. One frame meant an ordinary home, two frames a royal residence, and finally three frames meant it was a temple. From house frames to the position of houses and design in roads the Inca Empire's capital Cusco, was greatly influenced by religious factors and social hierarchy as they made their houses and all aspects of Cusco honor and respect their nature Gods. One could also argue that the leaders in this Empire had all control over the people's houses which always had to be coherent on what the religious leaders ordered.

Cusco Sites (photo credit: Ana Teresa Neme)

Furthermore, our research revealed that the conclusion to our answer became a more complete and fuller, than what we imagined. The Incas, in fact, did influence their structures and city planning's based on their religious beliefs but also on other important factors. The leaders of the Inca empire were all religious and their government system was based on a hierarchy controlled by very few people. It is important that we understand the complex strategy and system that the Inca rulers created and manipulated to control the people.

Cusco Landscape (photo credit: Maria Emilia Andrade)

Works Cited

  • Andrade, M. (2017). Cusco Lanscape [Camera Photograph]. Self-published
  • Andrade, M. (2017). Cusco Streets [Camera Photograph]. Self-published
  • Andrade, M. (2017). Cusco City [Camera Photograph]. Self-published
  • Neme, A. (2017). Cathedral of Cusco [Cell Phone Photograph]. Self-Published
  • Neme, A. (2017). Cusco Sites [Cell Phone Photograph]. Self-Published
  • Larrea, A. (2017). Cusco Organzation [Cell Phone Photograph]. Self-Published


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