Juan Ignacio Naranjo
Laura van Oordt
March 28, 2017
We are 10th grade students from Colegio Menor in Quito who travelled to Cusco, Peru, in the month of February, 2017. We investigated the life of the Incas in the different sites that we visited in Cusco. Our main focus was in answering a research question that concentrated on the political organization of the Incas, and how it affected the Incan expansion. To begin, we made a hypothesis that could answer our question, which said that the Incan political organization did affect the Inca expansion. We collected information to answer this question from museums in Cusco, such as the "Museo Histórico Regional", sites like Machu Picchu, and by interviewing our guides. Once we returned to Quito we investigated the research question in journal articles, websites and books. Every source that we used had to be academically legitimate. With the evidence gathered, we confirmed our hypothesis and made some conclusions. The results of the research showed that the political structure of the Incas functioned like a monarchy, in which everyone obeyed the orders of the ruler. People went to fight whenever their ruler told them to. Also, people were easily trained as warriors when they had to fight in civil wars to control uprisings from conquered people. The conclusions we formed demonstrate that the Incan political organization played an important role in their rapid expansion.
City of Cusco [Photo credit: Laura van Oordt]
Research Question: How did the political organization of the Incas affect their rapid and successful military expansion throughout South America?
The Incas were a civilization that lived in South America between the 13th and 15th centuries and formed a huge Empire. Our research question focuses on the way that Incan society was structured, how each social class contributed to the Empire, and the Incas' amazingly quick and successful military conquest. This question allows us to research the Incan political organization, which included specific social classes and a ruler, and all the factors that helped during Incan expansion. More specifically, this question enables an analysis of the Inca civilization's social structure and how it assisted the Inca's military expansion. Understanding how the Incan political organization led to successful expansion is very relevant to other civilizations, as they could realize that having a well-organized and authoritarian social structure is a key feature to becoming a developed Empire.
Map of the Inca expansion [photo credit: Haylli]
Hypothesis: The Incas' authoritarian political organization, which functioned like a monarchy, contributed to their quick expansion because they could easily draft and train skillful warriors, and people always obeyed the orders of the Sapa Inca.
The political organization of the Incas contributed to their successful and rapid expansion because the Inca ruler, or Sapa Inca, formed a huge army and led them to conquer others. Many Incas were very experienced warriors that formed a powerful army when they followed the orders of their ruler to go fight. Their ruler also could easily train soldiers for his army because all Incas responded to his orders. Incas gained experience in civil wars that were mostly caused by uprisings from conquered people against Incas. Conquered cultures would already have rulers, but due to the Inca conquest they would be ruled by the Sapa Inca instead. The Sapa Inca, the nobles, and the administrators controlled the people that they conquered. Moreover, the way the Incas were organized allowed them to control their people so they were obedient to the government and fought for it. The hypothesis can either be confirmed or rejected by collecting legitimate evidence that can support it in the Academic Field trip to Cusco, and by looking at different sources on the internet that are reliable and looking in books.
An Inca warrior and Sapa Inca, Pachacutec [photo credit: Laura van Oordt]
Research Methods: By collecting evidence on reliable websites, journal articles, and books, as well as conducting interviews in the city of Cusco, we answered our question directly and fully.
We used sources such as academic journal articles, books, and encyclopedias on the internet to make sure we would have credible information from legitimate sources. We chose to use only reliable websites, which were published recently and always written by an expert on history. To confirm that an author had expertise, we checked the person's history to know where the author went to college, what he or she specializes in, and if he or she studies the subject we are researching, so we would know that the information this author provided was completely reliable. We used a book named "Historia del Tahuantinsuyu" by Maria Rostworowski, a Peruvian historian and writer that dedicated her life to investigating the Incas and writing many books about them. Her book is about the history of the Incas since the beginning of the civilization until the end of the Empire, and it has chapters that focus entirely on the Incas' expansion.
We decided that, during the week we spent in Cusco, we would pay special attention to certain aspects of Incan life. We observed the way Inca roads were built, since they were the Incas' fastest way to move troops and messages through the Empire. Also, the information that museums like "Museo Histórico Regional" provided on Incan territories and on Incan lifestyles, according to social classes, was a helpful source for investigation. We interviewed our guides, who were experts on Inca history, asking them about Inca expansion. We gathered a lot of information during that week that helped answer our research question.
Inca road seen at Cusco [photo credit: Laura van Oordt]
Conclusions: The Incan authoritarian political organization did contribute to their rapid and successful military expansion through the formation of skilled warriors and the maintenance of order in the Empire.
Our hypothesis can be fully and clearly confirmed because the Incan political organization helped their Empire expand thanks to the formation of disciplined citizens who would fight for their civilization. A strict and organized rule was maintained by the Sapa Inca, the ruler. At Machu Picchu, a guide explained that the fact that no one in the Empire experienced hunger and had some food created an obedient character in people. If a government feeds you, then you feel you owe it something, and we speculate that made Incas follow orders carefully. Another great point is that the Incas continuously fought wars against conquered people, which created an environment that pressured young men to become warriors and fight (Cartwright, 2016). We have been able to confirm the hypothesis we created by analyzing information gathered at museums, through interviews, and by conducting research.
The information we collected doing research about Incan political organization and their expansion is useful to understand how the Incan political structure influenced their military expansion. The expansion began after the Incas finally defeated their neighbours, the Chancas, at the beginning of the 1400's under the command of the Sapa Inca Cusi Yupanqui (Rostworowski, 1988, p. 51). After fighting hard battles for many years, the Incas conquered the people who lived around their territory in Cusco. They established a political system that worked like a monarchy, with a ruler or Sapa Inca leading, nobles and priests beneath him, and lastly the working class (Cartwright, 2015). The Sapa Inca and nobles commanded the working class to fight several civil wars against the unhappy conquered people, making the Incas experienced warriors. Conquered people wanted to be ruled by someone else, not by the Incas. With his power, the Sapa Inca created an army of over 100,000 soldiers, and they developed advanced weapons and war strategies that included arrows or special swords, and attacking with overpowering numbers (Cartwright, 2016). Everyone obeyed orders of the Sapa Inca, who was the Emperor, so when he sent people to fight a war they always went and he easily drafted skilled warriors to participate in the army.
Machu Picchu, a territory that became Inca after their expansion [photo credit: Basem Bader]
Moreover, as the Inca Empire grew, an enormous system of roads helped connect it and to mobilize the army. The working class built a system of roads by hand, as they had to do services called mingas for their community (O' Brien, 2015). In the course of about two hundred years, without the help of transport that used wheels, the Incas travelled up and down in South America, conquering almost every civilization they met. The system of roads allowed them to travel really fast. By the time the Spanish arrived in America, the Incas owned land from present-day Colombia all the way to Chile (Cartwright, 2016). This is an enormous territory that probably made the Incas the greatest Empire ever to set foot in South America. Thanks to the system of roads the Inca working class built the Inca military expansion in South America happened, and it is a very impressive event in history.
The city of Cusco [photo credit: Basem Bader]
Understanding the Incan expansion could have been very useful for another civilization to know how to form a powerful and advanced Empire with a controlling, authoritarian rule. Even though many factors allowed the Incas to spread quickly, the Incan political organization greatly contributed to the civilization's growth. The Incas were able to form a huge Empire due to their political and social organization, and to the impeccable management of everything that happened by the leaders. The Incas lived in a monarchy and had to followed very strict orders, which made the development of a great Empire possible. If another civilization studied the expansion of the Incas, they would understand that having an authoritarian rule like the Incas had would enable them to expand, maintain order, and to be remembered in history.
Bader, B. (2017). The city of Cusco [Cell Phone Photograph]. Self-published.
Bader, B. (2017). Machu Picchu, a territory that became Inca after their expansion [Cell Phone Photograph]. Self-published.
Cartwright, M. (2015, October 22). Inca Government. Retrieved from http://www.ancient.eu/Inca_Government/
Cartwright, M. (2016, May 19). Inca Warfare. Retrieved from http://www.ancient.eu/Inca_Warfare/
Haylli. (2008). Inca expansion [Online Phtotograph]. Retrieved March 28, 2017 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inca-expansion.png
O'Brien, J. (2015, July 2). Inca Road: The ancient highway that created an empire. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33291373
Rostworowski, M. (1988). Historia del Tahuantinsuyu. Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos.
Van Oordt, L. (2017). An Inca warrior and Sapa Inca, Pachacutec [Camera Photograph]. Self-published.
Van Oordt, L. (2017). City of Cusco [Camera Photograph]. Self-published.
Van Oordt, L. (2017). Inca road seen at Cusco [Cell Phone Photograph]. Self-published.
Van Oordt, L. (2017). The suyos of the Inca Empire [Cell Phone Photograph]. Self-published.