Last week, we introduced Peru’s coastal, monument-building civilizations with carbon dated roots to the 3rd or late 4th millennium BC, and Peru’s Neolithic settlers dating back to the 9th millennium BCE. I shall take a not-very-risky leap and say that these civilizations provided at least part of the DNA—if not all–of the Inca, whose only recorded history began with their encounter with the Conquistadores in the 16th century of the 2nd millennium CE, after which all Inca subjects were subjugated to new conquerors.
As we saw with the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC), so we see with the Inca. With only scarce evidence of an Harappan script, little progress has been (or can be) made in decoding it; but even if it was decoded, the paucity of manuscripts or stelas gives us little hope that we will ever know IVC history—much less at a comparable level with that of the contemporaneous Sumerians and Egyptians of the 3rd millennium BC. Carbon 14 and other forms of dating by physical science will allow us to establish a timeline of dateable material culture in the IVC, such as a sequence of various artifacts (where excavation provenance have been accurately recorded) and of most architectural remains. Given the large size and long timespan of the IVC Harappan culture, this is a serious hole in the prehistory of South Central Asia.
The same problem affects our understanding of the roots of the Inca Empire. We know a lot about their conquest by the Spanish Conquistadores, and what those conquerors recorded during and after the colonization. But, most of those Spanish records are either hidden away in private collections, or in inaccessible government, museum and religious archives. The world has been notoriously irresponsible in the collection, protection, preservation, and presentation of content essential to reconstructing history. We shouldn’t be too surprised, only a few making history realize they are doing so, and a minority of those have the presence of mind or system of values to record and safeguard the evidence.
This week, I have found four videos for today’s examination of Inca roots in the Andes highlands. For an introduction, I suggest you now watch the first video: Forerunners of the Inca.
Architecture. Stonework is a hallmark of the Inca. However, many think the highest quality stonework, often incorporated in Inca architecture, was performed by much earlier cultures. You will encounter these earlier cultures through the videos and documentation. Digging further, I now suggest you watch the second video: The Living Stones of Sacsayhuaman. Then read these Wikis on the city of Cusco and Saksaywaman. Representing challengers to conventional thinking about this ancient stonework, check out this video: The Lost History of the Inca.
Inca Road System. Speaking of stonework, many credit the entire 39,900 kilometer (24,800 mile) Inca Road System to the Inca tribe who rose and fell during the mid-2nd millennium CE. Popular thinking is even more gullible, crediting the Inca with most of the ancient stone architecture of Peru, including works of earlier cultures merely touched up or expanded by the Inca. The naive attribute most of these Inca works to the last century before the arrival of the Spanish. The truth is that archaeology hasn’t applied itself to scientifically seeking the answers with its best technology, as applied elsewhere.
Wari Empire 500-1000 CE. As we saw in the last post, the Extreme Weather Event of 535-536 CE broke prior cultural continuity among the agricultural people of the lowlands. The Wari Culture then spread from its pastoral roots across an enormous range of highlands and lowlands following this disaster. However, a protracted drought destroyed them. In that preliterate world, 1000 years before literacy, all is conjecture. The above Wiki had little to work with. Time did not begin until Peru’s conquerors arrived.
Overview. Today’s post does not end in that void of prehistory, but on historical notes. First, this article presents the best summary of the Inca I’ve found. Here’s the 4th video: Lost Cities of the Inca, a well-produced and dramatized documentary presenting the discoveries of 20th century adventurer, Hiram Bingham III, and the 5th Viceroy of the Spanish Colony of Peru: Francisco deToledo who imposed order and reforms upon the Spanish colonies on behalf of the King of Spain.
Thanks for visiting,
R. E. J. Burke