Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The original Inka homeland was the Cuzco valley of south-central Peru, but the Inka Empire eventually extended along the Andes from Columbia near the Ecuador border in the north to northern Argentina and Chile in the south and along the coast of Peru and northern Chile. The Inka rulers, also called the Inka, managed and integrated myriad multiethnic groups partly by imposing a state religion and partly by requiring their language (a Quechuan language) to be spoken by the conquered population. However, the rulers allowed the native religions and languages to continue. The state was supported by "mita" labor, a form of taxation. Agriculture, especially of maize, potatoes, and cotton, accounted for the economic base. The Inka are known for their Megalithic architecture and fine-cut stone masonry. The Inka collection focuses on the period 1200-1600.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


South America --Central Andes







OWC Code


Number of Documents


Note: Select the Collection Documents tab above to browse documents.

Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Inka file consists of 26 documents in English with some Spanish in the documents. The documents discuss the Inkan culture, the Quechua-speaking peoples, and some ethnic groups which were incorporated into the Inka empire along the coast of northern Chile, Peru, Ecuador and the Andean highlands from northern Ecuador through Peru and Bolivia to northern Argentina and Chile. The documents discuss the Inka from 800 B.P. to 400 B.P., with a major emphasis on the Inka at the time of the Spanish conquest, 1200-1600 A.D.[SB].

The most significant primary works have been selected from the great number of writings on the Inka, and four have been translated from the original Spanish especially for the files. Rowe (1946, no.1) is the only secondary study; it is a synthesis from the Handbook of South American Indians which provides an excellent introduction to the culture and includes good photographs not available elsewhere. Another introduction can be found in Zuidema (1990, no. 18), who uses sixteenth century Spanish accounts to reconstruct Inka ethnography in the Cuzco valley. Cieza de León (1864, no. 2) is based on journals kept by the author during extensive travels as a soldier during the Conquest; it contains careful descriptions of the country and some data on the society and culture. Cieza de León (1883, no. 13) is a continuation of the same work, emphasizing traditional history with incidental treatment of various aspects of social, political and economic organization. Garcilaso de la Vega (1869 and 1871, no. 3) is a vivid account of the Inka reigns, customs and environment, considered by many the most valuable source for a wide variety of data. Cobo (1893, no. 4) stresses religious aspects, with detailed accounts of mythology, cults, ceremonies and religious organization. Polo de Ondegardo (1916, no. 5) written by a colonial administrator, analyzes Inka religion and government, in particular the system of tax collection as it worked in the mid-16th century. Polo de Ondegardo (1873, no. 6), by the same author, treats the Inka expansion in detail, covering many facets of military, political and religious administration. Pachacuti-yamqui Salcamayhua (1873, no. 7) is concerned with Inka traditions and myths, both pre- and post-conquest. Molin (1873, no. 8) emphasizes religious activities of the Inka and origin myths of many of the constituent tribes; ceremonial prayers, practices and calendar are stressed. Xeres (1872, no. 9) centers on the Spanish conquest itself, but includes many observations on a variety of subjec ts. Estete (1872, no. 10) is a report of observations made during a single expedition, including detailed information on the organization and activities centering about an Inka temple. Pizzaro (1872, no. 11) is primarily an account of the first contacts of the Spanish with the Inka, including geographical descriptions and comparisons of the coast with the highlands regions. Poma de Ayala (1936, no. 12) is outstanding in part for its numerous drawings, but also for the author's description of a wide variety of customs of both the Inka nation and, in many cases, of incorporated tribes.

Two authors discuss the Inkan use of space. Bauer (1998, no. 14) describes the complex CEQUE system around Cusco, while Hyslop (1990, no. 16) describes the various types of Inkan-built settlements found throughout the Inkan Empire. Examining the Inka before the Spanish arrival Murra (1980, no.17) looks at their economic and social organization. Silverblatt (1987, no. 25) compares gender issues in the Andes from before the Inka conquest to after the Spanish conquest. Costin (1993, no. 26) was also interested in gender roles, examining the role of women in textile production. Several authors were interested in the interaction between the Inka and the various conquered ethnic groups: D'Altroy (1992, no. 15), Pease G.Y. (1982, no. 19), Murra (1982, no. 23), Wachtel (1982, no. 24). How the Inka exerted their power to control the conquered provinces and how they undercut provincial loyalties can be explored in Rowe (1982, no. 20), Julien (1982, no. 21), Morris (1982, no. 22). [SB]

For further information on individual works in this file, see the abstract in the citations preceding each document.

The major portion of this summary is based on the article, "Inca," by Tamara Bray in the Encyclopedia of Prehistory, Vol. 7: South America. Peter N. Peregrine and Melvin Ember, eds. New York: Plenum Publishing Corporation, 2002. We thank Peter N. Peregrine for bibliographic suggestions. Sarah Berry wrote the synopsis in 2003. John Beierle added additional sections to this summary relevant to linguistic affiliations, history and cultural relations, land tenure, kinship, socialization, marriage, and medicine, in October 2003. The material written by Tamara Bray in this summary is followed by the initials [TB], that by John Beierle by [JB], and that by Sarah Berry by [SB].

Overview by

John Beierle


Sarah Berry

ACLLA (also spelled AQLLA) -- chosen woman; a woman attached to a temple and chosen for state religious service; duties included weaving and brewing CHICHA-- categories 561, 792, 286, 554

ACLLAWASI -- (also spelled AQLLAWASI)- - the building where ACLLA lived, wove, and brewed CHICHA -- categories 346 and 792

Altiplano -- high plateau -- category 133


Andean verticality -- see Vertical archipelago

APACHETA -- a stone pile placed as an offering beside a road at high points -- category 778

AUQUICUNA -- royal princes -- category 644

'AWASQA -- rough cloth, category 286

AYLLU -- a social unit usually based on lineage or kinship; as a community -- category 621; as a royal lineage -- category 613; as a non-royal kin group -- category 614

CACIQUE (CACICA for a female) -- head of an AYLLU or community, categories 622 and 631

CACIR CAPAC -- inspector general of lands and grazing -- categories 634, 423

CAMARICO -- work performed by the household and ethnic community on behalf of those away -- categories 464 and 476

CAMASCA -- sorcerers -- depending on function, categories 754, 756, 759, 791

CAMAYOS -- "oficiales"; men having a specific trade or craft -- category 463

CANCHONES -- corrals -- category 417

CAPAC COCHA -- a religious ritual associated with agriculture -- categories, 796, 788

CAPAC HUCHA -- child sacrifice -- category 782

CEQUES (also spelled ZEQUES) --a ceremonial line or path; 41 lines radiating from the Temple of the Sun in Cusco along which HUACAS, and shrines were located; these lines were also used to divide space according to precise astronomical observations and the calendar; these ceremonial lines are also found outside Cusco -- categories 823, 778, 805, (depending on context)

CHACARAS -- fields or farms -- category 423; location of CHACARAS -- category 131; size of CHACARAS -- category 241

CHAPA -- districts -- category 634

Chief accountants -- category 645

CHAQUITACLLA (also spelled CHAKITAKLLA) -- a digging stick -- category 412

CHICHA -- fermented drink made from corn -- category 273

CHULPA -- burial tower - category 764

CINCHEKONA -- war leaders -- categories 622 and 701

COLLCA (also spelled QOLLQA) -- storeroom or storehouse -- category 488

CORREGIDOR -- chief magistrate -- category 693, sometimes with 692


COYAS -- "queens" or wives of the Inka rulers -- category 644

CURACA (also spelled KURAKA) -- a local native leader or chief -- category 622

Cusco CEQUES system -- the distribution of Inka shrines surrounding Cusco -- categories 823, 778

CUY (plural CUYES) -- guinea pig -- category 231

Decimal Administration -- categories 631, 651, and 466

Districts (SAYA) -- category 634

Duality, as a worldview -- category 829

FAENA -- labor for group projects, often labor required of a household in exchange for farmland -- categories 466, 476

GALPONE -- large hall, category 344


HANAN -- the upper half (verses HURIN) of the Inkan moiety, can be used to divide a town, all of Inkan society, or TAWANTINSUYU -- category 616

HANAN CUSCO -- the "upper" moieties of the SUYUS of CHINCHAYSUYU and ANTISUYU -- category 616

House of virgins (nuns) -- category 792

HUACA -- (also spelled GUACA or WAQA) shrines or sacred things -- category 778

HUACA as a god -- category 776

HUACA as a specialist in sacrifice -- categories 782, 793

HURIN -- the lower half (verses HANAN) of the Inkan moiety; can be used to divide a town, all of Inkan society, or TAWANTINSUYU -- category 616

HURIN CUSCO -- the "lower" moieties of the SUYUS of COLLASUYU and CUNTISUYU -- category 616

Inka rulers (royal) -- category 643

Inka's family and servants -- category 644; non-Inka groups in Cuzco -- categories 563 or 619; overseers or examiners of the Inka -- category 645

Inkan state religion -- category 779

KALLANKA -- a type of structure; a long hall -- category 341

KANCHA -- a type of structure; several rooms around a patio with a perimeter wall -- category 341



Main divisions of the empire (CHINCHASUYU, CUNTISUYU, ANTISUYU, COLLASUYU) -- category 631

MITA (MIT'A, M'ITA, MINGA, MIT'ANNI) -- required communal labor as a form of taxation -- category 651

MITIMAE -- colonists -- category 636

MITIMAS (MITIMAS, MITMAQ) -- the forcibly resettling of one ethnic group within the territory of another; a settler from some other place; a colony -- categories 636, 629, 648 (depending on context)

MITAYOQ -- the one who supplies MITA service -- category 465 or 466

MONTAÑA -- eastern slopes of the Andes between 2000 and 3000 m with deep-forested canyons - category 133

Non-Inka groups in Cuzco -- categories 563 or 619 depending on context Overseers or examiners of the Inka -- category 647

PACARINA -- a sacred place that is a landscape feature and designates the place of a group's origin -- category 778 and 613

PACCHA -- a devise for pouring libations -- category 782

PANACA (also spelled PANAQA) -- royal AYLLU -- category 613

PARCIALIDADES -- ancient traditional "kindreds" called ANANCUZCO and URINCUZCO -- categories 612, 613 or 616 depending on function PARCIALIDAD, as a territorial division -- category 631

Patios -- category 351

Plazas -- category 361

Prefects of the four quarters (SUYUS) -- category 645

PRINCIPALES (CACIQUES) -- category 631

Provinces (WAMAÑ or WAMANI) -- category 635

Provincial (Imperial) governors -- category 635

Provincial magistrates (TOCRICOC) -- category 693

PUCARA -- a fortress -- category 712

PUNA - the high grasslands over 4000 masl -- category 133

QOLLQA (also spelled KOLLKA and QOLLKA) -- a storehouse -- category 488

QOMPI (also spelled CUMBI) -- fine clothe, category 286

QOMPI-KAMAYOQ -- a specialist, male weaver; categories 286 and 463

QUEBRADA -- dry wash or seasonal stream -- category 133

QUINOA -- a hardy, salt-tolerant, crimson-colored grain -- categories 137, 243

QUIPU (also spelled KHIPU) -- a system of knotted strings used as a counting or mnemonic device -- categories 211, 802

QUIPUCAMAYOC -- quipu specialist -- generally categories 211, 212; for imperial quipu specialists add 645 as well

Restricted access into and within settlements or sacred sites -- category 363

Royal AYLLU -- category 613

Royal council -- category 646

SAYA -- political divisions or districts -- categories 631, 634

Scribes -- categories 645, 212

Secretary to the Inka -- category 645

SONCOYOC -- sorcerer -- depending on function categories 754, 756, 759 and 791 Sorcerers (CAMASCA or SONCOYOC) -- depending on function categories 754, 756, 759 and 791

State sponsored hospitality -- categories 657 and 659

SUYUS -- main division of the Inka empire into quarters called CHINCHASUYU, CUNTISUYU, ANTISUYU, COLLASUYU -- category 631

SUYU RUNA -- an administrator at the district level -- category 634

TAMPU (also spelled TAMBO) -- an Inkan state lodging on the road system -- category 485

TARPUNTAY -- the priestly class -- category 793

TAWANTINSUYU -- the Inkan Empire, the land of the four SUYU -- category 631

TAPIA -- puddled adobe, a type of adobe brick -- category 333

Temporary quarters for workers -- category 466

TINKU -- ritual battles between closely related villages, between groups within one AYLLU, herders verses farmers, men verses women, etc. -- categories 626, 628, 541, and 578 depending on context

TOCRICOC -- provincial magistrates -- category 693

TORICOQ -- an Inkan governor or inspector -- categories 635, 636 and 647

TUCUY RICU (RICO) -- a provincial governor -- category 635

TUPO (also spelled TUPU) -- a clothing or shawl pin -- category 291

TUPU -- the basic land unit able to feed a couple for a year -- category 423


USHNU -- a ritual complex, often in or near the central plaza of a town, that consisted of a stone, a drain, a basin, and sometimes a platform -- categories 778 and 823

Vertical archipelago (also called Andean verticality and verticality) -- an economic and settlement system where a single community splits into two with one group in the sierras and the other in the MONTANAS. The two groups would share in the products from their respective, different ecosystems and gain complementary resources -- categories 361, 433, 437

Viceroy of the Inka -- category 645

VISITA -- an administrative survey or a set of records -- categories 217 and 659

WAMAÑ (WAMANI) -- provinces -- category 635


WASI -- a house or building -- categories 341 and 342

YANA (YANACONAS) -- men having a specific civil status in the society, such as

servants or slaves -- categories 357, 567

YANANTIN -- balanced opposites -- category 829

YCHURI -- confessors -- category 783


Indexing Notes by

John Beierle


Sarah Berry

Close Box