Origins » Chimu Civilization › Pachacamac › Ahuitzotl › Popol Vuh › Inti › Chan Chan › Zapotec Civilization » History

Characters and historical events ››

  1. Chimu Civilization
  2. Pachacamac
  3. Ahuitzotl
  4. Popol Vuh
  5. Inti
  6. Chan Chan
  7. Zapotec Civilization
  8. Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui
  9. Lake Titicaca

Historical places, and their characters | Who they were and their facts

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[ 1 ]

Chimu Civilization

Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

The Chimú civilization, otherwise called the kingdom of Chimor, flourished on the northern coast of Peru between the 12th and 15th centuries CE. With their capital at Chan Chan the Chimu were the largest and most prosperous culture in the Late Intermediate Period and forged the second largest empire in the history of the ancient Andes. Their architecture, approach to regional governance, and art would also go on to influence their more famous successors, the Incas.

Historical Overview

The traditional founding ruler of the Chimú was Taycanamo who was considered to have been born from a golden egg and then arrived from the sea. Other notable rulers include Guacricaur, who expanded into the Moche, Santa, and Zaña valleys. Eventually the Chimú extended their territory even further south and in 1375 CE, under the rulership of Nancinpinco, conquered the Lambayeque (Sicán) culture absorbing some of their cultural practices and artistic ideas. The La Leche Valley was also brought under Chimú control so that, at its height during the reign of Minchançaman in c. 1400 CE, the area of Chimú influence stretched 1300 km along the coast of northern Peru.
Chan Chan was the hub of a vast trade and tribute network and no fewer than 26,000 craftsmen and women resided there.
The initial prosperity of the Chimú was largely due to their agricultural skills as they built an extensive irrigation system using canals. Later, their successful military campaigns and policy of extracting tribute ensured that they became the dominant regional power. Chan Chan came to be the capital of other administrative centres, such as at Farfán, Manchan, El Milagro, Quebrado Katuay, and the fortress site of Paramonga. This domination came to an end with the rise of the Incas who, led by Tupac Yupanqui, captured the 11th known Chimú ruler Minchançaman in c. 1470 CE. Thereafter, the Chimú became a vassal state in the Inca Empire, and their king was kept permanent prisoner at Cuzco to ensure compliance to the new order. The Incas also assimilated certain aspects of Chimú culture, such as rulers inheriting the title but not the property of their predecessors, the policy of allowing conquered rulers a certain autonomy, the idea to have compounds of foreign artists working for the state, and certain features of Chimú art. The Incas also kept written records of the Chimú culture and through these we have, albeit sparse, information regarding their rulers and principal gods. The latter include the creator god Ai Apaec, the sea god Ni, and, perhaps the most important deity in the Chimú pantheon, the moon goddess Si.

Chan Chan

The capital city of the Chimú was Chan Chan (known as Chimor to its original inhabitants) which, built at the mouth of the Rió Moche, covered some 20 square kilometres and had a population of up to 40,000 at its peak. The city became the hub of a vast trade and tribute network, and no fewer than 26,000 craftsmen and women resided there, often forcibly removed from conquered cities to mass produce high quality goods in a wide range of precious materials.
Chimú architecture is characterised by monumental adobe brick buildings. Ten royal palaces or compounds were constructed over the centuries in a rectangular layout, each with 10-metre high double exterior walls, labyrinthine interiors, and with only a single entrance. Of special note are the U-shaped audience rooms which controlled access to the store rooms. The walls of the compounds, built to restrict access by commoners, were decorated on the inside with bold relief designs, typically repeated geometric shapes, animals, and sea life, especially fish. The cut patterns may have been in imitation of those from textile wall hangings. Similar adobe compounds were built at other Chimú sites, for example, nine at Manchan and six at Farfán.
Functional structures within each compound include administrative and storage buildings and burial platforms accessed by ramps which contained mummified leaders. Over time the newer palaces became larger - the biggest covers an area of 220,000 square metres - and more space was dedicated to storage, indicative of the Chimú's policy of extracting tribute from conquered territories. Chan Chan also expanded in general with more residences for administrators and artisans, the latter living in modest dwellings of wattle-and-daub with steep roofs and a single hearth. The city also had an extensive irrigation system which combined canals, shallow reservoirs, and wells.

Chimú Art

Influenced by the Wari and Moche civilizations, the Chimú would continue and expand upon artistic themes which have become staple features of Andean art ever since. Chimú pottery is characterised by mould-made blackware and redware with sculpted decoration which is given a highly polished finish. The most common shape is double-spouted bulbous jars. Textiles have natural colours, the most precious with exotic feather decoration where plumes are sown in rows onto a cotton backing and dyed to create designs. Popular motifs include open-armed figures wearing headdresses - probably representing the ruling class - and double-headed 'rainbow' snakes. Textiles could also be decorated with precious metal additions and one tunic survives with 7,000 small gold squares individually sewn onto the fabric.
Carved and inlaid spondylus shells, acquired from Ecuador, were another popular medium for Chimú art with diamond-shape inlays creating striking jewellery pieces. Precious goods could also be made using gold, silver, and imported amber and emeralds from Colombia. Many examples of wooden sculptures have been recovered from two pyramid structures outside Chan Chan (Huaca el Dragón and Huaca Tacaynamo). Most such figures represent members of funerary processions.
Finally, it is interesting to note that Chimú rulers were themselves collectors of art from other cultures and their palaces were full of niches in which objects and statues were placed for display. Chan Chan artists themselves had such a reputation that the Incas forcibly relocated thousands of them, along with their finest pieces, to their capital at Cuzco which was also an effective method to control precious goods production and so limit the resources to fund rebellion.
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[ 2 ]


Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

Pachacamac, located on the coast of Peru and 32 km south of Lima, was an important sacred site, oracle, and place of burial, which was visited by pilgrims of many ancient Andean cultures, including the Incas. The site, active for over 2,000 years, was named after the god of the same name (Pacha Kamaq) who was worshipped there and considered the ‘Maker of the Earth’ by coastal peoples.

Sacred Site of Pachacamac

Pachacamac, located in the Lurin Valley, may have been in use as a sacred oracle site from the 1st millennium BCE while its settlement began sometime in the early 1st millennium CE. The god Pachacamac, also known as the ‘Maker of the Earth’, was a creator god who was also associated with earthquakes. In coastal mythology, Pachacamac had defeated the rival creator god Con who had stopped all rainfall as punishment for humanity’s wickedness. Pachacamac then changed the existing human race into animals and created a whole new race of men and women. In some versions of the myths the god sent four stars to earth, the two male stars became the kings and nobility while the two female stars became the commoners.
The god’s sacred wooden statue was worshipped at the site, situated inside a large temple complex built on a stepped earthen platform. This structure is contemporary with the Moche and Nazca civilizations (200 BCE – 600 CE). Built overlooking a colonnaded plaza and sitting on an eight-level platform on a natural hill, the temple buildings must have dominated the site. Each level of the adobe brick platform is around one metre high, and they were painted in bright colours with plant and animal designs. The figures were made more striking by outlining them in black. A set of artist’s brushes (of human hair and reeds) and a bag of pigments were found buried at the site in 1935 CE. The temple was well-maintained as some areas of decoration show as many as 16 re-coats. Buildings on the highest platform were arranged around a courtyard, and some were used as accommodation.
The sacred site & oracle of Pachacamac has been described as the Mecca of ancient Peru.

The Oracle of Pachacamac

The site attracted pilgrims from far and wide to consult its oracle although just how this functioned is not known in detail. We know that a High Priest interpreted the oracle from the privacy of a chamber only he was permitted to enter. Pilgrims had to undergo many weeks of initiation, fasting and cleansing rituals before they could be considered worthy of consulting the oracle. They were also expected to make offerings such as foodstuffs, coca, textiles, and any other precious goods they could afford. Indeed, the priests of Pachacamac established a network of subsidiary shrines throughout the region which extracted tributes from local populations. As at ancient oracles the world over, questions posed would have concerned the weather for agricultural purposes, warfare, health issues, family problems, and so on.
Such was the popularity of the site that the historian Alden Mason described Pachacamac as ‘the Mecca of Peru’. This is attested by the finds in tombs of pottery and textiles coming from many different cultures such as the Lambayeque, Nazca, Wari, Tiwanaku, and Chimu. Eventually, the religious buildings spread with many shrines to lesser deities and a residential area sprang up to cover an area of 4 square miles (c. 10 square km). It thus became the largest centre in central and southern Peru. In the residential zones many of the floors and column bases, which must have supported roofs of matting, survive.

Under Inca Rule

The Incas took over the site during the reign of Thupa Inka Yupanki (1471 - 1493 CE) and, in typical fashion, incorporated it and the deity Pachacamac into the Inca religion. They built a temple dedicated to the Inca Sun god Inti with whom Pachacamac was given, unusually for the gods of conquered peoples, equal status. Constructed on a six-level earthen platform and painted red, the temple was actually two parallel rectangular buildings measuring 52 x 23 metres and reaching a height of 7.3 metres. Used as an accommodation for priests the walls have many niches and are decorated with animal paintings. Other Inca structures include a large colonnaded residence for holy women known as the ‘Painted Building’ (‘Nunnery’), a large raised plaza for pilgrims to congregate in, and the residential section of the site known as Tauri Chumbi.
Excavations at the Sun temple’s entrance and inside it have revealed a burial space made by the Incas containing 20 young sacrificed women. Artefacts buried with them suggest the girls were of coastal origin. We also know that human sacrifices were made to Pachacamac in order to appease him following the presence of this new rival Inti. The people of Pachacamac, no doubt because of the antiquity of the oracle and the importance of the site to many Andean cultures, were given a higher degree of autonomy than most conquered areas by their Inca overlords.

Later History

The site’s oracle continued to be consulted by the Incas but lost royal favour when it wrongly predicted that Washkar would win the civil war against Atahualpa between 1526 and 1532 CE. Accordingly, the latter ruler gave permission for Pizarro to send his brother to destroy the statue of Pachacamac. As with any Inca tombs they could find, the Spanish almost certainly would have looted the site as well.
Pachacamac was damaged by further looting and environmental factors over the centuries so that its original form has been difficult to establish. Although parts have been excavated, indeed, the site was the first in Peru to be investigated by archaeologists, some of the modern reconstructions at the site are not necessarily an accurate replica of the original buildings, notably the ‘Nunnery’ structure. Nevertheless, portions of its well-made walls which used the typical Inca method of neatly fitted stones without mortar, can still be admired. Artefacts excavated from tombs, remarkably well-preserved in the dry desert climate of the region, include richly painted pottery and fine textiles with bold geometrical designs, much like those of the Nazca.
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[ 3 ]


Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

Ahuitzotl (Auitzotl) was an Aztec ruler who reigned between 1486 and 1502 CE. He was one of the greatest generals of the ancient Americas and he left to his nephew, Montezuma, an enlarged and consolidated empire which had been ruthlessly terrorised into submissive acceptance of Aztec rule. With huge building projects and victories celebrated by mass sacrifices of captured enemies to honour the gods, the reign of Ahuitzotl was the Aztec Golden Age.


Ahuitzotl (pron. A-weet’-zot) was the third son of Aztec king Motecuhzoma I Ilhuicamina (r. 1440-1469 CE). His name, appropriately enough as it would turn out, was associated with a mythical hyper-aggressive otter that lived at the bottom of a lake and ruthlessly preyed on any creature which approached the lake’s banks. The creature, often depicted with a human hand at the end of its tail, was used as the name glyph for the king in Aztec commemorative sculpture.
Ahuitzotl took over as the Aztec tlatoani (speaker) or supreme ruler from his half-brother Tizoc (r. 1481-1486 CE) who was poisoned. Tizoc had not been particularly successful in the role after being forced to quash various rebellions and famously losing a battle to the Tarascans. Lord Ahuitzotl was the 8th Aztec ruler and he is described in Aztec texts as youthful, strong, energetic, and audacious. According to the version of his accession recounted by the Spanish chronicler Fray Diego Duran, Ahuitzotl was a mere youth when he took power in 1486 CE and had to be brought from school on the death of Tizoc but he already displayed a great maturity beyond his years. We are also informed that the new tlatoani was helped in his early years by the traditional king’s advisor, the Tlacaellel.
Ahuitzotl used the spectacle of human sacrifice to terrify visiting rulers of newly conquered territories & ensure their passive compliance to Aztec rule.
The accession of Ahuitzotl is commemorated in a green diorite slab with the year 8 Reed date glyph. On it are both Tizoc and Ahuitzotl while between them is a ball of cactus fibre with cactus needles stuck in it. The two rulers are using needles to let blood from their earlobes in offering to the gods. The blood flows down from the two figures into the gaping jaws of a stylised earth-crocodile creature representing the earth goddess Tlaltecuhtli. The slab now resides in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

Expanding the Empire

Ahuitzotl quickly established his reputation as a gifted military leader by winning his first battle in the traditional ‘Coronation War’ beloved of Aztec rulers. Leading his army in person and fighting alongside his warriors as he would always do, the Toluca Valley rebellions were quashed, booty taken, and sacrificial victims procured. The victory was celebrated with the largest feast and round of gift-giving the Aztec people had ever witnessed.
Ahuitzotl then proceeded to bring the Gulf Coast territories into line after their stubborn refusal to pay tribute. This was another victory, and Ahuitzotl would go on to win many more. Conquering the central valleys of Oaxaca c. 1494 CE the Aztecs moved as far south as the Guatemalan border, or even beyond, in order to encompass lucrative cacao-producing regions. They also campaigned as far west as the Pacific coast, perhaps in a long-term strategy to outflank the Tarascan forts being established by that hostile nation. The result of this expansion was that Ahuitzotl created the largest area yet brought under Aztec control.
Although the Aztec armies concentrated on enemy cities and their empire would only ever be a loose collection of tribute-paying subject states, Ahuitzotl did attempt to establish a more permanent Aztec presence by building Aztec monuments in such conquered cities as Tepoztlan, Malinalco, and Calixtlahuaca. Some local gods were also incorporated into the Aztec pantheon in an effort to further bind the diverse cultures of Mesoamerica. Trade was encouraged in some areas, especially by the pocheca warrior-traders who were given the privileged right to wear jewellery and feathers by Ahuitzotl, such was their importance in his strategy to open up new territories by whatever means suited the situation. At the same time more troublesome peoples (e.g. the Oztoman and Alahuistan) were ruthlessly and systematically wiped out during the reign of Ahuitzotl.
Ahuitzotl also greatly increased the number of human sacrifices carried out in the various Aztec religious ceremonies designed to appease their gods and celebrate military victories. Duran famously recounts how 80,400 war captives were sacrificed over four days atop the Templo Mayor pyramid temple at Tenochtitlan. Most historians discount this number as impossibly high and impractical, settling on a figure nearer 20,000 but still quite enough to fulfil the apocalyptic descriptions by eye-witnesses of temples, plazas, and streets streaming rivers of blood. The scene of this mass sacrifice is depicted in the Codex Telleriano Remensis. Not only did sacrifices help to appease the gods and ensure a continuation of the Aztec world but Ahuitzotl used the spectacle to terrify the visiting rulers of newly conquered territories and ensure their passive compliance to Aztec rule.

Building Projects

Ahuitzotl, besides imperial expansion, also occupied himself with grand building projects in order to beautify the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan and, in typical Aztec fashion, establish early on that his reign would bring great prosperity to his people. The most significant such project was the expansion of the Templo Mayor. The new temple was completed in 1487 CE, and it was to inaugurate this giant monument to the rain god Tlaloc and war god Huitzilopochtli that the infamous 80,000 plus captives were sacrificed.
Another giant project of Ahuitzotl was the construction of a large canal to bring fresh water from Coyoacan to Tenochtitlan. However, in a version recounted by Duran, the project got off to a bad start when it brought so much water that it flooded the city. The priests blamed the disaster on the fact that Ahuitzotl had rashly killed a ruler of Coyoacan, and so this was revenge from Chalchiuhtlicue, the water goddess.

Death & Successors

Ahuitzotl’s reign came to a mysterious end when he contracted a strange and fatal disease, dying in the year 10 Rabbit. In another version of events the king died from a blow to the head while he was trying to escape the flood at Tenochtitlan. Death by a wasting disease suggests that he may well have been poisoned, like his predecessor, such was the competition between members of the ruling family to possess the title which permitted the holder semi-divine status. In a lavish ceremony, Ahuitzotl was cremated on a funeral pyre atop the Templo Mayor and his ashes buried beneath the nearby sacred precinct.
Ahuitzotl would pass on a prosperous empire to the next and tragically last true Aztec ruler, his nephew Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin (Montezuma) who faced and was murdered by the visitors from the Old World in 1520 CE. During the chaos of the Spanish conquest, Ahuitzotl’s son Cuauhtemoc seized power and resisted the invaders until 1525 CE. Even after his death, the legend of Ahuitzotl the great warrior held strong for his son dressed one of his men in the regal clothes of his father, which inspired the Aztec army to a rare, if only temporary, victory during the long siege of Tenochtitlan.
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[ 4 ]

Popol Vuh

Origin and history
by Joshua J. Mark

The Popol Vuh is the story of creation according to the Quiche Maya of the region known today as Guatemala. Translated as `The Council Book', The Book of the People' or, literally, `The Book of the Mat', the work has been referred to as "The Mayan Bible" although this comparison is imprecise. The Popol Vuh is not regarded by the Maya as `the word of God' nor as sacred scripture but rather as an account of "the ancient word" and the understanding the Quiche had of cosmology and creation before the coming of Christianity. The Quiche referred to the book as an Ilb'al - an instrument of sight - and it was known as "The Book of the Mat" because of the woven mats the people would sit on to hear the work recited at the council house. One such building, at Copan, features stone lintels `woven' to look like such matting.
In the beginning of Book I the unknown author states:
This is the beginning of the ancient word, here in this place called Quiche. Here we shall inscribe, we shall implant the Ancient Word, the potential and source for everything done in the citadel of Quiche, in the nation of Quiche people...We shall write about this now amid the preaching of God, in Christendom now. We shall bring it out because there is no longer a place to see it, a Council Book, a place to see "The Light That Came from Beside the Sea", the account of "Our Place in the Shadows", a place to see "The Dawn of Life", as it is called (63).
Regarding these phrases describing the Popol Vuh, the Mayanist Dennis Tedlock writes:
Because they obtained the book (or some section of it) on a pilgrimage that took them down from the highlands to the Atlantic shore, they called it "The Light That Came from Beside the Sea", because the book told of events that happened before the first true dawn, and of a time when their ancestors hid themselves and the stones that contained the spirit familiars of their gods in forests, they also called it "Our Place in the Shadows." And because it told of the rise of the morning star and the sun and moon and foretold the rise and radiant splendor of the Quiche lords, they called it "The Dawn of Life" (21).
The work recounts the Creation, the exploits of the hero twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque, and the early history of Quiche migration.
The work recounts the creation of the world, the exploits of the hero twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque in the underworld and their triumph over the Lords of Death, the creation of humans, and the early history of Quiche migration and settlement up until the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century CE. The Spanish Bishop Diego de Landa burned as many of the books of the Yucatan Maya as he could find on 12 July 1562 CE at the city of Mani but, as he had no jurisdiction in the southern region of the Quiche, the Popol Vuh was spared. Still, it seems from the work itself that the continued practice of the indigenous religion was suppressed in the land of the Quiche as it was elsewhere and the anonymous author of the work felt the need to set down the myths of his people before they were lost.

Origin & History

The Popol Vuh was probably written c. 1554-1558 CE at a time when it had become abundantly clear that the ancient beliefs and practices of the Maya would no longer be tolerated by their Christian conquerors. Dennis Tedlock determines this date based upon textual evidence toward the end of the work in which the author details migrations, genealogies, and settlements. It came to the attention of a Spanish priest early in the 18th century CE. Tedlock writes:
Between 1701 and 1703, a friar named Francisco Ximenez happened to get a look at this manuscript while he was serving as the parish priest. He made the only surviving copy of the Quiche text of the Popol Vuh and added a Spanish translation. His work remained in the possession of the Dominican order until after the Guatemalan independence, but when liberal reforms forced the closing of all monasteries in 1830, it was acquired by the library of the University of San Carlos in Guatemala City. Carl Scherzer, an Austrian physician, happened to see it there in 1854, and Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg, a French priest, had the same good fortune a few months later. In 1857 Scherzer published Ximenez' Spanish translation under the patronage of the Hapsburgs in Vienna, members of the same royal lineage that had ruled Spain at the time of the conquest of the Quiche kingdom, and in 1861 Brasseur published the Quiche text and a French translation in Paris. The manuscript itself, which Brasseur spirited out of Guatemala, eventually found its way back across the Atlantic from Paris, coming to rest in the Newberry Library in 1911 (27).
The manuscript, which presently is divided into four books, originally had no divisions and was a seamless narrative recorded from oral tradition. The work itself, however, mentions an "original book and ancient writing" which suggests that the author of the Popol Vuh was working from some earlier written source. The author also states that this earlier work is in the possession of one who "has a hidden identity" indicating that the religious works of the Maya needed to be hidden from the Christians who would destroy them; as de Landa did at Mani in 1562 CE. De Landa records burning over forty books and writes, "We found a large number of books and, as they contained nothing in them which were not superstitions and lies of the devil, we burned them all, which (the Maya) regretted to an amazing degree and which caused them much affliction" (Christenson, 11). The Maya had trusted de Landa and voluntarily showed him their books; an honor not accorded to every Christian missionary. He burned over forty Mayan works and thousands of statues and paintings in a single night. Only four works of the Yucatan Maya survive in the present day (the Dresden, Madrid, and Paris Codices, so-named for the cities they were brought to, and the Chilam Balam) and only one of the Quiche: the Popol Vuh.
The Lost Gods: The Maya (Planet Knowledge)

The Structure of the Popol Vuh

The work is divided into a brief preamble and four books. The preamble states the intention of the author in writing the work, sets the time period as post-conquest, and makes the point that the original work "takes a long performance and account to complete the lighting of all the sky-earth" (63). This has suggested to some scholars that the original work was much longer than the present Popol Vuh but, to others, it simply means that one should take one's time in hearing the work in order to appreciate the story. The extant manuscript does not seem to contain any gaps in the narrative but, since there is no record of the earlier work - and no evidence outside of the one line in the preamble alluding to it and another at the end - there is no way of knowing what the author of the work may have left out or whether he left out anything at all. The Mayanist Allen J. Christenson, who translated the work, considers it complete and the last remaining pre-Columbian Maya work of the Quiche people.
Christenson cites the 16th century Spanish missionary Bartholome de las Casas, one of the minority of sympathetic priests who lamented the destruction of the Mayan books. Las Casas saw a number of Mayan works in Quiche in 1540 CE. Christenson writes:
He wrote that they contained the history of the people's origins and religious beliefs, written with `figures and characters by which they could signify everything they desired; and that these great books are of such astuteness and subtle technique that we could say our writing does not offer much of an advantage.' Las Casas was particularly impressed by the fact that the Maya could write `everything they desired.' The Maya were, in fact, the only people in the New World who had a writing system at the time of the Spanish Conquest which had this capability (23).
All of these books which, at the time of Las Casas, were carefully hidden from the Christian missionaries and their fires, are presumed to have been eventually found by them and destroyed. If any do still exist, they have not yet come to light.
Originally the work was a single, long poem. It was only divided into separate books once it was translated into European languages. The intention of the original author seems to have been to preserve the experience of hearing the poem recited and, through the magic of the storyteller's art, to live the events personally as the tale unfolded. This practice is in keeping with oral traditions in other cultures such as those of ancient Greece and Mesopotamia, among others. Christenson notes:
The Popol Vuh is written in progressive tense, suggesting the narrator sees it before him as he writes. This is consistent with the way stories are told in contemporary Quiche households. The storyteller invites the listener to imagine the setting of his tale, and nearly always tells the story as if it were happening right then, even if it happened in the distant or mythic past (12).
The four books tell the story of the creation of life, the attempts of the gods at making human beings, the triumph over death of the celestial hero twins, the success of the gods in creating humans, and the genealogies of the people of Quiche. Robert J. Sharer of the University of Pennsylvania writes: "The world of the ancient Maya was governed by a cosmological order that transcended our distinction between the natural and supernatural realms. All things, animate or inanimate, were imbued with an unseen power" (Stuart, 47) and the Popol Vuh fully articulates this vision.

Book I

The first book begins:
This is the Account, here it is: Now it still ripples, now it still murmurs, ripples, it still sighs, still hums, and it is empty under the sky...There is not yet one person, one animal, bird, fish, crab, tree, rock, hollow, canyon, meadow, forest. Only the sky alone is there; the face of the earth is not clear. Only the sea alone is pooled under all the sky- there is nothing whatever gathered together.
Out of this silent nothingness the gods created the world and all living things except humans. The animals could not speak or praise their gods, however, and so the gods declared, "we must make a provider and nurturer. How else can we be invoked and remembered on the face of the earth?" They try to create human beings but fail because the creatures "have no heart" and do not remember their makers. They try again, this time making people out of wood, but this also fails and the creatures are destroyed by a great flood. Those not destroyed by the deluge are set upon by their dogs, by their cooking pots and tortilla grinders, by all of the things of the earth they have misused and mistreated. The gods, in the end, are left alone to glorify themselves; this leads to the ascent of the deity Seven Macaw who thinks of himself too highly.

Book II

As the second book opens, two celestial boys named Hunahpu and Xbalanque (the Hero Twins) plot the destruction of Seven Macaw and his two sons Zipacna and Cabracan. There are still no humans on the earth and the boys are upset that Seven Macaw should lord himself over all with no one to challenge him or point out his flaws. It seems that, without human beings to give the gods particular value, any god can claim any value he pleases. Seven Macaw refuses to acknowledge the other gods or their works and so, through a series of tricks and clever ruses, the Hero Twins kill him and his sons, thus restoring order and balance to the world.

Book III

The third book chronicles the adventures of the father and uncle of the Hero Twins, Hun-Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu, who were the sons of Xpiyacoc and Xmucane, the first diviners who tried to create humans. They are, therefore, linked to creation and divination. Tricked by the Lords of Death into accepting an invitation to a ball game in Xibalba, the two are murdered and Huh-Hunahpu's head is placed in a Calabash tree in the underworld. The virgin princess Xquiq, (also known as Blood Moon Goddess), is attracted by the head, even though she has been told to stay away from it. She draws close to the tree and the head spits into her hand, thus impregnating her. She must then leave the underworld and go to the upper realm of the earth to live with her new mother-in-law Xumucane. Because of the tragedy which befell her sons, Xumucane distrusts Xquiq and sets her a number of tasks to prove herself. When the twins are born, she also mistrusts them and they too must show they are worthy. Xumucane hides the ball gear of her sons because she does not want her grandsons to know what happened to their father and uncle and try to avenge them. The twins do find the gear, however, and challenge the Lords of Death to a re-match. After numerous adventures in the underworld in which they trick the Lords of Xibalba repeatedly, the Hero Twins destroy them and ascend the World Tree into the sky where they become the sun and the moon.

Book IV

In Book IV human beings are successfully created out of maize. At first, the gods make four men who:
...were good people, handsome, with looks of the male kind. Thoughts came into existence and they gazed; their vision came all at once. Perfectly they saw, perfectly they knew everything under the sky, around in the sky, on the earth, everything was seen without any obstruction...As they looked, their knowledge became intense. Their sight passed through trees, through rocks, through lakes, through seas, through mountains, through plains.
This troubles the gods who understand that humans should not have the same gifts as their creators. They confer among themselves, saying, "Aren't they merely `works' and `designs' in their very names? Yet they'll become as great as gods unless they procreate, proliferate at the sowing, the dawning, unless they increase. Let it be this way: now we'll take them apart just a little." The gods introduce mortality to humanity and:
...changed the nature of their works, their designs, it was enough that the eyes be marred. They were blinded as the face of a mirror is breathed upon. Their vision flickered. Now it was only from close up that they could see what was there with any clarity. And such was the loss of the means of understanding, along with the means of knowing everything.
The gods then provide the men with wives and "right away they were happy at heart again, because of their wives" and they forget that once they knew everything and were like the gods. The men and women content themselves with having children and planting crops and appreciating the gifts the gods have given them. The book concludes with the story of the migration of the Quiche and their genealogy. Included in this section is the introduction of the god Gucumatz, the plumed servant, known to the Maya of the Yucatan as Kukulkan and to the Aztec as Quetzalcoatl. Book IV ends with the lines:
This is enough about the being of Quiche, given that there is no longer a place to see it. There is the original book and ancient writing owned by the lords, now lost, but even so, everything has been completed here concerning Quiche, which is now named Santa Cruz.
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[ 5 ]


Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

Inti was the Inca god of the sun and considered all-powerful but he was also a benevolent god and capable of great generosity. However, Inti could be angered and he would demonstrate his displeasure through solar eclipses which necessitated sacrifices to win back the god's good favour. Inca rulers considered themselves direct descendants of Inti, the patron of empire and military conquest.

Inti's Relations & Role

Inti was the sun, which in Inca mythology was created by the supreme Inca deity Viracocha from an island on Lake Titicaca. Although Viracocha was higher in status, he usually remained in the background of worldly affairs and allowed intermediaries such as Inti to actually govern the world. Inti was married to the goddess of the moon Quilla. Neatly linking the gods to mankind, the first Inca leader and founder of the civilization, Manoc Capac (previously called Ayar Manco) was believed either to have been instructed by Inti or actually been his son, along with the other original Inca ancestors such as Mama Coya (a.k.a. Mama Ocllo) who was also described as Inti's wife in some versions of the myth. In this way the successive Inca rulers could claim divine lineage and emphasise their role as intermediary between the gods and ordinary people. Manoc Capac even wore a sheet-gold costume to impress the populace with his divine parentage. However, it was not until Wiraqocha Inca (c. 1425 CE) or the 9th Inca ruler Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (1438-1471 CE) that the cult of Inti really became established in the cultural practices of the Inca. With the expansion of the Inca empire sun worship was incorporated into the religions of the conquered peoples and used as an imperial propaganda that the Inca were the people with a divine right to rule.
The Coricancha temple ('House of the Sun') and Sacsahuaman sacred precinct at the Inca capital of Cuzco were dedicated to Inti.

The Coricancha

The Coricancha temple ('House of the Sun') and Sacsahuaman sacred precinct at the Inca capital of Cuzco were dedicated to Inti and probably built in the reign of Pachacuti. It was here that the most senior figure in the Inca religion, the High Priest of the Sun (Villac Umu), presided over rites in honour of Inti, assisted by acllas (or acyllyaconas) - young virgin priestesses. There were also sun ceremonies carried out by both male and female priests at sacred sites across the empire. Perhaps the most famous example is at Machu Picchu where a typical intihuatana or 'hitching post of the sun' situated at the highest point of the sacred precinct was used during the solstices to symbolically connect the sun to the earth using a special cord. The intihuatana were also used for regular astronomical observations of the sun and possibly other heavenly bodies. Other important temples were at Pisac (north-east of Cuzco), Ingapirca (in modern Ecuador), and on the Island of the Sun on Lake Titicaca which Inca rulers visited once a year in pilgrimage.

Inti Raymi

Inti was especially worshipped during the festival of Inti Raymi held during the winter solstice in June and run over several days. One of the most common sacrifices to Inti was of white llamas but offerings of food, other livestock and even areas of farmland were also dedicated to the god. There were human sacrifices too (including child sacrifice) on special ceremonial occasions or in times of particular crisis such as earthquakes or a death in the royal family. Such ceremonies were designed to ensure the continued success of the Inca empire, its people and their harvests. One curious story is when an eagle was attacked by buzzards and fell from the skies during a ceremony in honour of Inti held in c. 1526 CE which was thought to foretell the collapse of the Inca empire. It was, indeed, around this time that the first signs of the deadly smallpox disease brought by the Spanish conquistadors from the Old World began to appear amongst the Inca population and it would be less than a decade before the Inca capital fell into Spanish hands.

Representations in Art

Inti was not often represented in Inca art but when he was it was usually as a gold statue, a sun disk or a golden mask. Gold was particularly associated with the god as it was believed that the precious metal was the sweat of the sun. The most sacred statue of Inti was kept in his shrine at Cuzco. The interior of this temple was a wonder in itself as it was lined with 700 half-metre panels of beaten gold whilst outside was a life-size scene of a field of corn with llamas and shepherds all made from gold and silver. The statue represented Inti as a small seated boy, called Punchao (Day or Midday Sun). From his head and shoulders the sun's rays shone, he wore a royal headband and had snakes and lions coming out of his body. The stomach of the statue was hollow and used to store the ashes of the vital organs of previous Inca rulers. Everyday this statue was brought out into the open air and returned to the shrine each night. The statue was taken to a place of safety when the Spanish arrived in the 1530s CE but it seems that they did eventually find it in 1572 CE but it disappeared without trace, probably melted down like so many other Inca artefacts.
The masks of Inti were typically made of thinly beaten gold and also had the sun's rays bursting from the god's head in a design common in pre-Inca deity masks. These rays were typically cut in a dramatic zig-zag fashion and sometimes ended in a small human face or figure. The most famous such mask was on display within the Coricancha temple at Cuzco.
The god's worshippers and the vast majority of the art made in his name have long since disappeared but Inti lives on in several present day South American cultures. The festival of Inti Raymi has been revived as a great yearly festival in Cuzco, several national flags bear an image of him in the form of a flaming sun, and the currency of Peru in the 1980s CE was called the inti and even now still references him with its new name sol - sun in Spanish.
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[ 6 ]

Chan Chan

Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

Chan Chan (Chimor) was the capital city of the Chimu civilization which flourished on the northern coast of Peru between the 12th and 15th centuries CE. The city was a giant metropolis populated by peoples from across the Chimu Empire, the largest the Americas had ever seen up to that time. Today, many of Chan Chan’s huge palace complexes with their high relief-decorated adobe walls still survive as testimony to the city’s lost grandeur.

Historical Overview

Chan Chan, also known as Chimor, the name of its original inhabitants, was built at the mouth of the Rio Moche from c. 1000 CE. The initial prosperity of the Chimu was largely due to their agricultural skills as they built an extensive irrigation system using canals. Later, their successful military campaigns and policy of extracting tribute ensured that they became the dominant regional power. At its height, Chan Chan covered some 20 square kilometres and had a population of up to 40,000 making it the largest city yet seen in the Andes. The city became the hub of a vast trade and tribute network, and no fewer than 26,000 craftsmen and women resided there, often forcibly removed from conquered territories, especially the Lambayeque, to mass produce high-quality goods for domestic consumption and export. Raw materials traded and controlled by Chan Chan included gold, spondylus shell, tropical feathers, and foodstuffs.
The traditional founding ruler of the Chimu was Taycanamo, who was considered to have been born from a golden egg and then arrived from the sea. Other notable rulers include Guacricaur, who expanded into the Moche, Santa, and Zaña valleys. Eventually, the Chimu extended their territory even further south and in 1375 CE, under the rule of Nancinpinco, conquered the Lambayeque (Sican) culture absorbing some of their cultural practices and artistic ideas. The La Leche Valley was also brought under Chimu control so that, at its height, the Chimu Empire was the largest and most prosperous in South America during the Late Intermediate Period. At its greatest extent during the reign of Minchançaman c. 1400 CE, the area of Chimu influence stretched 1300 kilometres along the coast of northern Peru. As the empire grew so other administrative centres sprang up, such as at Farfan, Manchan, El Milagro, Quebrado Katuay, and the fortress site of Paramonga, but Chan Chan was supreme as the centre of the Chimu world.
Chan Chan covered some 20 km² & had a population of up to 40,000 making it the largest city yet seen in the Andes.


The city is without a recognisable centre and spreads out in a series of blocks interspersed with stone-lined canals and punctuated with small artificial lakes and wells. The architecture at Chan Chan is characterised by buildings constructed using pre-prepared sections of poured mud or adobe. Most impressive are the large rectangular palace compounds (ciudadelas) which served multiple functions as royal residence, storage facility, mausoleum, and administrative centre.
Ten royal palaces or compounds were constructed over the centuries at Chan Chan. It is possible that the Chimu system of royal inheritance was for each new king to inherit the title but not the wealth of his predecessor. This would result in a late ruler’s family taking over the royal palace while the new king was required to build himself a new one, explaining the high number of such palaces at Chan Chan. The system has the added benefit of ensuring a new ruler actively engages in expanding the empire in order to fund his reign.
The palaces were built in a rectangular layout, each with 10-metre high double exterior walls, labyrinthine interiors, and with only a single entrance guarded by two standing wooden statues set in niches. Of special note are the U-shaped audience or ritual rooms (audiencias) which controlled access to the storerooms. These are around 4 square metres, had elevated floors and, originally, gabled roofs. Functional structures within each compound include administrative and storage buildings and burial platforms accessed by a ramp. The large T-shaped tomb within the latter contained the mummified leaders while smaller tombs their family and entourage. Such tombs would have regularly been re-opened to inter new occupants. Over time the newer palaces became larger - the biggest covers an area of 220,000 square metres - and more space was dedicated to storage, indicative of the Chimu's imperial successes and policy of extracting tribute from conquered territories.
The walls of the compounds, built to restrict access by commoners, were decorated on the outside with bold relief designs, typically repeated geometric shapes, animals, and sea life, especially fish. The interior walls had niches for wooden decorative masks and figurines. Precious art objects would have been displayed here. The distinctive patterns cut into the walls may have been in imitation of those from textile wall hangings or basketwork. Similar adobe compounds were built at other Chimu sites, for example, nine at Manchan and six at Farfan. All of the compounds at Chan Chan are in the centre of the city, while more modest habitation lies on the city’s outskirts. Here were the residences for administrators in miniature versions of the larger compounds, and artisans (metalworkers, woodworkers, and weavers), who lived in more modest dwellings of wattle-and-daub and cane with steep roofs and a single hearth. Finally, on the outskirts of the city, were two large burial pyramid-mounds known as Huaca el Dragon and Huaca Tacaynamo.

The Fall of Chan Chan

Chimu architecture, their approach to regional governance, and their art would go on to influence their more famous successors, the Incas, who conquered Chan Chan c. 1470 CE. It was then that Tupac Yupanqui captured the 11th known Chimú ruler Minchançaman, who was kept permanent prisoner at Cuzco to ensure compliance to the new order. In addition, to control precious goods production and so limit the resources to fund rebellion thousands of Chan Chan artists and artisans were forcibly relocated to Cuzco. The Chimu thus became no more than a vassal state in the vast Inca Empire.

Archaeological Finds

Chimu rulers were enthusiastic collectors of art from other cultures and their palaces were like museums full of niches in which objects and statues were placed for display. So too, rulers were buried with precious objects but, unfortunately, the site has suffered extensive looting, starting with the Incas. The Spanish, for example, describe melting down a covered doorway from Chan Chan to produce 500 kilos of gold. Post-conquest, Chan Chan has also suffered from El Nino rains, which have badly eroded the adobe brick buildings and walls over the centuries, some of which are now protected by permanent roofing. Nevertheless, finds include examples of the typical Chimu blackware ceramics, commonly in the form of effigy vessels or bulbous pots with spouted handles and incised decoration of geometric patterns. Surviving metalwork in the form of such items as gold earspools, feathered tunics, pendants of inlaid shells, miniature models of funeral scenes in wood and gold, and fine cotton textiles are all testimony to the skills of Chan Chan artisans.
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[ 7 ]

Zapotec Civilization

Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

The Zapotecs, known as the 'Cloud People', dwelt in the southern highlands of central Mesoamerica, specifically, in the Valley of Oaxaca, which they inhabited from the late Preclassic period to the end of the Classic period (500 BCE - 900 CE). Their capital was first at Monte Albán and then at Mitla, they dominated the southern highlands, spoke a variation of the Oto-Zapotecan language, and profited from trade and cultural links with the Olmec, Teotihuacan and Maya civilizations.

Origins & Development

The Zapotecs grew from the agricultural communities which grew up in the valleys in and around Oaxaca. In the Preclassic period they established fruitful trade links with the Olmec civilization on the Gulf Coast which allowed for the construction of an impressive capital site at Monte Albán and for the Zapotec to dominate the region during the Classic period. The city, strategically placed overlooking the three main valleys, evolved over centuries, beginning around 500 BCE and remaining the cultural centre until the demise of the civilization around 900 CE.
Zapotec cities show a high level of sophistication in architecture, the arts, writing and engineering projects.
The Zapotec had other significant settlements besides the capital and over 15 elite palaces have been identified in the surrounding valleys. Indeed, the Zapotec may be divided into three distinct groups: the Valley Zapotec (based in the Valley of Oaxaca), the Sierra Zapotec (in the north), and the Southern Zapotec (in the south and east, nearer the Isthmus of Tehuantepec). The major Zapotec sites, spread across the Y-shaped Valley of Oaxaca, include the capital Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Huitzo, Etla, San Jose Mogote, Zaachila, Zimatlan, Ocotlan, Abasolo, Tlacolula, and Mitla. The latter would become the most important Zapotec city from c. 900 CE and is notable for its buildings arranged around plazas which are richly decorated with reliefs of geometrical designs.
By the late Preclassic period Zapotec cities show a high level of sophistication in architecture, the arts, writing and engineering projects such as irrigation systems. For example, at Hierve el Agua there are artificially terraced hillsides irrigated by extensive canals fed by natural springs. Evidence of contact with other Mesoamerican cultures can be seen, for example, at the site of Dainzu, which has a large stone-faced platform with reliefs showing players of the familiar Mesoamerican ball game wearing protective headgear. We also know of very close relations between the Zapotec and the peoples based at Teotihuacan in the Basin of Mexico. Indeed, at Teotihuacan there was even a quarter of the city specifically reserved for the Zapotec community.


The Zapotec pantheon is as rich and bewildering as any other Mesoamerican religion is to modern eyes with the standard deities for such important agencies on the human condition as rain, sun, wind, earth, and war. Some of the most important gods were the Bat-god - the god of corn and fertility, Beydo - god of seeds and wind, Cocijo (who had a human body with jaguar and serpent features with a forked tongue) - the rain and lightning god, Pitao Cozobi - the corn god, Copijcha (symbolised by the macaw) - the god of the sun and war, Coquebila - god of the earth's centre, Huechaana - a mother goddess also associated with hunting and fishing, Kedo - god of justice, Ndan - the androgynous god of the oceans, Pixee Pecala the god of love, and Coqui Xee - the creator god who represented infinity.
In addition, individual cities often had their own patron deities, for example, Coquenexo ('Lord of Multiplication') patron of Zoquiapa, Coqui Bezelao and Xonaxi Quecuya (gods of death and the underworld) patrons of Mitla and Teocuicuilco, and Cozicha Cozee (another war god) patron of Ocelotepec.
Offerings, prayers and sacrifices were offered to these deities in the hope of their favourable intervention in human affairs, for example, to bring rain vital for crops, to end droughts or bring fertility to the land and its population. Also, in common with other Mesoamerican cultures, the Zapotec had 20 day names represented by various glyphs such as Chilla (crocodile), Pija (drought) and Xoo (earthquake); once again they often represent the fundamental elements that could drastically affect daily life.

Monte Albán

Built on a series of mountain plateau at an altitude of 400 m, the city of Monte Albán was the residential, ritual and economic centre of the Zapotec civilization. It replaced, between 500 and 450 BCE, San José Mogote as the most important settlement in the Valley. It also became the burial site of Zapotec kings for over a thousand years. The city particularly flourished in the late Preclassic period when its population was as high as 20,000 people and again between 400 and 700 CE when the population rose to 25,000 and the city ruled over some 1,000 settlements spread across the Valley.
The majority of the structures visible today on the main plaza date to the Classic period with the notable exception of the Temple of the Danzantes, a stone platform structure which was constructed when the site was first occupied (Monte Alban I). The name Danzantes derives from the dancing relief figures decorating the platform. 300 figures are identifiable, some seem to be old, single-toothed males, some have been mutilated, whilst still others seem to be almost swimming - who they represent is not known. Other relief stones from the temple also provide the first certainly identified written texts in Mexico showing an alphabet with semantic and phonetic elements (as yet undeciphered). There is also a system of numbers represented by dots and bars and glyphs for the 260-day year based on 20 day names and 13 numbers with the 52-year cycle of the Calendar Round.
Finds at the site from this period include a large quantity of pottery, usually made with a fine grey clay, sometimes with incised figures similar to the Danzantes, and typically in the form of spouted vases and bowls set on a tripod. Another interesting type is the whistling jar, a jar with two chambers which when used to pour liquid, expelled air from the second chamber to create a whistling sound. The Zapotec were also skilled sculptors and single effigy figures, groups of figures and urns survive both in clay and more precious goods such as jade.
The city further developed between 150 BCE and 150 CE to create Monte Albán II. Dating from this phase is a large stone-faced building shaped like an arrow head (Building J) which points southwest and is aligned with the Capella star. The building is covered with carved text and reliefs which indicate regional conquests, illustrated by the upside down heads of defeated kings.
In the subsequent Classic period Monte Albán III arose and, influenced by Teotihuacan, saw the construction of an I-shaped ball court and the Temple-Patio-Altar complex that would be copied at sites across the Valley. In addition, over 170 underground tombs have been excavated, many with vaults and antechambers with richly painted walls, which attest to the wealth of the city. The tombs also show signs of being regularly re-opened, illustrating the Zapotec preoccupation with ancestor worship.


Quite why the city and the Zapotec civilization collapsed at Monte Albán is not known, only that there is no trace of violent destruction and that it was contemporary with the demise of Teotihuacan and a general increase in inter-state conflict. The site continued to be significant, though, as it was adopted by the later Mixtec as a sacred site and place of burial for their own kings. The Zapotecs did not disappear completely, however, for in the early Post-Classic period they established a new, smaller centre at Mitla, known to them as Lyobaa or 'Place of Rest' which also had many fine buildings including the celebrated Hall of the Columns. The site continued to be occupied even up to the Spanish conquest.
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[ 8 ]

Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui

Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (often simply Pachacuti or Pachacutec) was the 9th Inca ruler (r. 1438 - 1471 CE) who founded their empire with conquests in the Cuzco Valley and beyond. Pachacuti is also credited with founding the site of Machu Picchu. His title Pachacuti, which he gave himself on his accession, means ‘Reverser of the World’ or ‘Earth-shaker,’ and the same word was used by the Incas to refer to the epoch-changing event or ‘turning over of time and space’ which they believed occurred regularly through history. An appropriate enough title, then, for a ruler who set his people on the road to prosperity and the creation of an empire which would eventually be the largest ever seen in the Americas.

Rise to Power

According to the semi-legendary early history of the Incas, Pachacuti rose to prominence when their war-like neighbours, the Chanca, attacked Cuzco in the early 15th century CE. The Inca ruler at the time, Viracocha Inca, and his son Inca Urco proved ineffectual in meeting this threat and fled the city. The young prince Pachacuti (known then as Cusi Yupanki) and a small band of loyal warriors, inspired by a vision of a shining tablet sent by the Sun god Inti, decided to stay and make a stand. Still, things looked desperate and Pachacuti called on the gods to help him more than sending messages of support. This they did by transforming rocks laying about the place into Inca warriors. With this army, Pachacuti kicked the Chanca out of Cuzco. In thanks for this divine help the leader set up the stone warriors (Pururaucas) in sacred shrines around the city.

Building An Empire

Pachacuti was the first Inca ruler to have ambitions beyond Cuzco, and he conquered territories in the Cuzco (Huantanay) Valley and beyond, thus beginning the Inca empire which would grow and last until the Spanish conquest from 1532 CE. First, all speakers of the Inca language, Quechua, were given citizenship, a privileged status they would enjoy over all conquered peoples and which gave them the right to hold all important government and administrative offices.
Pachacuti is credited with introducing the various apparatus of state which would ensure the Incas could continue their regional domination long-term.
Moving south-east Pachacuti then conquered the basin of Lake Titicaca, including the cultures of the Colla and Lupaqa. Pachacuti then retired to Cuzco while his brothers and son, Tupac Inca Yupanqui (with whom he may have co-ruled), were given the task of continuing the conquest of the Andes, perhaps making their first incursions south into Ecuador and the Chimu civilization. Concentrating on government Pachacuti is credited with introducing the various apparatus of state which would ensure the Incas could continue their regional domination long-term.

Government & Cuzco

The Inca ruler (Sapa) introduced systems of tribute and taxation which were paid by conquered peoples either in the form of goods or labour. These made the Incas unpopular but they were used productively to create an extensive road network linking towns and sacred sites. A system of storage houses (qollqa) were also built and dotted around the empire to ensure a plentiful food supply even in times of low agricultural yield. In an effort to simplify royal succession, Pachacuti instigated the system of a ruler nominating his principal wife from whom heirs to the throne would be drawn. Pachacuti had historians record the important episodes of Inca history on painted tablets, which were then stored for posterity in a building at the capital where no one without authorization might enter. Finally, he fixed the calendar of market days and public holidays.
With his conquests and income made more secure, Pachacuti, perhaps following an inspirational visit to monumental Tiwanaku, then set about aggrandising his capital and replacing its many earthen structures with impressively crafted stonework. He drained the northern area of Cuzco and built there a new ceremonial centre and built himself a palace known as Kunturkancha. He also rebuilt the Temple of Inti in the Coricancha complex and started construction of the fortress-like Sacsayhuaman which would protect the northern approach to Cuzco. Pachacuti built city-temple-fortress sites at other strategically important locations such as Pisac and Ollantaytambo at either end of the Urubamba Valley and many way-stations in the outposts of the empire such as Tambo Colorado on the coast.

Machu Picchu

Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui probably founded Machu Picchu (meaning 'old hill') c. 1450 CE. The purpose of the site is not agreed upon by scholars and may have been a fortress, imperial retreat, a symbol of Inca power for the benefit of conquered locals, or a ceremonial precinct. Perhaps the most likely role was the latter as most of the architecture was designed for religious purposes, and the site’s fortifications may well have been put in place to ensure only a select few could enter this sacred site. In further support of this interpretation, a road was discovered which linked the site to several residential settlements dotted along the valley. The town had capacity for around 1,000 residents at its peak and ranked amongst the most sacred of all sites for the Inca. On the ruler’s death the ownership of the site passed to Pachacuti's family successors. The site was abandoned by the Inca shortly before Pizarro and the Spanish conquistadors arrived in South America, who never stumbled across it.

Death & Burial

The Inca ruler died in 1471 CE and, according to his wishes, the Incas mourned for one whole year. They then held a month-long celebration of their great leader during which his personal items were paraded around the corners of the empire, a mock battle was staged at Cuzco, and 2,000 llamas were sacrificed. A thousand more llamas were sacrificed around the empire and, so too, children were sacrificed in all the places that the ruler had visited in his lifetime.
Pachacuti was mummified and may have been buried in a shrine known as Patallacta at Kenko (Q’enqo’) on the heights above Cuzco. Even after death, the ruler continued to be venerated and his mummy (mallki), along with other past rulers, was regularly given outings into the outside world where it was ritually fed and even, on occasion, ‘consulted’ in times of political strife. In addition, the Inca’s hair and fingernails were incorporated into a sacred statue of him, and Pachacuti’s large stone hunting lodge at Tambo Machay, just above Cuzco, was made into a sacred site or huaca. In the official Inca state archives, such were his stature and achievements, that almost all significant developments in statecraft and empire were credited to Pachacuti.
Tupac Inca Yupanqui took over as Sapa Inca and continued his father’s imperial plans, eventually doubling the size of the empire. In 1559 CE the Spanish discovered Pachacuti’s mummy, which had been secretly hidden by the Incas following the conquest. It was sent to Lima by Juan Polo de Ondegardo but was lost in transit or perhaps simply destroyed like so many other symbols of Inca culture.
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[ 9 ]

Lake Titicaca

Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

Lake Titicaca is located between Bolivia and Peru and, at an altitude of 3,800 metres (12,500 feet), it is the world's highest navigable lake. The tundra plain known as the altiplano stretches to the south and was the location of Tiwanaku, capital of one of the most important Andean cultures during the first millennium CE. The lake was also considered to be the centre of the cosmos and origin of the sun, moon, stars, and humankind and, consequently, was one of the most sacred sites for the Inca civilization.

In Mythology

Lake Titicaca was long considered the origin and centre of the cosmos by the local populace and then also the later Incas. In their creation myths, Viracocha or Wiraqocha Pachayachachic, the creator god, populated the world with a race of stone giants. These proved unruly and so Viracocha made humans instead but, unimpressed with their greed and hubris, the god sent a great flood upon the earth. All but three humans were destroyed but, from these survivors, the human race once again sprang forth. The world was still in darkness, though, so Viracocha made the sun, moon and stars from islands in the centre of Lake Titicaca. In an interesting aside, the sun became jealous of the brightness of the moon and threw ashes in her face so that now her light was dimmed.

Early Settlement

The area around the lake was first settled in the mid-2nd millennium BCE with pottery finds at Chiripa on the southern shore being amongst the oldest artefacts. As with other late cultures, the llama, vucuna, and alpaca were a source of wool, transport, and, if necessary, food. The lake provided fish and totora reeds which were used to make boats, roofs and mats (a tradition which continues today). Potatoes, quinoa, and oca were also cultivated (corn could not be grown at the altitude of the altiplano) and metals such as gold, copper, and tin were extracted from the nearby mountains. Limitations on development, though, included the cold climate and absence of trees; factors which would eventually necessitate population movement to the warmer, more fertile, south.

Pucará & Tiwanaku

The first important and independent culture was to the northwest of the lake at Pucará (400 BCE - 100 CE) but very little besides red sandstone foundation slabs and some well-dressed wall stones survive of the settlement. Stone sculpture and pottery vessels have been excavated, and the latter display painted and incised decoration of geometric shapes, felines, and distinctive curved human forms, typically painted in red, brown, or cream.
The lake was considered the centre of the cosmos and the place of creation.
Even more significant was the site of Tiwanaku (or Tiahuanaco) which flourished from 200 BCE to 1000 CE on the southern shores of the lake and which became the capital of an extensive empire. The two cultures were parallel but seemingly independent, although there are common features such as sunken courts and some similarities in their respective artistic styles. The culture at Tiwanaku may also have been influenced by the nearby site of Chiripa, which predates it.
Monumental architecture first appeared at Tiwanaku from 200 CE with large walled courts, ceremonial pyramids, massive stone statues, and the celebrated Gateway of the Sun. Raised fields reclaimed marshy land from the shoreline and irrigation channels brought water from the lake which increased agricultural production. A moat was also created to surround the sacred precinct on three sides with the fourth side being the lake shore itself. The city stretched over 10 square kilometres and the peak population at Tiwanaku could have been as high as 70,000.
The reason for the collapse of Tiwanaku is unclear and may have been due to a combination of over-extension of the empire, rebellion, and climate change. A series of droughts at the turn of the millennium caused the level of the lake to eventually fall by 12 metres which was devastating for irrigation-dependent crops and greatly reduced the water-table creating parched fields unable to sustain agriculture. The area was never again able to recapture its former prosperity and, just when wetter weather came in the 15th century CE, so too did the Incas; and they were thirsty for conquest.

Inca Expansion

Lake Titicaca once again became an important locale with the rise of the Inca empire during the 15th and 16th centuries CE. The Incas were immediately attracted to the altiplano as a possible area of expansion but it did take them some time to conquer the Titicaca basin and its local cultures, the Lupaqa, Qolla and Ayaviris. The first expansion in the area occurred in the reign of Viracocha Inka from 1425 CE and then again under Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (1438-1471 CE). However, it was the decisive victory, at the Desaguadero river which flows from the lake on the southern side, which finally ensured Inca control and brought ruthless reprisals on the local chiefs - their heads were displayed on poles and their bodies skinned to make drums. Reportedly, the Qolla leader was taken to Cuzco and, in a great ceremony, beheaded for his troubles.
The Lupaqa, Qolla, and Ayaviris probably had not advanced to a level of state organization by the time the Inca arrived and, by 1532 CE, a series of alliances between the locals and their Inca overlords had established 13 provinces around the lake. The subjugation of the cultures around Titicaca was completed by forced resettlement and employment elsewhere in the empire and by the prohibition of settlement in fortified hilltop sites. Lupaqa architecture and burial practices, in particular, came to display the familiar traits of Inca architecture - rectangular floor plans and well-dressed stonework.
The Incas incorporated the local myths concerning the lake into their own history by adopting it as a sacred site with temples to the sun (Inti) and moon (Coati) constructed on islands on the lake, the building of a sanctuary on the Copacabana promontory, the setting aside of land for the sun god Inti on the northern shores, and the veneration of the ancient ruins of Tiwanaku on the southern shore. The Inca founder leaders, which included Manco Capac and his sister (or wife) Mama Ocllo, were thought to have come from the lake area and successive Inca rulers would also make annual pilgrimmages to these sacred sites.

Archaeological Remains

At Chucaripupataon, on the Island of the Sun on the lake, artefacts made with copper, silver, and gold have been excavated and include a gold mask. It was also here that the sacred rock of Titikala was located. Remains of various buildings have been excavated on the two sacred islands. One such structure is a two-storey residential building known as Pilco Kayma and another, known, rather grandly, as the 'Palace of the Virgins of the Sun', is traditionally dated to the reign of Thupa Inca Yupanqui (last quarter 15th century CE). The two-storey complex has six symmetricaly arranged apartments, a courtyard, and a 40 metre long open terrace on the upper floor. The building has the typical features of Inca architecture - trapezoid shapes, well-cut and close-fitting masonry, and walls with niches.
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