Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book Review: Ancient Incas: The Ancient World

This is a book written by Michael Burgan and published by Scholastic. 
The Inca were not the first group of people to live in the Andes, but they are the most well known.  The Inca were those who conquered the previous peoples, and spread out from Cuzco to be the rulers of a large territory extending from Columbia on the North to Argentina in the south.  The rose to power rather quickly, and just as quickly their reign ended, although the people continued but subjugated to the Spanish. 
The Inca began to control the Cuzco valley about 1300 A.D.  Pachakuti’s reign began in 1438.  He was the one who began to extend the empire.  He is attributed as the leader who established Machu Pichu as a resort for royalty.  Subsequent leaders continued to expand the empire.  Unfortunately there was a civil war between two brothers in the early 1500s.  As a result the empire was weakened.  Atawallpa won the civil war, but upon completion of the war he learned of the Spanish who had entered their territory.  Pizarro with about 150 men were intent on conquering the kingdom.  They were few, but they had superior weapons, including canon.  The captured Atawallpa.  When the ruler discovered the desire of the Spanish for gold, he bargained for his life promising a room full of gold for his life.  He delivered the gold, and after getting the gold, the Spanish killed him.  There were other rulers who resisted the Spanish, but for the most part this resistance was unsuccessful.  The Spanish killed the last Inca king in 1572.
The Inca kingdom was established on a system of reciprocity.  The rulers would demand work or taxes, but in tern they would always give something back.  The Spanish did not offer reciprocity.  However they did use Inca leaders to keep the masses happy to a degree.
The Inca Kingdom was actually very advanced.  The used Quinine Bark for treatment of malaria.  The built roads and cities.  They would build temples and buildings without the benefit of mortar, but the joints between blocks would be a perfect match.  Much of the Inca architecture has survived, but often Spanish buildings are built on top, creating walls with an Inca base and Spanish construction above.  No written record has revived of the Incas.  There were many mummies, but these for the most part were destroyed by the Spanish. 
Incan products from which we still benefit today include the potato.  Coco plant is very common in the regions, and from this cocaine is made.  Incan textile are very unique, and Incan style “hoodies” are often seen throughout the world.  The vicuna offers very soft wool, which is highly valued.  The llama was been shipped around the world as a pack animal, with a coarser wool. 
The mountaintop farming of the Inca is unique.  The terraced mountains include a drainage system, and these terraces built long ago are still used today.  The Inca also ate many different tubers, some of which were very nutritious.  There are efforts today to restor some of these crops for their dietary value.

1 comment:

  1. Abe Palmer I wish your blog sight was user friendly. I wrote a comment of my experience in that region of Peru but was unable to post it. I will say that Machu Pichu was a thriving , working community meant to preserve the Inca way of life and culture rather than a resort retreat for Royalty.