The formation of the Inca State is a company that for a long time was seen as the product of a single factor: war as the only element of conquest and subjugation. However, a new interpretive framework has made it possible to understand that there were multiple causes that influenced the success of this company.
Thus, the Inca domination over the different ethnic groups that inhabited the valley was due to factors understood as long-term processes, and not only to the continuous dispute over territory. These factors allowed the modification of the relations between the groups generating new alliances and forms of exchange. Although there is no consensus regarding the events that favored the emergence of the Inca state, little by little the conception that a single person was the generator of the political, economic and social transformations that resulted in the formation of the Tawantinsuyu has been changing.
Although the foregoing opens new perspectives for the study of the processes that led to the union of the territory during the first phase of Inca rule, one should not go to the extreme of downplaying the great Inca figures who, like Pachacuteq Inca Yupanqui, knew take advantage of the moment they were living and the conditions they encountered in their path to form alliances, reach agreements or exercise submission. The rise of Inca power in the Cusco area is apparently linked to the vacuum left by the fall of the Wari empire around 1000 AD. Although we are talking about a period of nearly 400 years, it is key to understand that the change that this event brought about in the political system would be felt in the way in which the different ethnic groups that inhabited the territory would relate to each other.
During this period called Killke, the Cusco basin will undergo important physical transformations caused mostly by the increase in population in the plain and the occupation of other sparsely inhabited sectors. This is the case of the northern basin that had not been inhabited before and in which numerous settlements are beginning to appear; It had not been exploited either, given its geographical conditions, a very rugged terrain due to the canyons that form the streams, and in this period it was transformed for agriculture through a system of canals and terraces that would allow its exploitation. In a very well studied process in cultures from other latitudes, and easily extrapolated to this particular case: the surpluses provided by the new “land bank” that constituted the terraces, allowed the emerging elite of the Cusco valley to establish a system of payment of favors with other local groups.
Both the expansion of the fields and the use of the mita (rotating and forced labor that is organized for the construction of works and the cultivation of the land) will constitute a model that will result in the enrichment of the elites. In later phases, with the growth of the Inca control area and the consequent increase in the amount of labor, the great works will be carried out at the regional level thanks to the labor force concentrated during the periods between planting and harvesting. Projects such as the channeling of the Urubamba River, the large irrigation systems or the large extensions of terraces found throughout the Cusco region were only possible thanks to this way of organizing the population and work.
The way in which the valley was dealt with is another aspect that has been studied as an indicator of the moment in which the Inca culture became a regional power. Strategies such as the relocation of subjugated populations or the displacement of populations seeking protection were implemented to increase productive capacity and eliminate redundancies in hierarchies. This occupation in the early stage of the formation of the Inca culture as a political entity has been estimated to be more or less the same as that of the Inca state at its time of maturity. Indications have also been found that in the early stages of the Killke period some groups in the area of influence of Cusco were not relocated from what follows that these strategies are consolidated as the power of the elites increases and new strategies are generated. of control.
The resources produced by the valley were controlled by the Inca elite, generating a system in which the groups that lived near the productive lands received certain benefits in exchange for commitments established with the curacas, “lords” of the State. In general, and for each of the regions outside the Cusco basin, it has been possible to document the ethnic groups that inhabited them and with whom the Incas established alliances or domain relationships. Perhaps the most important case of alliance is that of the Anta and Ayarmaca ethnic groups who, through the exchange of daughters between their elites and the Incas, established a certain territorial balance.
The main wives of Incas like Yahuar Huácac (seventh ruling Inca) was the daughter of an Ayarmaca lord. It is worth saying that during the early Killke period there were regions such as the territory between Ollantaytambo and Machu Pichu that was not included within the Inca domains and proof of them are the Cusichaca valley deposits located in places of very difficult access and prepared for defense . Another case is that of the area occupied by the Quillisachi ethnic group, who lived near the current town of Huarocondo to the northwest of Cusco and in which there are fortified sites from the Killke period, such as the site of Huata. Another aspect on which the archaeological works allow us to reflect is that the idea of the permanence of a constant state of war during the period of Inca expansion in the Cusco region is not true.
Kenneth Heffernan (1989) has worked in the Limatambo region, 50 kilometers west of Cusco, and has found that, like the situation south of Cusco, few, if any, villages are fortified. . Although, as in the rest of the valley, there was a displacement of the population, this did not involve a continuous struggle. To understand the diversity in the processes that led to the Inca domination of the territory and the changing strategies of domination, the case of the Huayllacan, an ethnic group that inhabited the territories to the north of the valley, is illustrative. Apparently there was a first stage in which the Huayllacan were progressively integrated into the Inca administration through marriage alliances. However, and perhaps due to their continuous attempts to free themselves from Inca control, they were never admitted into the restricted group of privileged Incas. In a later stage, the Cusco elites would be the ones who would directly exercise power over their territory.
A similar case is that of the Cuyos who occupied the basin north of the Pisaq site. According to chroniclers such as Sarmiento de Gamboa or Santa Cruz Pachacutic Yamqui Salcamayhua, the first territorial expansion undertaken by the Incas occurred during the reign of Cápac Yupanqui (fifth Inca) in which the Cuyos ethnic group fell. The dynamics that led to this conquest may have been related to issues such as trade and the worship of a specific deity.
It is only until the reign of Pachacuteq that the name of the Cuyos reappears. These are falsely accused of attacking the Inca Pachacuteq and sent to remote regions for coca cultivation or incorporated into the workforce that participated in the great works for agricultural exploitation in the Vilcanota Valley. In the same Cuyo basin we find an example of how ethnic groups with a strong administrative development remained in the area of influence of the Cusco Valley.
This is the case of the Pukara Pantillijlla settlement. This heavily terraced hillside site appears to have had its heyday between 1250 and 1350 AD. long before the Inca regional domain, and it is clear that it fought for its autonomy at the time of the first Inca expansionist companies.
In the southeast region, in the area known as Lucre, the Incas would fight against two ethnic groups: Mohina and Pinahua. Sarmiento de Gamboa narrates how, during three or four different reigns, the Incas razed the main settlements of these ethnic groups for considering themselves as “free and they would not serve them, nor be their vassals.” The displacement of the population and the occupation of the territory were some of the strategies used to control the territory. The chronicles collect the claims that Pinahuas made to the Spanish conquerors so that the territory occupied by the Incas would be returned to them.
Chronologically speaking, it seems that the Pinahuas filled the void left by the disappearance of Wari control in the area, since Chokepukio is the largest settlement of the so-called Killke Period. In this same period the size of Cusco could be similar to that of this settlement.
Meanwhile, there are more problems to identify the territory occupied by the Mohinas who are believed to have inhabited the southern part of Lake Lucre. In colonial times they would be relocated near Oropesa, in the middle of the Cusco and Lucre basins, since the Spanish conquerors perpetuated the right over the possible Mohina lands to the descendants of the Incas. The Oropesa basin, the intermediate territory between the Cusco basin and the Lucre basin, at the fall of Wari suffers from depopulation at the foot of the valley and the only settlement is established in the hills about 900 meters from the base of the valley. This site, known as Tipón, also has a protective wall and is considered the only example of a fortified town in the Cusco area. This is perhaps a sign of how this region becomes a zone of separation and/or clash. This situation continued until the domain of the region by the Inca was so great that the populations of the Lucre basin ended up falling. All of the above paints a picture in which, faced with the multiplicity of variants (ethnic, linguistic, and political), the Incas developed the same number of strategies with more or less success.
For example, the resettlement of the population sought to erase the concept of local identity, with what this meant at the level of traditions and beliefs; a practice widely implemented in the early development of the Inca state in the Killke Period. Going from a regional to a continental state meant that the strategies were maintained over time only based on their results within the political structure of the new state. Inca power was never constantly on the rise since, even in the period of maximum territorial expansion, alliances created between an Inca and another ruler could be broken upon the death of the first. In turn, military companies depended on a physical structure that could vary over time.
In the preceding pages we have briefly summarized the progressive acquisition of the historical role of the Cusco Valley as the origin of the Incas. It is a process that, as we have seen, presents more doubts than perhaps certainties. However, there are some important aspects that allow us to understand the profound meaning of the choice of Cusco as the capital; the place from which the network of roads that organized territorial relations started.
Certainly, the Inca power was able to build an extraordinary communications network for its time. Its two main axes, which united the four suyus or territorial districts of the State, converged in the great ceremonial plaza that organized the center of Cusco. These four axes intersected at an almost right angle and determined the guidelines for the layout of the streets of the capital city. Spanish chroniclers also remind us that the city was designed to be seen from the sky in the form of a recumbent puma.
In this ideal scheme, the city concentrated innumerable sacred places (huacas) and cults from all corners of the Tawantinsuyu. Its buildings housed the efficient administration that allowed the operation of the entire system with the Sapa Inca at the head. Finally, the Inca oral tradition from which the chronicles of the colonial period are nourished, and which ultimately present us with this image, attributes the design of this ideal model to Pachacuteq Inca Yupanqui, the ninth ruler who defeated the Chankas, traditional enemies of the Incas and extended their domains to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. The construction of this model, as we have seen in the preceding chapters, is the result of a complex historiographical elaboration.
It was born in the first place from the idea that the Cusco elites themselves had of their own conscience as a state. The establishment of the capital of the regional state in which the Inca power had become, on the site where the city of Cusco stands today, was the conclusion of the process of political integration of the Andean territories. The key figure was of course Pachacuteq. Despite the historical problems that his figure poses, well explained by M. Rostworowski, he is the great character that will remain in history as the one who devised a territorial system that allowed the Inca domain. For this reason (the Spanish chronicles) it is believed that it was also at the time of this Inca ruler that the city was laid out as the Spanish conquerors would see it. The idea that the city from a bird’s eye view had the shape of a puma would have been conceived as the starting point of the four paths that formed the base of the Inca Trail and that extended throughout all the territories under domain of him. Finally, to understand the role assigned to Cusco as the material and symbolic center of this system, it is necessary to take into account that the Inca culture incorporated preceding traditions and organizational forms whose success and effectiveness had already been proven by other political organizations, in particularly the Wari.
Certain practices of reciprocity such as mink’a and ayni already had extensive application in the Andean sphere. In the field of civil works, since the time of the Middle Horizon (particularly with wari) long roads had been built with important bridges, even equipped with tambos or “inns”. In addition, it is probable that the Wari had already proceeded to move populations based on their interests, as suggested by the shape of the Pikillacta settlement, and it is possible that they already had servants similar to the Yanas institutionalized in the Tawantinsuyo. The Incas were able to integrate all this into a new system extended this time to the entire Andes.
As we will see in the following chapter, the complex center of all this was the City of Cusco. The Tawantinsuyo was the most extensive state formation that came to be constituted in all of America before the arrival of the Europeans. The geography subject to the authority of the Sapan Inca covered almost all of Peru, including the coastal lands, the mountains and also the so-called “brow of the jungle”. Through the north of South America, it reached a vast territory that reached the city of Pasto in present-day Colombia, the entire territory of Ecuador. To the south, it extended through the Bolivian highlands and mountains and included the territories of northwestern Argentina and northern Chile.
We have to remember that the expansion of the Incas through the Andes took place in just eighty years. During the government of Pachacuteq, Tupac Inca Yupanqui and Huayna Cápac, some centralized and well-organized administrative states such as the Chimú, territories controlled from powerful sanctuaries such as Pachacamac, a multitude of territories governed by curacas and a large number of organizations were incorporated into the Tawantinsuyo. social groups of all kinds that inhabited this extensive territory. On some occasions they did so voluntarily as a result of a negotiation. However, in many others they did so due to the coercion of the well-organized Inca army or as a result of a true war of conquest and subjugation. To understand the political determinants that conditioned this process, the new works published in the last decade are fundamental. The publication of the immense archaeological dossier and the new orientation that its study has taken, as well as the review of the large number of colonial documents from the archives, is defining a new historical panorama that determines the general revision to which historiography is subjected. inca
The process of formation of the Inca state and its unstoppable military expansion resulted in the political unification of the Andean area, the last phase of the development of Peruvian societies before the arrival of the Spanish. Its arrival cut short this process, which not only failed to consolidate itself as a complete unit, but also its basic weakness allowed its rapid disappearance. The new data suggest that this process had begun to be implemented since the Wari era in the Peruvian highlands.
Likewise, the past of the Inca ethnic group before its expansion out of its primitive nucleus emerges more and more clearly. The Incas, like the other peoples settled in the Cusco and Urubamba valleys, were part of a Quechua macro-ethnic group since they shared the language and many of the cultural, social and religious traditions. As we pointed out, the chronicler Juan de Betanzos indicates the numerous ethnic groups settled in the Cusco territorial environment. It is not surprising that this political fragmentation was resolved with conflicts and confrontations that Inca history had preserved through oral transmission and that was collected by the chroniclers. The Incas were able to group these groups under their rule, on some occasions as a result of military conflicts, but on others taking advantage of the mechanisms of reciprocity implicit in the Andean collective mentality.
Some chronicles of the colonial period emphasize that the Inca power was established with violence and that the defeated populations were repressed with a centralized, arbitrary and despotic state policy. Although on many occasions the Inca conquest can be seen in this way, we cannot ignore that these writers projected in their descriptions the functional model that had served to shape the European empires of modern times. In reality, they could not understand that even in cases of conquest with acts of violent warfare, Inca domination would hardly endure if it were not based on Andean principles of reciprocity. There is another factor that influences this perspective: the Inca army was not permanent and could not function as a stable force of repressive occupation. Military campaigns, both those aimed at conquering new territories and those aimed at punishing insubordination, rebellion or breaches of reciprocity commitments with Cusco, had to accommodate the seasonality of agricultural activities.
Given the short time that the Tawantinsuyo had to develop, it is likely that this design responded to a system of thought built from the center of power in the first years of its expansion. Let us remember that the Quechua language itself was transformed in order to serve as a common language and allow communication between the ethnic groups that had their own language but had been integrated into the Tawantinsuyo. Quechua, as a vehicle for the Inca ideological program, sought to integrate all aspects of the complex Andean reality into a unified system. The chroniclers of the colonial period do not tell us, but we can assume that the objective was to ensure that all the ethnic groups integrated into the reciprocity system appropriated it, contributed to its dissemination and participated positively in its construction.
The expansion of the Tawantinsuyo caused the power of the Inca to increase as the population and the conquered territories increased. Although originally reciprocity had been a great stimulus for growth, it could give way to other more direct forms of domination. It is worth emphasizing that the most profound changes occurred in the management models as the territory grew. With the increase in resources of all kinds that flowed into Cusco and also the volume of labor force that could be mobilized in the service of the Inca, the power of the curacas linked to the Inca power by reciprocity and by ties of kinship increased. The Inca nobility, which had modified some patterns of reciprocity in the face of the new peoples that were part of the Inca domain, continued to practice this system within their communities. Despite the changes, the common ayllus and the peasants continued with the ancestral system. The ayllus, royal and common, were held together by strong ties of kinship and reciprocity. In practice, everything revolved around the progressive change in the system of control and use of land and water as means of production.
The Inca power made an effort to coherently organize the social and economic relationship of the diverse populations that ended up in its orbit, since it was the only way to achieve sustainable economic and social development in a territory as rugged as the Andes. The Inca society was forged in the integration of a group of heterogeneous populations, each one with its own past and specific form of social and economic organization. This integration responded, on the one hand, to a policy of alliances and pacts based on the exchange of prestige goods and marriages between the ruling elite, but on the other, naturally, in the coercion of a potential military intervention.
When the negotiation did not bear the required results, a determined military action was triggered, followed by a harsh repressive policy. In any case, regardless of the way in which the different ethnic groups entered the orbit of the new state, the Inca power always considered that it could dispose of the economic potential of the territories and the workforce of the subjugated population. Although the difficulty of the Andean geographical environment and the ethnic diversity of its population placed limits on the organizing action of the Incas, the historical documentation allows us to affirm that they always had a precise idea of the ways that should be applied in the organization of the system; or at least that is how they transmitted it to the Spanish chroniclers. Some of the aspects that we have just commented on could mistakenly lead us to an analogy with the proposals of the socialist revolution that were theorized at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century: the Inca state organization that allowed the construction of collective infrastructures that facilitated the increase in cultivation areas in the Andes, the storage of surpluses and the movement through a vast territory of people, goods and services.
In addition, if we take into account the absolute power with which the Inca ruled, the rigid hierarchy of the elite that administered the system, the non-existence of private ownership of the means of production, the absence of a mercantile economy based on money or the discretion with which the collective work of the population was planned, it becomes evident why the Inca model has frequently been presented as a form of primitive communism capable of promoting the planned development of diverse but complementary human groups in an extensive territorial system. However, both the homogeneity of the Tawantinsuo and the structural rigidity of its capital are being questioned, since in essence they do not correspond to or reflect the results of anthropological and ethnohistorical research.
The idealized vision of the Inca culture as a great unit bears little relation to the way in which the different ethnic groups were integrated into the Tawantinsuyu, an integration that responded to very different political strategies, economic patterns and chronological moments. The result would be a flexible and asymmetric socio-economic system in the relationship between its parts, where most of the pre-existing systems were maintained although others, on the other hand, were replaced by models more in line with the Inca ideology. Apparently, the Incas must have incorporated the traditions of the subjugated populations as a strategy of economy of means, since they are cultures that in some cases, such as on the coast, had a millenary history.
We can affirm that the local governors conserved the dominion of their territory and the leadership of their communities, as long as they maintained a receptive attitude to the reciprocity demands that were proposed from Cusco. The traditional Andean system of relations between the elite required the exchange of goods and gifts. The Inca had to show himself “generous” if he wanted them to willingly accept his demands: in particular the control of surpluses and accepting the sending of workers to places sometimes very far away. The Inca expansion was based on an increase in the productive capacity of the territories integrated in the Tawantinsuyo.
For this it was necessary that the aggressive military policy be compensated with a rational management of the work capacities of the populations and in the improvement of the agrarian systems. The chroniclers attribute the technological improvements in the management of the natural environment to the Incas: they would have channeled the rivers, streams and springs to irrigate and drain extensive terraces and thus produce a much more productive agriculture. Archeology has also shown that they experimented with fertilizers, practiced crop rotation, built ridges to exploit floodable lands, acted as botanists in the regeneration and improvement of some species, in short, they knew how to adapt crops to the conditions offered by the different ecological niches. The Incas knew how to take advantage of the complementarity of the ecological floors (vertical archipelago) and strengthen social systems based on productive units (ayllu, ayni and minca) but integrated into a centralized system.
This involved the deployment of a sophisticated storage and redistribution system (roads, dairy farms and colcas), the development of accounting and registration instruments (yupanas and qhipus). Finally, the bureaucracy and the coercive force of the army provided a safer system in the face of the contingencies of the variable climate of the region and the difficulties that could generate alterations in agricultural production and hinder the effective use of the diversity of resources. In summary, the Inca State was only possible from a complex organization of work supported by the reorganization of the territories attributed to the traditional kinship groups (ayllus).
Naturally, this was done by leaving the organization of work and the distribution of subsistence instruments in the hands of local communities. Ultimately, the success of the Inca was based on the expansion of corn cultivation and the construction of terraces and canals. Naturally, this vision cannot ignore the fact that all of this ultimately served so that the dominant group (the Incas by blood and the Incas by privilege) wrested greater production quotas from the different dominated communities; sometimes, it involved the displacement of workers to places far away from their traditional place of residence. The direction and centralized control of the Inca power did not hesitate to apply the harshest measures to optimize the work capacity of the Tawantinsuyo population, first of all, for their own benefit. However, they were also aware that the continuity of the system would only be achieved by guaranteeing that all inhabitants benefited from these advances. The Inca state was the first interested in guaranteeing the redistribution of strategic resources on a large scale. An attitude that we can recognize in the complex system of circulation of goods and people that was the Qhapaq Ñan. Not only was it formed by a network of roads well maintained by the local communities, through which immense herds of llamas circulated transporting all kinds of goods, but it was also equipped with staging establishments (tambos), warehouses (collcas) and large rooms. meeting (kallancas).
As the Inca domain spread throughout the mountain range, we know that large tracts of land and labor force were reserved in the form of mita or yanas to form establishments destined to provide the state system with all kinds of products. The chroniclers comment that the successive rulers “owned” farms cultivated by direct servants, in particular, in the valleys near the capital, scene of the first expansion; this is the case of Tipón, Ollantaytambo or probably Machu Picchu itself.
Possession was initially established by the Inca himself during his rule, but upon his death it was his ayllu who managed the hacienda and its workers on behalf of his living mummy. Inca blood groups reserved control of the best lands in the original nucleus of Tawantinsuyo: the Cusco valley and the surrounding region. In many cases, they had to share these lands with the gods of the Inca pantheon, (particularly Inti, the Sun); also in these lands were the huacas and the lands reserved for the maintenance of their cult. In reality, the ayllus were responsible for the maintenance of the cults and for this they were assigned a non-Inca labor force to work them.
The rigidity of social structures and the tradition of communal work in the Andean region allowed the first rulers to organize the territorial heart of the state around a capital city in such a way that the four suyus could be presented as a ramified prolongation of this center. . Along the four roads that started from Cusco, lands and establishments were reserved in which direct servants (yana) or the local population, in a compulsory communal labor regime, produced goods at the service of the State.
On other occasions, it was the labor force made up of the population displaced from their place of origin (mita) that cultivated the state lands distributed throughout the Tawantinsuyo. During the process of Inca expansion, the need to create administrative centers would arise, as the Wari culture had already done 500 years ago. These centers would become intermediate points between the regions and the central power of Cusco, which guaranteed political loyalties and the fulfillment of economic commitments. In cases such as that of the administrative city of Huanuco Pampa, the large central space of the city does not seem to have played an important military role. This space of 500×350 m. it could bring together a large number of people in special celebrations, both those who represented the Inca power and those peoples who were part of the sociopolitical structure and lived in the radius of influence of the administrative city.