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A look at the major tribes that inhabited the pre inca empire

  • Their skill in government was matched by their feats of engineering;
  • In this way the granary of the peasant household was left untouched; the authority took the risk of hail, frost, or drought decreasing its own revenues;
  • Like the pharaohs of Egypt, he took his own sister as his queen;
  • The Crossed Hands or manos Cruzadas is the first known sculpture of the era;
  • The Paracas people were also known for their burial grounds.

Even so, the Andean region is very wide. It encompasses the peoples of Ecuadorincluding those of the humid coast—many of whose contacts were as frequently with maritime peoples, to both north and south, as with the highland peoples.

Most of the populations and civilizations of Bolivia and Peru are Andean in a central, nuclear way, and here again are included the kingdoms of the irrigated desert coast. The peoples who for the past four and a half centuries have occupied the northern highlands of Chile and Argentina also must be included.

Political systems

For additional cultural and historical information, see pre-Columbian civilizations: There is a stereotyped image of the Andes showing poverty against a background of bleak, unproductive mountains, where millions insist, against all apparent logic, on living at 10,000 feet 3,000 metres or more above sea level.

Nowhere else have people lived for so many thousands of years in such visibly vulnerable circumstances. These two visions of Andean peoples and their accomplishments can be reconciled only if it is recognized that what the resources and ecologic potential of an area and a people may be depends on what part of these resources the people use or are allowed to use by their masters.

The Andean region was once rich and produced high civilizations because, over millennia, its people developed an agriculture, technologies, and social systems uniquely adapted to the very specialized if not unique ecologic conditions in which they lived.

Economic systems Since 1532, under European rule, extractive activities, such as silver, tin, and copper mining, for foreign markets have been favoured to the point to which Andean agriculture and the ecologic wisdom in handling productively the extremely high altitudes have been gradually devalued and mostly forgotten. The population of the Central Andes is both less dense and less urban today than it was in 1500. The coastal cities of South America, from Guayaquil to Buenos Aires, are filling with highlanders who have been convinced by four and a half centuries of colonial rule that cultivating at 12,000 feet is too strenuous.

Although human occupation began over 20,000 years ago, the beginnings of agriculture and population growth are much more recent.

  • Workers who supplied its needs lived in small settlements in the surrounding countryside;
  • Each neighborhood kept a mummy, supposedly of the ancestor from whom all the living were descended;
  • However, in recent years many have migrated to Lima and other coastal cities, where they live in crowded neighborhoods.

Within the last 8,000 years a specialized desert-and-highland agriculture was developed. There are two significant achievements in the Andean agricultural endeavour. First, given the wide range of geographic circumstances—very high mountains in equatorial and tropical latitudes, a 3,000-mile coastal desert, the Amazon rain forest to the east—there were thousands of quite different ecologic pockets, each with its own micro-environment to be understood and exploited.

Dozens of crops, with literally thousands of varieties, were domesticated; most of them remain unknown outside the Andean area. Only the potato has acquired a following elsewhere; and only maize corn and possibly cotton were known in the Andean region as well as in the rest of the Americas.

Andean peoples

It is this multiplicity of minutely adapted crops and the domestication of the alpaca and the llama that made the mountains habitable to millions the bulk of the population in the Central Andes has always lived between 8,000 and 13,000 feet. Second, no matter how specialized Andean plants or herds may become, the leap from bare survival to dense populations and civilizations requires something more.

  • Along the roads there were post houses, where runners waited to relay messages;
  • The llama, a relative of the camel, provided coarse wool for spinning and was used as a beast of burden.

The high altitude, with its 200, 250, even 300 frost-threatened nights a year, represents a challenge to any agricultural system. On the high, cold plains, known in the Andes as puna, there are only two seasons: The giant warehouses that lined the Inca highways could be filled with these preserves and used to feed the engineers planning cities and irrigation canals, the bureaucracyand the army, not to mention the royal court, with its thousands of male and female retainers.

Political systems Even these two technological developmentshowever, are not enough to characterize and explain the emergence of Andean civilizations. From the intimate knowledge of their environmental conditions, the people developed a set of values that may have started from a desire to minimize risks but that soon was elaborated into an economic and political ideal.

If the society was small, the outliers herders or salt winners above the core; maize, cotton, or coca-leaf cultivators in the warm country below would be only three or four days away.

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The colonies were permanent, not seasonal establishments. Since more than one highland kingdom or principality would have maize or coca-leaf oases in a given coastal or upland Amazonian valley, there would be not only competition for their control but also coexistence for long periods of time in a single environment of outlying colonies sent out by quite different core societies.

Its scouts roamed even wider, as recent Chilean archaeology has shown. The Incas expanded and projected on earlier, pre-Incan solutions and adaptations; in the process, many tactics that had worked well on a smaller scale became inoperative; others were reformulated in such ways that their original outline was barely recognizable. For example, they kept an old Andean method of creating revenues for their princes, which involved setting aside acreage for regional authorities and demanding from the conquered peasantry not tribute in kind but rather labour on the field thus set aside.

In this way the granary of the peasant household was left untouched; the authority took the risk of hail, frost, or drought decreasing its own revenues. But since the needs of kings kept growing, revenues produced on state lands were soon inadequate; acreage could be and was expanded through such public works as irrigation and terracing. A more tangible way was to increase the amount of energy available for state purposes.

For some reasons, still insufficiently understood, the kings did not increase productivity by introducing tribute; they preferred to magnify on an imperial scale the patterns of reciprocal obligations and land use familiar to everyone from earlier times.

Beyond the strategic colonies set up on an expanded model, the Incas did not interfere too much with life of the many local groups that they had incorporated into Tawantinsuyu. Most of the cultures that existed in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile before the Inca expansion can be identified.

In fact, because the European invasion beginning in 1532 was mostly concerned with breaking the resistance of the Inca overlords, frequently more is known about the pre-Inca occupants than about Cuzco rule. Inca power was broken and decapitated within 40 years of 1532.