The story

Incas (continued)

Incas (continued)

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The Incas did not use money themselves. They traded or bartered in which goods were exchanged for others, and even labor was paid with goods and food. Cocoa seeds and colored shells, which were considered of great value, served as coins.


At the height of the Inca civilization, circa 1400, organized agriculture spread throughout the empire, from Colombia to Chile, with the cultivation of edible grains from the Pacific Coastal plain, through the Andean highlands and into the eastern Amazon plain. .

The Incas are estimated to grow about seven hundred plant species. The key to the success of Inca agriculture was the existence of roads and trails that allowed a good distribution of crops over a vast region.

The main vegetable crops were potatoes (sow), sweet potatoes (potatoes), corn, peppers, cotton, tomatoes, peanuts, cassava, and a grain known as quinoa.

The planting was done on terraces and already used the advanced technique of contour lines being the first to use the irrigation system.

The Incas used sharp sticks and plows to turn the soil, and they also used the llama to transport the crops, although such animals also provided wool to make cloth, blankets and ropes, leather and meat.

Aromatic and medicinal herbs were also planted and coca leaves were reserved for the elite. All agricultural production was overseen by the empire's officials.


The Incas used the bow of arrows and blowguns to hunt down animals such as deer, birds, and fish that provided them with meat, leather, and feathers that they used in their fabrics. The hunting was collective and the most usual method was to form a large circle that closed over a center where the animals went.

Social aspects

The childhood

An Incan's childhood may seem severe by today's standards. At birth, the Incas washed the baby with cold water and wrapped it in a blanket and dug it into the ground. When the child was one year old, he was expected to walk or at least crawl without any help. At the age of two, children were subjected to a ritual in which their hair was cut, thus determining the end of childhood.

Since then, parents had expected their children to help with chores around the house. From then on the children were severely punished when they misbehaved. At fourteen the boys were dressed in a loincloth and were then declared adults. The poorest boys underwent various tests of endurance and knowledge, after which they were given colorful adornments (earrings) and weapons. The colors of the earrings determined the hierarchical place they would occupy in society.


The kipus

Although the empire was very centralized and extremely structured - and even, one might say, bureaucratic - there was no writing system. To manage the empire were used the kipus, strings of wool or other material where messages are coded.

They were intended for kipus keep statistics up to date. Extremely complete population censuses were regularly carried out (eg number of inhabitants by age and gender). The number of head of cattle, the taxes paid or owed to the various peoples, the set of entrances and exits of state warehouses, etc. were also recorded. The records sought to balance supply and demand in an attempt to plan the economy.

More specifically, the kipu It consists of a cord to which it attaches to smaller strands of different colors, both in parallel and from a common point. Numbers were given by nodes and meanings by colors.

The lower extremity nodes represent the units. Above are the tens, above the hundreds, and finally the thousands and tens of thousands. It is noteworthy that, besides using the decimal system, the Indians conceived the equivalent of zero: a larger interval between the nodes, that is, an empty place. The meaning of complex nodes, perhaps reserved for multiples, is ignored.

As for colors, they indicated the meanings or qualities. But since the number of colors and their hues are limited, far less than the number of objects to be census, the meaning of colors varied according to the general significance of the object. kipu. It was therefore necessary to know the general significance of the kipu to be able to interpret it. For example, yellow was gold for war spoils and corn for production.

In order to make reading easier, people and things were arranged according to an unchanging hierarchy. So in kipus demographic, men were first, followed by women and finally children. In the census of arms the order was as follows: spears, arrows, bows, quarterbacks, maces, thrusts and slings.

The absence of secondary cord along the main, as well as the lack of a color, had a certain meaning, just as the absence of a knot in the cord (zero).

The interpreters of kipus, the quipucamayucs (ie, "guardians of the Kipus") had an excellent memory, whose fidelity was ensured by a radical process: any mistake or omission was punished with the death penalty. Each quipucamayuc specialized in reading a particular category of cords: religious, military, economic, demographic, etc. They were also instructed to instruct their children so that they might succeed them later.

To better fix the narratives, the quipucamayuc sang them like a melopeia.

The kipus They also served to record historical facts and magical rites. However, unlike statisticians, these kipus haven't been deciphered yet.


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