Americas, south: Inca archaeology

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The Incas formed the last and greatest empire that existed in the western hemisphere prior to the arrival of Europeans in the sixteenth century. Lacking a writing system, our sources on the Inca are restricted to what the Spaniards wrote about them and what archaeologists have recovered from their sites. Spanish accounts indicate the Incas began their expansion only a century or so prior to the arrival of the Europeans, but expanded rapidly due to a large and well-armed military. Their empire consisted of four parts with the capital of Cuzco at the center. It was administered by a large bureaucracy of both Inca and non-Inca officials, and was based on a decimal system. Conquered people were only required to provide labor to the empire, which the Incas used to produce both goods and food. They developed an extensive road system with cities and towns along the major trunks, where people came to work. The Incas practiced ancestor worship and had a polytheistic religion. They developed sophisticated agricultural and irrigation systems for farming, and were excellent engineers and stone workers. They were conquered by a small force of Spaniards under Francisco Pizarro as a result of the latter's capture of the Inca king in a well-planned ambush. © 2008 Copyright © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Encyclopedia of Archaeology

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