The Inca Empire – Part I Administration

DFN: Charlotte gives a great overview of the “Incans” and tells where / what the term Inca means (never knew).

The Inca Empire – Part I Administration
Posted by: Charlotte Gardner 10/30/2009

The Inca empire reached its peak in the 1500s, after emerging in under a century. From 1470 they ruled from their capital Cuzco, a vast area that reached the practicable limits of its expansion with the Amazonian rainforest to the east and the Andes to the south.

The empire was highly organized, divided into geographical, social and hierarchical groups. The empire, Taluantinsuys (Land of the Four Quarters), was divided into four provinces, or suyu, called Chinchaysuyu, Antisuyu, Cuntisuyu and Collasuyu. These quarters were then further divided into smaller provinces whose boundaries often reflected the pre-Inca divisions. This was especially so with the Empire’s rapid expansion and integration of other cultures.

At the head of the organization was the royal family ruled by the Emperor, or Child of the Sun. The Incas believed that their royal family were direct descents from the Sun god through their ancestor Manco Capac, and therefore they ruled with divine right. Each member of the royal family was known by their title, used solely by the Inca royal family. These included Auqui for an unmarried son of the Emperor and Inca for a married son. It was necessary to make this strict legal hierarchical system to define the next heir to the throne; the Emperor’s wives could number into the hundreds and illegitimate sons by his concubines were not eligible for the succession.

Anyone who wanted an audience with the Emperor had to take off his sandals and carry a “token burden” on his back, both signs of respect. The organization of the empire was so strict that everyone knew their position in the society. Under the royal family were the nobles of royal blood or nobles by Inca privilege; both groups belonged to the elite and helped govern the provinces. To help with decisions the Emperor would discuss matters with his advisers, a group of men made up of royal relatives or men who held important social positions in their native lands.

Administration of the empire revolved around the taxpayers, or ‘commoners’. This social group made up the majority of the Inca population and were mainly agriculturalists. These subjects were expected to pay their taxes as energy or labour. The tight social categories were rigorously enforced because they dictated who was liable to pay tribute.

Each province was expected to provide agreed upon amounts of tribute to the Inca government warehouses made up of the supplied energy of every agriculturalist in that area. In return the government was supposed to adjust its demands depending on the seasonal capacity of the provinces. In addition, male individuals who possessed a particular skill were exempt from contributing to the province tribute and instead was required to complete local works. These could include repairing bridges, building roads, or serving time in the army, the public work force or the mines. In this way, it was more common for towns to be build around specialist’s skills which relied on supplies from other specialists skills, for example, a bridge builder living in a town with a carpenter.

On the other hand, the agriculturists retained enough land to feed themselves but were close to government and religious owned land to work it also. When it was sowing or harvesting time all other tasks, but urgent government business such as warfare, were postponed so the taxpayers would focus on the land.

First the lands of the Religion were worked, the community land, or Emperor’s; and, and then the taxpayers personal land. The Emperor would start the work using a golden hand plough. He would, of course, stop working after the initial ceremonial beginning, leaving the land to be work by the taxpayers. Each man supervised the work of his family on his appointed section and the first who finished his part was considered a rich man. After the harvest, the produce from the Emperor’s land was then transported and stored in warehouses for future redistribution.

For further reading see ‘Everyday life of the Incas’ by A. Kendall

About the Author
Charlotte Gardner, a guest blog writer, is currently studying archaeology at the Australian National University. In her spare time she likes to read and write about eccentric historical moments. Her love of old buildings and older stories was sparked when she visited Italy. One of Charlotte’s greatest wishes is that in a few thousand years her skeleton will be dug up by an archaeological investigation team and put on display in a national museum.


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