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The Tawantinsuyo

Peru Viajes

Edition 2015
The Tawantinsuyo
The Inka
Inkan Religion
General and City Planning
Materials and Lithic Tech
Inkan Architecture
Coca Leaves
Andean Camelids
Andean Condor
Inkan City of Qosqo
Present-day Festivities
The Cathedral
Saint Blaise Church
Convent of Our Lady of Mercy
La Compania de Jesus Church
Saint Francis Convent
Monastery of Saint Catherine
Maras, Moray, Pichingoto
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Home >> Peru Cities >> Cusco Travel Information >> The Tawantinsuyo



Traditionally when we talk about the civilization developed in this part of the Andes since the year 1200 A.D., we say the " Inkan" culture, civilization, empire, state, etc. Actually that is not the best or right way to name it because as it is known in pre-Hispanic days "Inka" was just one person: the King, Emperor, Ruler, State Chief, or however we would like to call him. That way, there was only one "Sapan Inka" (Unique Inka) who occupied the summit of their social pyramidal stratification. He was followed by the nobility or "orejones" (big-eared people) called that by the conquistadors because of the deformation of their earlobes due to the use of heavy earrings and ornaments that made their difference with common people. Next were the " runa" (common people) and lower the punished " mitimaes" that were moving or displaced people. At the end were the " Yanaconas" (Yanakuna) or household servants. The official language in their broad territory was the " Runa Simi" that translated to English is "man's tongue". This same language is also known as " Quechua" or "Quichua" in some Andean areas; those are Spanish forms of the original " Qheswa". Many modern scholars are using "Quechua" or "The Quechuas" in order to talk about that mentioned civilization. Thus, in this work we use indistinctly both nouns: "Inkas" or "Quechuas". Their territory, native land or country was the Tawantinsuyo, a compound name that comes from two Quechua words, "tawa": four, and "suyo": nation or state. So, Tawantinsuyo in the idiomatic Quechua sense is a whole that has four nations, even though, in a very arbitrary way many authors translate Tawantinsuyo as "the four quarters or portions of the world".

Space distribution and planning among the Quechuas were based on some elementary aspects of their daily life. They always took in mind the relationships of duality, tripartition, and fourthpartition. The Tawantinsuyo was divided in four " suyo" or "suyu" which central angle was in Qosqo City, its capital. The word Qosqo is apparently an archaism that according to chroniclers meant " navel" or " center" of the world; in this case it would be the center or navel of the Tawantinsuyo. From the southeastern angle of the city's Main Square started four main roads towards the four "suyo" or nations and which names are still used in different sectors of the Andes. Towards the city's northwest was the " Chinchaysuyo" going as far as the Ancashmayo River in Pasto, present-day Colombia at 4° of north latitude. Towards the southwest was the " Contisuyo" occupying part of the Peruvian coast and going as far as the Maule River in present-day southern Chile at 36° of south latitude. Towards the southeast was the " Collasuyo" occupying all what today is Bolivia and going as far as Tucuman in present-day Argentina. Towards the northeast in the subtropical valleys and even occupying the beginning of the Amazonian lower jungle was the " Antisuyo". In fact, what is known as Inkas' Territory spread out over an area more than 3'000,000 Km² (1'158,306 mile²); that is, more than double present-day Peruvian territory; and covered about 5,000 Km. (3,107 miles) of coast over the Pacific Ocean.

The Tawantinsuyo's success was due to some factors that are missed in present-time Peru which were based in order: a social, economic and legal order according to realities of the moment. The Quechuas were highly organized people and every aspect of their daily life was framed in obedient respect and pursuit of permanent and irremovable laws. Tradition has stated three basic laws attributed to the Tawantinsuyo that would synthesize their order: Ama Sua, Ama Llulla, Ama Kella (do not be thief, liar, neither lazy). Though in modern history it is argued that those are precepts created in colonial times in order to get complete subjection of the native breed. It is obvious that by that pre-Hispanic time the legal system tended to state some homogeneity among the different nations in order to get the high living standard that Quechuas reached for that age. The "Runa Simi" was established as official language in the "Tawantinsuyo" territory. They established a land division system with parts belonging to the Sun, to the Inka, and to the State. Like that they guaranteed their flourishing social security system in order to aid old people, orphans, widows or unfortunate people. Logically the biggest portion of lands were devoted to be shared among common people. Thus, every newborn boy had right to one "topo" of fertile farming land and every girl to a half "topo" (topo or tupu: changing measure based on the human step equivalent to about 2700 m²; 0.27 Ha.; 0.67 acres). All lands were the state's property and they could not be inherited or sold; thus when a person died his or her farmland was taken by another newborn. Moreover, they established a planned sedentarism for all the population, trying to get a land-man balance with the "mitimaes" that were people or tribes displaced from their hometowns.

It is really difficult to catalogue the Inkan Society in the right way. That is determined by the heterogeneous historical interpretation systems; that is, the different positions, philosophies, interests, nationalities and even races of the many scholars occupied on it. In general terms, those who study only or principally the Inkan nobility suggest that this was an enslaving or early feudal society. Those who study principally the "runa" or common people suggest that it was socialist or social-imperialist. In synthesis, the society that was developed, lived and practiced by the Quechuas was peculiar and unique, it has no equivalent in traditional European societies. Thus its production mode is also sui-generis and must be considered as it is; out of the considered by many scholars "infallible" schemes. It is outrageous to argue that the Tawantinsuyo was a society of the "bronze age" only taking in mind that bronze was the hardest metal they got, without considering their development in planning, social organization, agriculture, architecture, engineering, etc., that was ahead of many Old World contemporary societies. The Tawantinsuyo was characterized by its absolute and monarchical government that developed paternal patterns for their people. People among who there was neither private property nor starvation. Protected people who lacked little, in counterpart, were devoted to work and obedient to the law; making altogether a society that was not perfect but very well balanced. Consequently, modern scholars such as Jose Tamayo classify the Tawantinsuyo framed inside the "Theory of reciprocity and redistribution, and the vertical control of ecological stages in the Highlands and Coast of southern Peru".



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