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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



originally, an Indian tribe of the Quechua language group that inhabited Peru (South America) from the 11th to the 13th century; later, the ruling stratum in the state formed from a union of tribes. The formation of the Inca state—the Tawantin-suyu—dates from 1438. The state was a slave-holding despotate. The Incas levied a tribute from subjugated tribes and exploited the labor of ordinary commune members, artisans, and slaves— the yanacuna. The basic socioeconomic nucleus was the village commune—the ayllu. The land was regarded as belonging to the ruler—the Inca—whose power was encircled by a sacred halo. The first mythical ruler—Manco Capac—was revered as the sun’s offspring. The Incas used irrigation and erected buildings for military and administrative purposes. They devised a system for relaying information in the form of so-called knot-writing— quipu—as well as a rudimentary writing system. In 1532, Spanish conquerors, led by F. Pizarro, invaded the territory of the Incas. Their state was plundered and their culture destroyed. The Incas, after being subjugated by the Spaniards, became part of the Quechua nationality.

Inca architecture is known from descriptions and from numerous remains of buildings (temples, palaces, observatories, amphitheaters, and fortresses). Cyclopean structures made from colossal stones (the fortress of Sacsahuaman near Cusco) gave way to buildings of carefully hewn blocks of granite (the fortress of Pisac near Cusco). The Incas’ architecture is distinguished by the geometric simplicity of the low forms, solidity, and the almost complete lack of decoration. Vessels have been preserved, including figured ones, with brilliant black surfaces. The richest remains of the jeweler’s art, including the Curi-cancha (Golden Enclosure) of the Temple of the Sun in Cusco with plants, birds, butterflies, and figures of gold and silver, have almost completely perished.


Kinzhalov, R. V. Iskusstvo drevnei Ameriki. Moscow, 1962.
Lara, J. La cultura de los Inkas [vols. l]–2. La Paz-Cochabamba, 1966–67.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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