Apart from the famed Machu Picchu, the ancient Peruvian city of Cuzco was the Incas’ most important center. Cuzco was the cradle of Inca civilization. They started to settle this great city around the twelfth century. The Inca migration to the city of Cuzco appeared on the Bible Timeline Poster withWorld History around AD 1200.
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Origin of the Incas
The Incas had two origin stories. Both stories featured the mythical sibling-couple Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo. In the Pacariqtambo Legend and Lake Titicaca Legend, the Inca king Manco Capac and Inca Queen Mama Ocllo were created by the sun god Inti (the creator god also Viracocha played a part in the creation of the couple). In the first legend, the couple was created in and emerged from one of the three caves in a place called Pacariqtambo which, according to tradition, was said to be located 33 kilometers from the great Inca city of Cuzco.
The second legend, meanwhile, asserted that the couple was created in the Lake Titicaca region of Peru and Bolivia. In both legends, they were told to go and civilize the world. Manco Capac was given a golden staff which he used along the way to test whether they had arrived in their promised land. The same golden staff sank on the ground when they arrived in the Cuzco Valley.
The word “Cuzco” was taken from the Aymara and Quechua word “Qusqu” which was derived from the phrase qusqu wanka or Rock of the Owl (in reference to the Ayar siblings which included the Inca ancestors of Mama Ocllo and Manco Capac). The Cuzco Valley region was considered as the cradle of the Inca civilization. According to tradition, Manco Capac taught the people who settled there the science of agriculture, while Mama Ocllo taught the women the art of spinning and weaving. The small community gradually grew until the first Inca people extended their influence beyond the valley and into the regions inhabited by other tribes.
The modern city of Cuzco is nestled in a valley located on an elevated portion of the plateau. It is bounded by mountains which, in the past, served as natural defensive walls against marauding tribes. Despite the arid surroundings, the city is fed by rivers that run from the mountains and into the valley. According to early Spanish chroniclers, the pre-Columbian city of Cuzco had long and narrow streets lined with low houses that were made of clay and reeds. Magnificent royal palaces and plazas dotted the ancient city. It was home to the Inca’s holiest place, the Temple of the Sun, where other tribes gathered together after a long journey.
The city was heavily fortified with defensive walls and towers that were made up of heavy blocks of stones. What made these structures amazing (even for the Spanish conquistadores) was that the stones were quarried outside of Cuzco, and were transported to the city without the aid of draft animals, such as llamas and donkeys. Although the Inca did not have moderns tools, each stone was cut so precisely that it is impossible to slip a knife between each heavy slab. The Inca structures still exist today—a testament to the Inca masons’ outstanding skills and their people’s ingenuity.
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“City of Cuzco.” UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Accessed October 25, 2016. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/273.
Cremin, Aedeen. The World Encyclopedia of Archaeology. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2007.
Prescott, William H. History of the Conquest of Peru: With A Preliminary View of the Civilization of the Incas. London: J.B. Lippincott &, 1833.
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