Between A.D. 100 and A.D. 700, the Moche (MOH chay) people—named after their most famous city—forged a culture along the arid north coast of Peru. Skilled Moche farmers developed methods for fertilizing the soil and used canals to irrigate the land. Their leaders built roads and organized networks of relay runners to carry messages, ideas that a later Andean civilization, the Inca, would adopt.
At the city of Moche, builders constructed the largest adobe structure in the ancient Americas. Adobe is a mixture of clay and plant fibers that becomes hard as it dries in the sun. Moche artisans perfected skills in textile production, goldworking, and woodcarving and produced ceramic vessels in lifelike imitation of people and animals.
Many other Andean cultures emerged, and some left behind intriguing clues about their lives and beliefs. Between about 200 B.C. and A.D. 600 along the southern coast of Peru, the Nazca (NAHS kah) people etched geoglyphs in the desert. A geoglyph is a figure or line made on Earth's surface by clearing away rocks and soil.
The Nazca geoglyphs include straight lines that run for miles as well as giant birds, whales, and other animals. Most researchers think that the geoglyphs carried some sort of spiritual meaning.
Pachacuti Sapa Inca was a master strategist who expanded the Inca empire by taking over enemy territory both by force and through peaceful negotiation.
The city of Huari (WAH ree) developed east of the Nazca culture. It controlled much of Peru's mountain and coastal areas. At the same time, a powerful city, Tiahuanaco (tee ah wah NAH koh), developed on the southern shores of Lake Titicaca, in modern-day Bolivia. It reigned over parts of modern-day Argentina, Chile, and Peru. Many of the same artistic styles appear at Huari and Tiahuanaco, leading scholars to think that these two southern powers shared religious or trade affiliations.
In what ways did the Chavín and the Moche influence later Andean cultures?
The most powerful of the Andean civilizations—the Inca civilization—came into being in the 1100s with the founding of its first dynasty. For the next three centuries, the Inca civilization stood out no more than any other. But in 1438, an historic change occurred. Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (pahch ah KOO tee ING kuh yoo PANG kee), a skilled warrior and leader, proclaimed himself Sapa Inca, or emperor.
From his small kingdom at Cuzco in a high mountain valley, Pachacuti set out on a campaign of conquest. Once he subdued neighboring peoples, he enlisted them in his armies. His son, emperor Topa Inca Yupanqui, continued the expansion. With Cuzco as its capital, the resulting empire stretched more than 2,500 miles along the Andes, from Ecuador in the north to Chile in the south.
The Sapa Inca held absolute power. Claiming to be divine, the son of the sun itself, he was also the empire's religious leader. Gold, considered the “sweat of the sun,” served as his symbol. His queen, the Coya, carried out important religious duties and sometimes governed in his absence.
The Sapa Inca laid claim over all the land, herds, mines, and people of his empire. As the Inca people had no personal property, there was little demand for items for barter or sale, and trade played a much smaller role in the Inca economy than it had in the earlier Maya economy. Periodically, the Sapa Inca would call upon men of a certain age to serve as laborers for short periods, perhaps a few months. By so doing, he could access millions of laborers at once.
Inca rulers ran an efficient government. Nobles ruled the provinces along with local chieftains whom the Inca armies had conquered. Below them, officials carried out the day-to-day business of enforcing laws and organizing labor.