Day 14 Cusco

Doorway from the Spanish era

We have time to explore independently today, and I’m keen to see the Inca Museum here in Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. Here is the legend of the origin of the Inca which both Angela and our Lake Titicaca guide have related.


“… There was a time when mankind was deplorably primitive, and lived in a savage state. One day, the sun god took pity on mankind and sent two of his children to civilize them. With this end in sight, he sent Manco Capaq and Mama Ocllo into Lake Titicaca. The two were given a golden sceptre by their father, and were commanded to establish an empire on the land where the sceptre sank. Manco Capaq and Mama Ocllo emerged from Lake Titicaca and began their journey. Their father, instructed them to penetrate the ground with the golden sceptre whenever they stopped to eat, drink, or rest.

When they arrived to Huanacaure Hill, the sceptre sank into the ground. Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo immediately established themselves in said place, and summoned mankind to begin the civilisations process. Manco Capac taught men to cultivate the land, and the arts of war. Mama Ocllo taught women to weave, make clothing and other domestic responsibilities. Mankind was so grateful that they began to worship Manco Capaq and Mama Ocllo as the children of the sun. So, Cusco was founded, the city’s name meaning “navel of the world” in Quechua. The children and descendants of the first settlers were recognised as the absolute rulers of all those who joined their territory…”

I can think of a number of instances when explorers came to ‘Civilise’ indigenous people.

Inca Pottery

Ingo and I start the day with reasonable coffee – something that I’d abandoned on quality grounds. Others in the group have slummed it with Starbucks. After my experience in Arequipa, I have stuck to black tea.  The Museum is not far away but it takes us a while to find it, having walked straight past it several times.

Inca building


I’m struck by a map of the various regions which made up the empire. They radiate in four directions with Cusco at the centre. While the Inca established themselves here, other similar civilisations in south America were also developing. Most worshiped the sun. The people of Cusco, ruled by The Inca, gradually took over these surrounding civilisations. Their weapons were basic; spears and clubs with shields – according to the early chroniclers from Spain. The Inca took the skills and abilities of the conquered people and improved them, they included their idols into the Inca religion and organised agriculture in such a way that farmers and other traders had no choice but to sell to the empire.

Planting potatoes

Sacrifices were made to the Sun God (mostly black Llama) and only in extremis were human sacrifices made.

The museum has images of Inca life. The drawing of potato planting with spades is very much like the Maori planning kumara with a ‘Ko’. The word kumara for sweet potato is similar in both languages. It is possible that the Polynesians did travel as far as South America.

Message to the Inca
Runnier delivers the accounts
Inca counts his assets
The Inca counts his assets








Examples of knotted string – an accounting system used to carry information to the Inca about the food supply, vital to feed the empire – can be see here. The knots were different sizes and colours to represent various goods.



There’s also a display of an Inca site with mummified bodies preserved in the foetal position ready to be reborn.

Incal burial

Angela has related that the Spanish came three times. On the first occasion, they couldn’t get through the jungle and  got malaria. The second time, they travelled along the ocean with only thirteen men. Pizaro had heard about the gold and silver (Cortez had already conquered the Aztecs of Mexico) and arrived in the north binging gifts of trinkets and mirrors plus an African slave. The local people were mesmerised and gave them presents of gold and silver by return. Pisaro took Children and alpacas back to Spain. Sensing there weas a lot more gold and silver to be found, Pizaro got permission from the King of Spain to return. The King demanded five percent of all the precious metals in return.

Body of statue – the head (pictured behind) is in Spain
Inca by Spanish Painter
Inka’s wife by spanish painter

On their previous visits, the Spaniards had unwittingly given the people small-pox so that by their third visit the population was much reduced and the empire was in the throes of a civil war. The Incas put up huge resistance against Pizaro’s 168 men who were equipped with armour, horses and guns. The Incas were out manoeuvred. The Spaniards called a meeting but they ambushed the Inca Atahuallpa. Now, Incas when they travelled could never touch the ground, being carried on a platform by servants. The Spanish shot the servants who were immediately replaced by others. Eventually, the Inca touched the ground and it was all over. The Spanish demanded that he convert to Christianity or else they would kill him and burn his body. Atahuallpa knew that a burnt body cannot be reincarnated so he was baptised. He also did a deal with the conquistadores and brought gold from Cusco. Pizaro, however, was greedy and knew there was more and killed Atahuallpa anyway who was at least happy to go into the next world – according to Angela. In four years, the Incas collapsed and more Spaniards came. In 1536 the first battle between the Incas and the Spaniards began ending with the new, young Inca retreating to the jungle until in 1572, the last Inca was killed.

Photo taken by Hyram Bingham in Machu Picchu

Angela has organised lunch in a huge restaurant where local people eat. Peruvians have a predilection for large meals at lunch time so I can see that all the portions are huge. I’m going to be brave and order a boiled pig’s skin salad. It turns out to be huge; heavy on the pig’s skin and light on the salad. I would have liked it the other way round and only got though half of it. Our free lunch-time entertainment was from a jolly troupe of folk dancers in colourful costumes.

Later, Angela shows us a vast mural (Peruvians are keen on these) showing the history – beginning with the children of the Sun arriving and the toil involved in building the Inca Empire. The scene moves on to the arrival of the Spanish and hence to the war of independence. The final scene shows Peruvians looking to a rainbow and a bright and hopeful future. Angela says this is yet to arrive.

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