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Pachacuti - Founder of the Inca Empire in South America

Updated on September 10, 2016
Statue of  Sapa Inca, Pachicuti, that today stands in Agua Calientes, Peru.
Statue of Sapa Inca, Pachicuti, that today stands in Agua Calientes, Peru. | Source
The expanse of the Inca Empire by the 1500's.
The expanse of the Inca Empire by the 1500's. | Source

The Great Sapa Inca

From the approximately the 13th century, around the area of the city of Cuzco, in what is present day Peru, there live a great and mighty Quechua people, known as the Incas who ruled an empire that eventually included all of western South America. They ruled mercilessly for about two to three hundred years until the Spanish conquistadores, led by Francisco Pizarro, arrived and conquered them in 1532. Then they no longer existed as they intermarried with the Spanish and faded away.

But, long before the end of the Incas, came their greatest leader and founder of the empire, Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui(also Pachacutec) known to everyone just as Pachacuti. He was the 9th Sapa Inca (emperor) and ruled from 1438-1471 in the Kingdom of Cuzco. But, during his reign, he transformed the Kingdom of Cuzco intoTawantinsuyu, known as the Inca Empire. Most modern day archaeologists today believe that Machu Picchu, the famous Inca site in the Andes Mountains, was built as an estate for Pachacuti.

Pachacuti is a Quechua name that means "He who shakes the earth," which is exactly what Pachacuti did to become ruler and change his kingdom to an empire. Yupanqui, in Quechua, means "with honor." Pachacuti eventually took over the Chimu people, another South American Peruvian people to gain the lands he sought, His reign was an era of conquest and within three generations he expanded his rule to encompass nearly the whole of western South America.

Ironically, Pachacuti was not supposed to succeed his father, Inca Viracocha, as Sapa Inca, but his great warrior skills defeated the Inca's arch enemy, the Chancas, and he won the support of his people and recognition of his father and became the crown prince and joint ruler of the Incas.

Many of the remaining monuments in the Cuzco area today, such as the great sun temple, Coricancha, and the great fortress, Sacsayhuaman, were built during his reign. His Incan imperial government was highly authoritative and repressive.

After conquering most of western South America, Pachacuti began an expansive road system throughout his empire to tie all the vast lands together and consolidate his power. Ironically, it is this massive road system that eventually brought the smallpox disease as well as other diseases to the empire and eventually devastated the Inca civilization in the 1500's, which aided the Spanish in their conquest of the Incas.

Pachacuti continued his succession with his second son, Tupac Inca Yupanqui. His first son, Amaru Yupanqui was initially chosen to be Pachacuti's successor, but he was not a warrior, so Tupac became the Sapa Inca upon Pachacuti's death. Pachacuti eventually died of an illness in 1471 and Tupac became Sapa Inca.

Machu Picchu of which construction was begun during Pachacuti's Inca reign.
Machu Picchu of which construction was begun during Pachacuti's Inca reign. | Source
Intihuatana Stone, "tie up the sun", at Machu Picchu.
Intihuatana Stone, "tie up the sun", at Machu Picchu. | Source

Machu Picchu - "Lost City of the Incas"

During Pachacuti's reign, an estate was erected high up in the Andes Mountains in an isolated spot that remains today reveal the great genius and master architecture of the Inca civlization. Machu Picchu is a Pre-Columbian 15th century Inca site located on an Andean mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley northwest of present day Cusco, Peru. Archaeologists today believe Machu Picchu was built as an estate for Pachacuti.

It is the most famous icon of the the Inca world today. Archaeologists today believe the Incas started building the estate around 1400 AD and abandoned it as an official site for Inca rulers a century later during the Spanish conquest. It is so isolated, that the Spanish never found Machu Picchu or even knew of its existence. It was not until 1911, when Hiram Bingham III, a Yale University scholar and researcher, was shown the remains by an eleven year old Quechua boy. Today it is the most important tourist attraction in Peru.

Most of the outlying buildings at Machu Picchu have been reconstructed to give tourists and researchers a better idea of what the structures originally looked like. Reconstruction of Machu Picchu continues today. Tourists can take buses or trains up to Machu Picchu or hike the trail up to this magnificent, isolated estate.

Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style which was the construction of polished dry-stone walls that used no mortar between them. There are some buildings where mortar was used, but the Incas considered the use of mortar to be shoddy construction. The two great Incas that ruled during the time of construction were Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui and his son, Tupac Inca Yupanqui (1472-1493). It was finally abandoned by the Incas in 1572 as a belated result of the Spanish conquest.

The structures built at Machu Picchu by the Incas were temples, sanctuaries, parks, residences and even houses with thatched roofs. The sophistication in the architecture of these structures and the construction of water fountains, interconnected water channels and water drains designed for an original irrigation system, is evidence of the intelligence and genius of the Inca civilization. The Incas were so sophisticated that evidence exists today at Machu Picchu of indoor plumbing used in the residential section of the estate. What is amazing about Machu Picchu is that many buildings were built to be in alignment with key astronomical events important to the Incas.

One of the most interesting structures at Machu Picchu is the Intihuatana Stone, a ritual stone used in religious worship, and arranged to point directly at the sun during the winter solstice. (December 21) The name means "tie up the sun," and the Inca believed the stone held the sun in its place along its annual path in the sky. From November 11-January 30 of each year, the sun stands directly above casting no shadow at all. On June 21 of every year, the stone casts its longest shadow on the southern side of the structure and on December 21 the stone casts no shadow at all. After January 30 of each year the stone casts the shortest shadow on the northern side of the stone.

Copyright 2012 Suzannah Wolf Walker all rights reserved


Submit a Comment
  • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

    Suzette Walker 

    7 years ago from Taos, NM

    Amber: I am so glad you enjoyed this. I love anything Inca so the reason I wrote this. Yes, this is an interesting area of South America and is rich in history. Thank you so much for your comments and your visit. Most appreciated.

  • Amber Vyn profile image

    Amber Vyn 

    7 years ago

    I'm fascinated by the Andes, so this article greatly intrigued me!

    Voted 'up' and 'interesting'!

  • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

    Suzette Walker 

    8 years ago from Taos, NM

    BeyondMax: I'm glad you enjoyed this hub and it was fun for you. I, too, want to see Machu Picchu some day. It is so intriguing to me and as you say a mystery. The Inca were definitely into enlarging their empire - I think Machu Picchu was there "shangra la" to escape to. No one could find them there!

  • BeyondMax profile image


    8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

    That was so much fun to read! I really want to visit The Lost City one day, there is so much mystery in every nook and cranny, it's just unreal. You know, every time I read about Inca I feel like they were so uptight and no fun makes me wonder...


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