History Files


The Americas

South American Native Kingdoms




Qosqo of the Incas

The largest of the pre-Colombian empires, the Inca rose to power in Peru in the thirteenth century. Emerging from the Peruvian highlands and the small kingdom of Qosqo, they began to incorporate large areas of the western edge of South America into their empire, whether through conquest or more peaceful means. Their eastern border was the massive heights of the Andes Mountains, and their territories included modern Peru, western and southern-central Bolivia, parts of Ecuador, southern Columbia, north and north-central Chile, and north-western Argentina.

The capital was at Qosqo (Spanish Cusco, now situated in southern-central Peru). This had previously been the centre of the local Killke culture, who occupied the area between AD 900 to 1200, before the Incas replaced them. The official language was Quechua, although dozens of dialects and local languages existed. There was no written language. The Inca emperors were known by different titles, including, Sapa Inca ('Unique Inca'), Capac Apu, and Intip Cori. The traditional list of Inca rulers includes eighteen emperors, all of which were descended from the original Inca tribe.

(Original details by Luiz Gustavo.)


Perhaps an indirect successor to the ancient Norte Chico culture, the Killke culture occupies the area around Qosqo (in modern Peru).


The Killke construct the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, overlooking Qosqo, which contains a temple. The temple is rediscovered on 13 March 2008, along with a roadway and irrigation system.


Under Manco Capac, the Incas create Qosqo as the capital of their new city state kingdom. He also establishes a code of laws and possibly abolishes human sacrifice. Qosqo remains a small kingdom until 1438 and the reign of Pachacuti. Little is known about the early rulers, although the term 'capac' means warlord while 'sinchi' means leader.

Modern Qosqo was more usually known as the city of Cusco or Cuzco until it was officially returned to its original format in the 1990s

c.1200 - 1230

Manco Capac

'Splendid foundation'. Founder of the first dynasty.

c.1230 - 1260

Sinchi Roco / Roca

Son. 'Valorous generous Inca'.

c.1260 - 1290

Lloque Yupanqui

Son. 'Left-handed accountant Inca'.

c.1290 - 1320

Maita Capac / Mayta Capac

Son. May have conquered local Alcaviza tribe.

c.1320 - 1350

Capac Yupanqui

Son. 'Splendid accountant Inca.'


Quispe Yupanqui

Son. Killed in uprising.


Inca Roco marks the transition from the ruling Hurin family to the Hanan ('upper') family of Sapa Inca. Upon Capac Yupanqui's death, the hanan moiety rebels against the hurin moiety. The rightful heir, Quispe Yupanqui, is killed and the throne is offered to his half-brother. Inca Roco is credited with conquering the Chancas and other peoples, although the Chancas are not entirely pacified until the reign of his grandson.

c.1350 - 1380

Inca Roco / Roca

Half-brother. 'Magnanimous Inca'. Founder of the second dynasty.

c.1380 - 1410

Yahuar Huacac

Son. 'Blood-crying Inca'.

c.1410 - 1438

Inca Viracocha

Son. (Viracocha is an Inca god.)


The accession of Pachacuti initiates the creation of a vast empire.

Tawantinsuyu / Emperors of the Incas
AD 1438 - 1533

Pachacuti became the heir to the throne of Qosqo after he single-handedly led the defence during an attack by the Chankas, the Incas' traditional tribal enemy. As the new ruler of Qosqo, it was under Pachacuti and his son that the kingdom was reorganised and the vast empire of Tawantinsuyu was swiftly created to cover modern Peru and Ecuador. The fortress capital of Machu Picchu was built by Pachacuti around 1460, and lay to the near north-west of Qosqo.

Far from being a centralist power, the empire was actually organised on a federal basis, being sub-divided into four provinces: Chinchay Suyu, the long strip of the north-west; the narrow strip of Anti Suyu in the north-east; the smallest of them, Kunti Suyu in the south-west; and Qulla Suyu, the long carrot-shaped strip covering the entire south-east, all of which met at Cusco in the centre.

1438 - 1471

Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui / Pachacutec

Son. 'The Earth Shaker', or 'The Napoleon of the Andes'.


Realising that his eldest son, Amaru, is not a warrior, Pachacuti chooses his younger son, Tupac Inca Yupanqui, to be his heir.

Machu Picchu
Pachacutec was responsible for the construction of Machu Picchu around 1460, the ruins of which were only rediscovered at the start of the twentieth century

1471 - 1493

Topa / Tupac Inca Yupanqui

Son. 'Nole Inca accountant'.

Tupac Inca Yupanqui conquers his last-remaining major enemy: the Chimor on the northern coast of Peru. He is also credited with embarking on a ten-month voyage of discovery in the Pacific in 1480. If the stories of the voyage are true, the ruler probably discovers the Galapagos Islands and ventures as far as Easter Island.

1493 - 1525

Huayna Capac

Son. Killed by smallpox.


A find in 1999 of the mummified remains of three children lead scientists to conclude that they are sacrificial victims. Dated roughly to AD 1500, the mummies are entombed in a shrine near the summit of the 6,739 metre-high Llullaillaco volcano in modern Argentina. They shed new light on the Inca practice of child sacrifice. Drugs and alcohol play a key part in the months and weeks leading up to the deaths of the children, and tests on one of the children, a teenage girl, suggest that she is heavily sedated just before her demise. Sacrifices are generally for many reasons, such as important life milestones in the lives of the Incas, in times of war, or following natural disasters, but there is also a calendar of rituals to be followed.


Huayna Capac extends the empire far to the south into modern Chile and Argentina, and fights a long battle against the Quito to incorporate areas to the north (modern Ecuador and a small section of Colombia). His death is usually attributed to a smallpox epidemic which ravages the capital at this time (introduced into the defenceless Americas by the Spanish, who have already conquered the Aztecs). The empire is divided between Huascar and Atahualpa, substantially weakening it on the eve of the Spanish arrival in Peru.


Ninan Cuyochi

Son. Killed by smallpox without gaining the throne.

1525 - 1532


Brother. 'Sun of joy'.

1529 - 1532

Huascar and Atahualpa fight one another in civil war. Atahualpa's forces take the capital in 1532 and Huascar is killed.

1532 - 1533




A group of Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro, governor of New Castille (Peru), arrives in Qosqo on 15 November, and capture Atahualpa on his way back from his victory over his brother. Machu Picchu is abandoned and lost to everyone, except perhaps the locals (the Spanish never find it), until its official rediscovery in 1911. Atahualpa is eventually executed by garrotte, and his younger brother is crowned with great ceremony, as the Spanish take control from behind the scenes. He is the last immediate member of the royal house.

Inca child sacrifice
The preservation of the Llullaillaco volcano child sacrifices is amongst the best for mummification practises in the world


Topa Hualpa / Tupac Huallpa

Younger brother. Spanish puppet. Died of smallpox.

1533 - 1535

Manco Inca Yupanqui

Brother from lower class of nobility. Spanish puppet.


FeaturePizarro explores the west coast of northern Peru, and founds the city of Lima as the capital of the new territories. His brothers govern Qusqo, exhibiting great brutality towards the native subjects. An uprising results, almost recapturing the capital until the Pizarro brothers are able to defeat it. Manco Inca retreats to a new Inca capital within the interior.

Vilcabamba of the Incas
AD 1535 - 1572

In 1533 Manco Inca approached Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish governor of New Castile (Peru), and offered to rule the Inca, still not understanding that he would be little more than a puppet. Events in 1535 brought home the truth to him and he managed to escape the following year. He gathered together an army and successfully besieged the capital in 1536, but smallpox cut through his forces, forcing a withdrawal. In 1539 he founded the remote city of Vilcabamba as a last refuge for the Inca in their continuing struggle against the invaders.

1535 - 1544

Manco Inca Yupanqui

Led the restored independent Inca against Spain. Murdered.


The murder of Manco Inca leaves the throne to his five year-old son and regents. A period of peace is maintained with the Spanish. The conquistadors have manage to consolidate their power across much of the Andean region and the viceroyalty of Peru is created in order to manage the new domains.

1544 - 1558

Sayri Tupac



The viceroys of Peru continually attempt to persuade Sayri Tupac to come down from his independent mountain capital and reside in his former capital at Qosqo, where he can be controlled by Spain. It takes until now before he does so, and he accepts Christianity at the same time. His half-brother takes control in Vilcabamba and leads Inca resistance to the Spanish, although he, too, accepts Christianity in 1568.

1558 - 1571

Titu Cusi Yupanqui


1571 - 1572

Tupac Amaru

Brother. Defeated and beheaded.


After his baptism, Titu Cusi had handed leadership of the Inca to Tupac Amaru. Using the death of two Spanish ambassadors as a pretext, the viceroy of Peru goes to war against Vilcabamba and manages to seize it within two months. His troops find it empty, its defenders having fled into the jungle, but they give chase and Tupac Amaru is arrested, tried, and beheaded. His city is burned, its location is forgotten, and the region becomes a backwater. It is not until 1911 that the ruins are rediscovered but they are not recognised for what they are until the 1960s.

Death of Tupac Amaru II
Like Tupac Amaru, his great-grandson Tupac Amaru II would also be executed, two centuries later, but this time by being tied to four horses and ripped apart

1780- 1781

Tupac Amaru II

Great-grandson of Tupac Amaru.


The uprising by Tupac Amaru II in the viceroyalty of Peru is a result of oppressive Spanish control. Fighting for independence and indigenous rights, the former local governor adopts his great-grandfather's name and native dress. The governor of Tinto is captured and executed by his forces in 1780, but reverses such as at the Battle of Sangarara soon see him captured. Before his own execution, he is forced to witness the deaths of much of his family, the last-known members of the Incan royal line.