Pre-Inca Civilization

Thus the foundation for an empire was laid. Another legend relates that the Sun created a man and a woman on an island in Lake Titicaca. They were given a golden staff by the Sun, their father, who bade them settle permanently at whatever place the staff should sink into the earth. At a hill overlooking the present city of Cuzco the staff of gold disappeared into the earth. They gathered around them a great many people and founded the city of Cuzco and the Inca state.

Chiqui Illapa (Thunder God)

Second only to Apu Inti, Chiqui Illapa was a magnanimous figure in Incan lore. Hailing rain down from the celestial river (the Milky Way), Illapa fed the empire. Incan legend asserts that he would crack his sister’s water jug with a slingshot, reverberating the echoes of thunder as aqueous elixir spilled forth from the sky, showering the parched lands below. He was associated with Keypachu, the upper kingdom of heaven, and was worshipped throughout the growing season. Interestingly, any male child born during a thunderstorm was declared a priest of Chiqui Illapa, an exalted position in Incan society and within the priestly class itself.

Mamaquilla (Mother Moon)

First acknowledged by Inca Yapanqui, successor of Manco Capac, Mamaquilla was wife of the sun and timekeeper of the heavens. As the Incan calendar revolved around the lunar month, she was critical to the maintenance of a calendric system that would ensure proper adherence to planting and harvesting seasons. She was represented with idols of silver, complementing the gold of her luminary husband.

Yakumama (Mother Water)

Yakumama was believed to control subterranean and mountain streams, blessing the fields with nourishment and springing fresh water from the earth. The complement of Chiqui Illapa, she was associated with ukupacha, the lower kingdom of heaven.

Mamacocha (Mother Sea)

A regional deity, Mamacocha was important to ayllus of the Peruvian coast, where she mainatined the fertility of of the sea. She was honored with conch shells, which were more valuable in this region than gold or silver.

Pachakama (Earth Mother)

Pachakama was also a regional deity, important to the Andean highlanders. She was ascribed the role of ensuring the fertility of soil and seed in the harsh mountain climates.


In the tradition of celestial deities, stars were thought to possess spirits that breathed life into earthly beings. Several constellations were also recognized as bearing agricultural import, such as the Pleiades, the “Seven Sisters” who preserved the seed, and the “Great Lizard”, who appeared in the west during planting season and buried his head in the east at harvest time.


Waca were the family gods, or, synonomously, the shrines in which the family gods were worshipped. They were honored with more regularity than any deity of the state-recognized pantheon, as they wielded direct control over the prosperity of the ayllu. Wacas took a variety of forms, the most common being mountains, streams, caves, trees, or roads. Idols appropriate to their form were worshipped on a daily basis to appease them and avert the evocation of manevolence. Curiously, oddities such as twins, abnormal plants, and misfigured animals were also considered Wacas. In addition to the Waca of the kin group, individuals also had a personal guarding spirit of similar significance.

The first great conquest of Andean space began some 10,000 years ago when the descendants of the original migrants who crossed the land bridge over what is now the Bering Straits between the Asian and American continents reached northern South America. Over the next several millennia, hunter-gatherers fanned out from their bridgehead at Panama to populate the whole of South America. By about 2500 B.C., small villages inhabited by farmers and fishermen began to spring up in the fertile river valleys of the north coast of Peru.

These ancient Peruvians lived in simple adobe houses, cultivated potatoes and beans, fished in the nearby sea, and grew and wove cotton for their clothing. The catalyst for the development of the more advanced civilizations that followed was the introduction of a staple annual crop–maize (corn), and the development of irrigation, both dating from around the thirteenth century B.C. The stabilization of the food supply and ensuing surplus formed the foundation for the development of the great civilizations that rose and fell across the Andes for more than a thousand years prior to the arrival of the Europeans.

The Incas, were the most recent of these highly developed native American cultures to evolve in the Andes. The earliest central state to emerge in the northern highlands (that is, a state able to control both highland and coastal areas) was the Kingdom of Chav n, which emerged in the northern highlands and prospered for some 500 years between 950 B.C. and 450 B.C. Although it was originally thought by Julio C. Tello, the father of Peruvian archaeology, to have been “the womb of Andean civilization,” it now appears to have had Amazonic roots that may have led back to Mesoamerica

Over the course of 1400 years, pre-Inca cultures settled along the Peruvian coast and highlands. The power and influence of some civilizations was to hold sway over large swaths of territory, which during their decline, gave way to minor regional centers. Many of them stood out for their ritual pottery, their ability to adapt and superb management of their natural resources; a vast knowledge from which later the Inca empire was to draw.

The first Peruvian civilization settled in Huantar, Ancash in around 1000 BC.

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