The Influence of the Incas

Once one of the world’s great superpowers; the Inca Empire stretched across a third of South America. Its paved roads spanned the Andes and were walked by alpacas that carried goods from one place to another, including fruit from the jungles, salt from the deserts and gold from the mines. Although in decline before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores, the influence the Incas had remains and has spread, even beyond the boundaries of its old power base, to contribute to art and music around the world.


The Sun Kings

The term “Inca” refers only to the rulers of that ancient empire, who were believed to be descendants of the Sun God, Inti. Most subjects of the empire were little more than slaves or peasants who worked hard growing crops, like corn and potatoes, or putting together the remarkable dry stone walls on which most Inca architecture was based. Extensive examples remain standing today, like in picture above. Gold was used to decorate important buildings because it was the sacred metal of the sun, and festivals were held in honor of various gods in each of the 12 months of the Incan calendar. The biggest, Inti Raymi, held at the summer solstice in June, is still celebrated to this day.


Cultural Survivals

Other cultural survivors of the Inca Empire include its language – modern Quechua being very close to that spoken by their emperors. Peru, in particular, preserves many ancient Inca customs and even fashions, with many people still dressing and decorating their homes in the woven patterns designed by their ancestors. Traditional blankets are also used for animals, with llamas still a common beast of burden.



Inca art, including beautiful works of filigree gold can still be seen in museums and they inspire the contemporary jewelry designers of today – especially the pendants and earrings. Beadwork is also enduringly popular, with painted beads often bearing distinctive stripes or diamond patterns. You can find distinctive pottery and silverware, often featuring squat humanoid figures, if you visit former Inca lands.



Inca music survives in folk melodies that are enjoyed today, while the Inca’s musical instruments are remembered in art such as the ocarina necklace sold at Peruvian dance halls play songs of Inca origin, which helps to keep alive ancient stories that have been passed down the generations along with them; the closest thing there is to Inca literature.


The great variety of food types available across the Inca Empire; the sophisticated methods of food preservation they developed, including freeze-drying, and their excellent road network gave the Incas the opportunity to become creative with cooking. You might not be as keen as they were on baked guinea pig, but they also invented jerky and popcorn, and popularized the chili pepper. The widespread use of quinoa originated with the Incas and today, as modern varieties of potato struggle with blight, the hardy varieties they cultivated are being looked to for a solution.