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12 Facts About the Inka: Run Little Chaski!

12 Facts About the Inka Society: A companion to Run Little Chaski! Written by Mariana Llanos, Illustrations by Mariana Ruiz Johnson (Available in Spanish as ¡Corre Pequeño Chaski!)

Run Little Chaski: An Inka Trail Adventure is a historical fiction picture book set in the times of the Inka. Even though this is a fun adventure, readers can use the story to learn many facts about the Inka empire. I’ve listed 12 historical facts:

1. The Tawantinsuyu aka Inka Empire became the largest empire of America (America IS a continent) and expanded from part of what is now Colombia to Ecuador, Perú, Bolivia, Chile and NW of Argentina. It's believed it reached its maximum extension under Inka Pachakuti around 1450.

2. Tawantinsuyu means The Four Regions Together in Quechua (runasimi). The vast territory was connected by an advanced system of roads called the Qhapaq Ñan or Inka Trail. On these roads ran the chaskis, a relay system of messengers. The Qhapac Ñan was complete with tambos, or accommodations where chaskis and other travelers could eat and sleep. The Qhapac Ñan was used only for official business.

3. For the question, is it Inka or Inca? It´s both! Inka is the spelling adopted by standardized Quechua. Quechua is an oral language, so the Inka didn´t have a writing system. When the Spanish invaded, they used their alphabet to write Quechua words. Therefore, Inca is the spelling in Spanish.

4. The Inka's great system of roads (Qhapaq Ñan) covered about 25,000 miles linking the Andes with the Pacific Ocean, rainforests, and deserts from the capital, Qosqo (Cusco). Parts of the road were built by pre-Inka cultures and later integrated by the Inkas.

5. The Inka Trail was used for official business: transport food, communications ran by chaskis, religious peregrinations etc. The road system included bridges and tunnels. The highest point known today is at 13,828 ft known as Dead's Woman Pass (Warmiwañusca)

6. The Inka expanded their empire by force and diplomacy. The subjected people was allowed to worship their gods as long as they worshiped Inti, the sun, the main Inka deity. Quechua was used as the unifying language throughout the empire, however it's believed that Pukina (now lost) was the real language of the nobility

7. We use the word Inka to refer to a whole civilization, but it was only the main sovereign who used the name Inka or Sapa Inka. The Inka was a direct descendant of Inti, the sun, and his power was unquestionable. Before the Spanish invasion there were fourteen Inkas:

Manco Capac, Sinchi Roca, Lloque Yupanqui, Mayta Capac, Inka Yupanqui, Inka Roca, Inka Yawar Wakaq, Inka Wiraqocha, Pachakuti, Amaru Inka Yupanqui, Tupac inka Yupanqui, Hayna Capac, Huascar, Atahualpa.

8. The Qoya was the Inka's main wife, and also his sister. She had an important role being in charge of weaving. The first Qoya, Mamá Ocllo, taught women about chicha making and agriculture. The Qoya (also Coya) was part of the dual cosmovision, complement to the Inka divine power.

9. Inside their ch'uspa (bag), chaskis carried snack like jerky, kamcha and coca leaves. Coca leaves were chewed to give strength and to this day they are sacred and a staple to Andean lifestyle. Coca is one of the oldest cultivated plants in South America.

10. In Run Little Chaski, he has to deliver a khipu to the Inka. The Inkas used khipus to record messages, keep record and accounting. Khipus consist of several knotted cords of different colors. Sadly, we don't know the information contained in khipus because they were read by people especially educated for the job (khipukamayuq) during the Inka empire. The Spanish invaders never thought to learn how to decipher these advanced tools. There are around one thousand khipus preserved in different museums around the world. Find out more about khipus HERE

11. The Inka were amazing engineers. They tailored their stone buildings to the landscape, building whole cities on mountainsides. Their cities were complete with canals, fountains, drainage, and irrigation.

12. In 1533, the Spanish invaders killed Inka Atahualpa who had been captured and obligated to take Catholicism as his religion. Months after that, Manco Inka, youngest brother of Atahualpa, escaped Cusco to Vilcabamba, where he led a resistance that lasted close to ten years.


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