Something that has perplexed most if not all researchers of Peruvian history is the creator deity named Viracocha. Deemed to have been the ancestor of the Inca, it was he who created the first Sapa (high) Inca, Manco capac, as well as his full blood sister (and wife) Mama ocllo from the waters of Lake Titicaca, and told them to move from that place and create a new civilization.
One thing that is often overlooked is that Viracocha and Viracochan are two completely, yet related names. Viracocha was the Creator, but Viracochan and the Viracochan family were flesh and blood people.
Evidence clearly shows that the Inca originated indeed in the area of Lake Titicaca, but did not physically rise out of the waters of the lake itself; like many oral traditions, stories such as this are actually poetry, filled with symbolism.
The Inca were the last of the priest kings and queens of Tiwanaku (or Tiahuanaco), which is presently 13 miles from the shore of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, and thousands of years ago rested on the shoreline of what would have been a vastly larger lake. This is well documented by many researchers, including Graham Hancock in his book “Fingerprints of the Gods.”
Tiwanaku itself is one of the most mysteries places of human habitation on the planet, as it contains, even to the present day, the remains of structures which defy conventional archaeological timelines. What is commonly suggested by most academia as originating about 300 B.C. to 300 A.D. as a developed culture has more intriguingly been dated by the Bolivian engineer and archaeologist Arthur Posnansky in the early 20th century as more along the lines of 15,000 B.C. His career was of course destroyed by such an assumption.
Yet modern science has been unable to explain how such a clearly highly evolved culture as that of Tiwanaku, and the even more technologically advanced one at nearby Puma punku were able, at a barren and bone chilling 13,000 plus foot elevation, to sculpt and hew precision stone works, some of immense size and astonishing precision, with the tools of presumed primitive man?
The stone used at Puma punku, for example, is diorite, so hard that the only material known which is harder is diamond. And yet, a so-called primitive culture was able to achieve seemingly perfectly flat planes, ninety degree angles, and exacting holes and channels in this material.
No matter what age of these structures turns out to be correct, the people themselves are also an enigma. It is known that due to an extensive El Nino event in the area, about the year 900 to 950 A.D., which lasted 40 years, and as a result of attacks of nearby Aymara speaking tribal people, the priest kings of Tiwanaku had to flee that place, and this is where we tie back into the story of Viracochan and the first Inca.
The Inca are known to have been an incredibly organized group, quite small in size, that entered Cuzco and the Sacred Valley of Peru around the 12th century A.D. give or take 100 years, and quickly became the dominant civilization. It was in Cuzco of course that they made their capital city, from which they expanded, forming the largest civilization in the Americas up until 1532, when Francisco Pizarro and his band of 160 (plus or minus) soldiers of fortune captured the last of the Sapa (high) Inca Atahuallpa, executed him, and thereby brought the almost immediate downfall of the military, religious, and governmental aspects of this great culture.
What is lesser known about the history of the Inca is that the so-called civil war which had been raging since the death of a previous Sapa Inca, Huayna capac around the year 1527, was pivotal not only in the outcome of the arrival of the Spanish, but in the ending of the lineage of the Inca themselves.
Huayna capac was Sapa Inca from 1493 to 1527, his demise came at the hand of foreign disease, most probably small pox, which had worked its way down the coast from Panama, an early Spanish colony and stronghold. On his deathbed, Huayna capac decreed that the Inca civilization ( empire being an incorrect term that I will not get into in this paper ) should be divided between his two eldest sons. In fact, these diseases not only would affect the Sapa Inca and people of Ecuador, but would rapidly work its way south.
Tradition had been consistent, from the time of the first Sapa Inca Manco capac, that the first born son would become the heir. This process was supposedly strictly obeyed by the next 9 Sapa Inca.
During Huayna capac’s reign, in 1527, both he and his first born son Ninan cuyochi became infected with small pox, and Ninan cuyochi died first. Thus, the next in line, Huascar, was to be appointed Sapa Inca ( remember, this was a first.) Possibly in a state of illness induced delusion, or, with the situation of the line of succession being interrupted, Huayna capac decided to give the newly acquired area in which he lived ( that of present day Ecuador ) to Atahuallpa, his son of an Ecuadorian noble woman, and the rest to Huascar, which was composed of all lands south of there, a territory which bordered the Pacific Ocean and edged the Amazon basin inland, as far south as Santiago de Chile.
After Huayna capac’s death the two brothers lived in relative harmony for a few years, but then tensions began to appear. As it was always the duty of a Sapa Inca to expand the territory of the Tahuantinsuyu (four corners or quarters of the Inca world) during his time as ruler, Huascar was in a quandary. He clearly could not expand north into Atahuallpa’s land, for that had been given to him by their father to care take. To the west was the Pacific Ocean, and to the east was problematic, as the Amazon was seemingly quite full of Indigenous people who were possibly not eager to join, by treaty or force, the Tahuantinsuyu. An attempt by the Inca to move in by force would have involved jungle warfare, and the natives would clearly have the upper hand in such a densely foliaged area. Also, a southern expansion perhaps would have meant that the military and other supply lines would be stretched beyond what was practical from the center at Cuzco. So this Sapa Inca was denied any ideas of territorial expansion.
Huascar was probably a little edgy about the intentions of his half brother as well. Atahuallpa was a half-blood Inca, and it is not clear the two had ever had much contact face to face.
Huascar had grown up Cuzco, with the other full blood children of Huayna capac and his full blooded sister/wife. Atahallpa on the other hand had grown up in Quito, where Huayna capac had chosen to live out the last years of his life by choice, surely unaware that a foreign disease would overtake he and his first son well before their natural time.
So Huascar sent a message to Atahuallpa, trying to suss out the latter’s state of mind and level of contentment.
“You are certainly aware of the fact that, according to the laws of the first Inca, Manco Capac, the kingdom of Quito and all of your provinces belong to the crown and to the Empire of Cuzco. By rights, therefore, I was in no way obliged to relinquish the government of this kingdom to you, and if I did so, it was not because I was forced or compelled, but merely no to oppose our father’s wishes. Now that he is no longer with us, I am willing, out of respect for his memory, not to go back on this decision, but on two conditions. These are: first, that you will make no attempt to add so much, as a particle of land to the extent of your kingdom, since any newly acquired land belongs by rights to our Empire; the other is that, leaving everything else aside, you will swear allegiance to me and acknowledge that you are my vassal.”
The above is quoted from the Inca descendant Garcilaso de la Vega, in the 17th century, in his book “The Royal Commentaries of the Inca.”
Atahuallpa sent word back, by Chasqui (royal messenger) that he agreed to these terms, and, in fact, if Huascar so wished, Atahuallpa would return all lands given to him in stewardship by their father, and would return to Cuzco to serve the Sapa Inca in whatever capacity he deemed suitable.
Feeling a sense of ease, Huascar confirmed the titles to Atahuallpa that Manco capac had bestowed on him, and invited to half-brother to Cuzco to pay his respects, and take the oath of faithful, loyal allegiance. To this Atahuallpa agreed, and suggested that representatives from all of the districts of Quito could accompany him to Cuzco, in order to witness his pledge of allegiance, and to celebrate the life and works of their father, Huayna capac.
Huascar was delighted by these ideas, and gave free reign to Atahuallpa to bring whom he wished, and to depart for Cuzco at a date that he chose himself.
This is where the plot against Huascar began to take root; Atahuallpa chose, as his representatives, experienced army personnel who were secretly armed; the delegation was in fact a war party, 30,000 strong, whose intent was to capture Huascar and hold him prisoner. The elite of the Inca army had been stationed in Ecuador, both to protect Huayna capac, and also that is where their last military campaign had been conducted.
Just before Atahuallpa`s forces were about to enter the Cuzco area, they were observed by Huascar`s advisors, who warned the Inca that a delegation of 30,000 was far too large to be on a peaceful mission. They recommended that Huascar form a defensive strategy, immediately, which he did in earnest. All fighting men were summoned to Cuzco from the Tahuantinsuyu, and though they numbered 30,000 in number, few if any of them was in a battle-ready state, as peace had been the norm in this area for years.
Atahuallpa`s forces destroyed Huascar`s defenses in the course of a single day. He was captured and held prisoner under guard, day and night, and Atahuallpa sent news of this throughout the Tahuantinsuyu in order to discourage any ideas amongst Huascar`s loyal followers of rescuing the sovereign.
His next moves were even more insidious. He summoned all Inca family members of full blood to hasten to Cuzco at once, in order to formulate new laws that would ensure peace and tranquility between the two kingdoms. This was in plain fact a ruse; as soon as these royal descendants arrived, all were murdered in heinous ways, from Huascar`s uncles, aunts, and cousins, down to people of a fourth degree of familial relationship. Therefore, the majority of the bloodline of the Inca had been destroyed, forever, by the hand of one of their own, or at least a half blooded one.
All of this occurred while Atahuallpa himself was out of harm`s way in the city of Juaja, some 860 kilometers from Cuzco. It is also possible that he was in the city of Cajamarca, farther to the northeast; accounts differ. Soon afterwards the Spanish conquistador Pizarro and his contingent of approximately 160 soldiers of fortune would in turn dupe Atahuallpa into what Pizarro stated was to be a peaceful meeting. The result was the capture of Atahuallpa, and the beginning of the further destruction of the Inca state.
My reasoning behind this perhaps overly drawn out description of the fall of the Inca is to show that most of the full blooded Inca had been exterminated by Atahuallpa prior to the arrival of the Spanish. As the Inca had no written tradition, at least nothing that has survived the Spanish onslaught except the knotted chord system called the Khipu which are still largely not deciphered, we depend upon Spanish accounts to describe who they were, and what they looked like.
What is intriguing is that early Spanish accounts may give us insight into what set the Inca apart from other people in the area aside from their amazing organizational skills; they may have had red hair and been of light skin.
Thor Heyerdahl, in his now out of print book Aku aku, found accounts of this amongst the Inca, and other Indigenous races amongst the islands of the Pacific Ocean.
The conquistador, Pedro Pizarro, reported in his account of the great Spanish invasion of South America in the 1500s, that while the masses of Andes Indians were small and dark, the members of the ruling Inca family were tall and had whiter skins than the Spaniards themselves. He mentions in particular certain individuals in present day Peru who were white and had red hair.
Heyerdahl reported that this is reflected in the mummies found in South America – on the Pacific coast, in the desert sand of Paracas, there are large burial caves in which numerous mummies have been perfectly preserved.
Some of the mummies were found to have the stiff black hair of the Indians, while others, which have been kept in the same conditions, have red, often chestnut-colored hair, “silky and wavy, as found amongst Europeans, they have long skulls and remarkably tall bodies.”
Pizarro asked who the white skinned redheads were. The Inca Indians replied that they were the last descendants of the Viracochas. The Viracochas, they said, were a divine race of white men with beards. They were so like the Spanish that the Europeans were called Viracochas the moment they came to the Inca Empire. The Incas thought they were the Viracochas who had come sailing back across the Pacific.
According to the principal Inca legend, before the reign of the first Inca, the sun-god, Con-Ticci Viracocha, had taken leave of his kingdom in present day Peru and sailed off into the Pacific with all his subjects.
When the Spaniards came to Lake Titicaca, up in the Andes, they found the mightiest ruins in all South America – Tiahuanaco. They saw a hill reshaped by man into a stepped pyramid, classical masonry of enormous blocks, beautifully dressed and fitted together, and numerous large statues in human form. They asked the Indians to tell them who had left these enormous ruins.
The well known chronicler, Cieza de Leon, was told in reply that these things had been made long before the Incas came to power. They were made by white and bearded men like the Spaniards themselves.
The White men had finally abandoned their statues and gone with the leader, Con-Ticci Viracocha, first up to Cuzco, and then down to the Pacific. They were given the Inca name of Viracocha, or “sea foam’, because they were white skinned and vanished like foam over the sea.