The Inca could leave a conquered area for religious worship. Thus, a sacred mountain could be attributed ‘its’ area, just as gods, oracles, and the Sun Inti could ‘get’ possessions. Specifically, it meant that the people who lived in the area were instructed to cultivate the land and deliver the crops to the priests who were responsible for the worship of the sacred mountain, that god, the oracle or the Sun.

On the plateau, both the ayllu, the kin, the Inca and Inti could possess flocks of llamas and alpacas which were to be attended by the people who lived there. Wool and meat should be delivered to the right owner, ie. the ayllu, the Inca or Inti.

The Jesuit missionary Bernabé Cobo wrote History of the Inca Empire in the years before 1653, so he is just beyond the hundred years I have chosen as the limit for the source material. He described a division in three parts of a conquered area:

When the Inca settled a town, or reduced one to obedience, he set up markers on its boundaries and divided the fields and arable land within its territory into three parts, in the following way: One part he assigned to Religion and the cult of his false gods, another he took for himself, and a third he left for the common use of the people. It has not been possible to determine whether these parts were equal in any towns and provinces; however, it is known that in many places the devision was not equal, but depended on the availability of land and the density of the population.

The expansion of the empire immediately entailed a growth in population and production, that was a strengthening of the empire. But the enlargement also led to increased tensions and thus laid germs to the collapse of the empire. The last mentioned you first know, well yes, at the end.

In a growing and centralized society such as the Incas, the relationship between center and periphery was a landmark for development.

The often quoted Inca friendly Garcilaso blurred the conflicts in the society. Sarmiento elaborated on them. Both authors described the conquest wars of the Incas, but their arguments and conclusions were widely different.

After conquests, new organizations and forced labor came, which are often referred to as tax payments. Forty years after the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, Sarmiento found:

In this way the people were so loaded with tributes and taxes, that they had to work perpetually night and day to pay them, and even then they could not comply, and had no time for sufficient labour to suffice for their own maintenance.

Pachacutec divided the estates throughout the whole empire, according to the measure which they call tupu.

He divided the months of the year, with reference to labour in the fields, as follows. Three months in the year were allotted to the Indians for the work of their own fields, and the rest must be given up to the work of the Sun, of huacas, and of the Inca. In the three months that were given to themselves, one was for ploughing and sowing, one for reaping, and another in the summer for festivals, and for make and mend clothes days. The rest of their time was demanded for the service of the Sun and the Incas.

When Sarmiento wrote that three of the twelve months of the year were devoted to the Indians work on their own fields and the rest was to be spent on the work for the Sun, the huacas, and the Inca, the ‘tax rate’ can be calculated to 75.

Earlier I have quoted Bejder that those of 25-50 year – the most productive – who were selected to work for the Inca had to expect spending five years of their life working for the state. That’s a ‘tax rate’ of 20.

But other remarks can also wonder.

Agricultural work must follow the years fairly fixed changes between dry season and rainy season. Rainy season is crucial for when to sow and thus can be harvested, while war service and construction work are less dependent on the seasons. Sarmientos must have indicated working lengths and not continuous periods, because it makes no sense to so when no rain is in sight.

However, the length of Sarmientos workingtimes seem striking. The first section of the Sarmiento quotation that the peasants had to work perpetually night and day, translator Markham has put into edged brackets as an exaggeration. Sarmientos words must originate from Inca-hostile leaders condemnations of their peasants hard work for the Incas – not the peasants themselves, for they had not been asked.

When I call the remark striking it is also because Sarmiento added that the peasants had a month for ploughing and sowing their own fields, for reaping, and one for summerfestivals and for making and mending clothes. A whole month with party and sewing!

The sentence that the peasants had to work perpetually night and day must have been an agitating exaggeration.

I don’t want to glorify common – most were common – peoples life situation in the Inca Empire. I will just remind you that the forced labor concerned the work for the sacred: the Son of the Sun who was to secure the connection to the Sun, as well as the huacas and apus. That was what people – some people, and at least at the beginning of the Inca Empires development – experienced as the very meaning of their life, yes as the very LIFE. It applied to their world!

Do you think about the nature of forced labor when you are in the mid of the race, I could ask. It’s difficult to answer. However, an increasing number of collisions between center and periphery indicate that more and more recognized the coercion clearer and clearer.

Sarmiento wrote that Pachacútec obliged the Indians to pay tribute of everything, and in quantity. Words like tax payments have been repeated by other authors. However, Tawantinsuyu was a moneyless society where you didn’t pay taxes as we do.

Only exceptionally is talked about dried fish, spondylus mussels and small copper coins in the form of ax heads as a kind of money.

Tax was not something you paid; what we could call taxation consisted of peoples work and workresults that had to be handed over, ie. what one could call villenage.

Since Tawantinsuyu consisted of areas with very different cultivation possibilities, the products varied widely. Not the value of the goods was decisive, but that people worked as required for Sapa Inca or Inti. Work as a productive necessity but also as a ritual, ie. as means of maintaining discipline.

The last mentioned a local guide gave an example of: A defeated tribe had regretted that it had nothing at all to hand to the Inca. Then the Inca had ordered that they should sew clothes of wool from vampire bats!

At the beginning of the empire, the harvest surplus was gathered and redistributed at state level. The principle of reciprocity met immediate needs and was source of imperial wealth. The control of such resources gave the sovereign unquestionable supremacy over major ethnic groups which had been deprived of their land while Tawantinsuyu swelled in size and power. Therefore, it was one of the main tasks of the administrators to fill their stores with agricultural products and handmade goods.

The system of the split inheritance implied that when a new Sapa Inca was installed, the predecessors lands belonged to the deceased Incas panaca. Nice for that part of the genus.

For the newly installed Inca, the many products in the warehouses were untouchable, and therefore he was forced to conquer land with people who could work for his living, something to nourish his workers who were to cultivate the land and his soldiers who had to conquer additional land.

The system of the split inheritance thus implied that the empire must expand, and sometimes it triggered absurdities: Filled colcas – no matter who they belonged to – could be so full, so food from the warehouses was handed out to make room for new consignments.

It may sound absurd that surplus was stored in such large quantities that it had to be distributed to get space for new ones, but it was a necessary consequence of the accumulation of wealth that was based on the ruling system and not on the needs.


(pp. 294-297 in volume 2, reproduced without notes and illustrations):

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO AZTECS AND INCAS: MYTHS AND STORIES FROM MEXICO AND PERU. Edited, translated, retold and commented by Mikael Witte. Volume 1 + Volume 2

476 pages + 540 pages. Richly illustrated in colors

400  Dkr. for each volume (Danish tax is included) + shipping

Published by Selskabet for smukkere Byfornyelse


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