Manco Capac Founds the Inca State Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Manco Capac and his band of followers migrated northward from Pacaritambo and drove out the occupants of Acamama in the Cuzco valley. There he claimed for himself the title of Capac and divided his realm into four sections. From his male descendants, called Incas, would come successive rulers of Tahuantinsuyo.

Summary of Event

The indigenous precontact societies of the Andes were nonliterate. The Spaniards recorded several varying accounts of the foundation of the Inca Empire told to them by surviving historians of the last Inca courts. Historians, ethnologists, and archaeologists have tried to disentangle the mythical and the historical elements of those accounts. [kw]Manco Capac Founds the Inca State (c. 1200-1230) [kw]Capac Founds the Inca State, Manco (c. 1200-1230) Incas Manco Capac South America;c. 1200-1230: Manco Capac Founds the Inca State[2170] Cultural and intellectual history;c. 1200-1230: Manco Capac Founds the Inca State[2170] Expansion and land acquisition;c. 1200-1230: Manco Capac Founds the Inca State[2170] Government and politics;c. 1200-1230: Manco Capac Founds the Inca State[2170] Manco Capac Mama Ocllo Sinchi Roca Pachacuti

Archaeologists have identified a large polity they call the Huari Huari civilization Empire that thrived from roughly 600 to 1000 in central and southern Peru north of Lake Titicaca. After the collapse of the Huari Empire c. 1000, people in the Andean intermountain valleys returned to their traditional sociopolitical organization of kinship groups, or clans, tracing their lineage to a founding couple. These clans lived in agricultural villages called ayllus headed by curacas. Early in the thirteenth century, the curaca Manco Capac decided to relocate to better farmland. He grouped himself, his three brothers, four sisters, and neighboring clans of Tambos into ten ayllus and moved north out of Pacaritambo, in what is now Paruro Province of Peru’s Cuzco Department.

Along the journey, Manco sought advice from his siblings, ayllu elders, priests, and his personal huaca, a huaoque, or “brother,” which was a bird-shaped stone he called Inti, meaning “sun.” A huaca was any thing, place, or person that possessed supernatural powers. Individuals, clans, and communities had huacas that they revered and turned to for guidance in all areas of life. This ancient custom of Andean indigenous societies persists today. Inti told Manco when to act as sinchi, war-chieftain, to force his way into settled areas and pause, sometimes for several years at a time, to plant and harvest crops to sustain his group while trying to locate a permanent homeland. During a prolonged stay at Tamboquiro, Mama Ocllo Mama Ocllo bore a son, Sinchi Roca Sinchi Roca . Years later, in Matagua, Manco initiated Sinchi Roca into manhood with a ceremony that included piercing his ears and placing a golden spool into each pierced hole. As Sinchi Roca grew, progressively larger spools stretched the ear lobes dramatically. These golden spools in enlarged ears became an identifying feature of all of Manco’s Incas, his princes, who were male descendants and recognized as privileged elites. The Spaniards called the Incas orejones, big ears, because of that trait.

From Tamboquiro, Manco’s band forced their way into Matagua. From Matagua they crossed the mountain ridges to the valley of Cuzco and observed a rainbow over Acamama, an ayllu nestled at the confluence of the Huatanay and Tullumayo Rivers. Manco declared that region to be the goal of the migration. Five groups already occupied the area. Four of the groups were Ayarmacas who were related to the newcomers and had migrated years earlier from Pacaritambo. After fierce fighting, Manco’s forces drove the unrelated group out of the valley and settled Acamama. Migrations;Incas to Acamama He made alliances with the other groups and cemented the alliances by exchanging brides. To the weaker groups, Manco gave daughters from the elites of his ten ayllus, signifying that he was the dominant partner. To the stronger groups, Manco acknowledged his subordinate status by receiving daughters of the elites whom he then married to his own elites, the Incas. The male descendants of his daughters became “Incas-by-Privilege” and shared power as semi-elites in his new kingdom.

In the center of the former Acamama, he constructed the Inticancha Inticancha , a four-building complex that included his living quarters and a temple to Apu-Inti Viracocha, the sun deity. He proclaimed himself a capac, an exalted title that meant that his association with the solar deity made him greater than an ordinary ruler. As capac he was more than a sinchi, more than a curaca, more even than a curaca with one thousand ayllus, more than a person with merely temporal authority. His successors to power were also known also as Sapa Incas, or supreme rulers. The Sapa Inca’s authority was absolute in all areas of society. Religion;Inca Religion;Peru Peru;religion

Radiating outward from the Inticancha, Manco Capac marked out ceques, “lines” dividing his realm into four sections. The ceques were not geometrically symmetrical but coincided with planetary alignments and allowed the Incas to calculate the arrival of planting and harvesting seasons of the various crops in the different altitudes of their vertical kingdom. Along the ceques he resettled his elites and semi-elites, according to their importance, and gave them administrative authority over their ayllus. They were to occupy and develop the fertile lands, contribute men to a common army, defend the borders, and maintain old and new shrines. Acamama he renamed Cuzco, the “navel,” and called his new kingdom Tahuantinsuyo Tahuantinsuyo , the Four Quarters, considered the center of the world.

Tahuantinsuyo grew and prospered. The Incas expanded the acreage of irrigated lands, and llama flocks multiplied. When Manco Capac died, his huaoque Inti became part of the canopa, a collection of sacred objects kept together by his heirs.

After his death, Manco’s first two heirs peacefully expanded the boundaries of Tahuantinsuyo by continuing Manco’s practice of controlling Inca marriages with neighboring elites. Before dying, the third capac, Lloque Yupanqui, had a vision from the solar deity Apu-Inti Viracocha. The deity told Lloque Yupanqui that his descendants would be great lords. His son, the third successor, Mayta Capac Mayta Capac , retrieved Manco’s huaoque, Inti, from its place of safekeeping for consultation. Inti gave the same aggressive advice it had given Manco, and Mayta Capac’s army pushed the borders of the Incan state northward. He and his successors became great lords. They combined warfare with matrimonial diplomacy to expand the borders of Tahuantinsuyo.

During the reign of Viracocha Inca, the seventh successor, his son Pachacuti Pachacuti , who was not the designated heir, successfully repelled an attack by the powerful of the Chanca state. Pachacuti then seized power and took the name Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui. Invoking the name of Manco Capac, Pachacuti inaugurated major changes for the state. He declared that the founding eight Ayar siblings were children of Apu-Inti Viracocha. The solar deity had given Manco and the others a divine imperative and sent them to Earth through a cave on Tambotoco hill near Pacaritambo. They were to find a land chosen for them and to introduce farming, weaving, pottery making, cooking, astronomy, and all the other skills of civilization to the rest of humankind, by subjugation if necessary. One of the Ayar brothers, Ayar Cachi, was so troublesome that he had been tricked into returning to the cave. When inside, the brothers sealed the cave entrance and continued the migration without him. The other two were turned into stone and became important huacas. Manco recognized Acamama as the goal of the journey when his sister Mama Huaco threw a golden rod into the soil of the valley, and the rod sank all the way to its haft (handle). Pachacuti announced that all the heirs of Manco, the surviving brother who fulfilled the sacred mission entrusted to the Ayars, shared the divine essence of the solar deity. Because the divine Manco had married his sister rather than marry mere mortals, Pachacuti declared that, henceforth, Incas would marry only descendants from Manco himself. A future Inca had to be the son of the Sapa Inca and a Coya, the principal wife who was to be a sister or half sister.


At his death Manco Capac left a strong state that developed into the largest of the precontact indigenous empires of the Western Hemisphere. The divine Pachacuti continued Manco’s vision and rebuilt the capital of Cuzco with massive stone buildings. He replaced the Inticancha with a larger temple, called the Coricancha Coricancha , the Golden Enclosure, a complex of four buildings covered with cori, meaning “gold.” The Coricancha was a Temple of the Ancestors with sanctuaries dedicated to the sun, moon, and planets. Pachacuti renewed and accelerated the mission of spreading civilization, building stone fortresses at important junctures and connecting the major communities with an impressive road system. Architecture;Inca

When the Spaniards arrived in 1532, Manco’s empire of Tahuantinsuyo had spread from Cuzco north through modern Ecuador to Colombia, south to the Maule River in central Chile, and eastward through Bolivia into northwestern Argentina.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bauer, Brian S. The Sacred Landscape of the Inca: The Cusco Ceque System. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998. An ethnologist’s detailed description of the locations and functions of the ceques that marked the physical, social, and spiritual boundaries within the Incan empire.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Julien, Catherine. Reading Inca History. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000. An attempt to absorb the results of recent ethnological, archaeological, and astronomical information and provide a coherent history of the Incas. Given the complexity of the materials, a surprisingly good read.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rostworowski de Diez Canseco, María. History of the Inca Realm. Translated by Harry B. Iceland. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Fine reconstruction of the evolution of the Inca state, based heavily on archaeological data.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Urton, Gary. The History of a Myth: Pacariqtambo and the Origin of the Inkas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990. An anthropologist’s meticulous comparisons of the Spanish chronicles and sixteenth century court records in an attempt to identify the events that could be understood in the Western sense of historicity.

Categories: History