Facts About The Incas For Kids

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The History of the Inca Empire and the story of the Inca civilization is a fascinating one.  There is a lot of complexity and also doubt about some facts.  What I have done here is collate the most interesting facts about the Incas as well as some Inca fun facts for kids.

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Facts About The Incas For Kids
The author visiting the Temple of the Moon at Machu Picchu.

How Did I Become Interested In Facts On The Incas

After a lengthy holiday in Peru, I settled in Cusco, once the capital of the Inca Empire, in 2002.  Living in Cusco it is impossible to not become profoundly aware of the tribe of people known as the Incas.  You live and breathe facts about the Inca civilization every single day.  As you walk through the Plaza de Armas, you are in fact walking through Huacaypata.  Just down the street, you can see the exquisite walls of the Coricancha, the temple of gold.  You get the picture, Cusco is a living museum to the Quechua tribe called the Incas

Facts About The Incas For Kids

The History of the Inca Empire and the story of the Inca civilization is a fascinating one.  There is a lot of complexity and also doubt about some facts.  What I have done here is collate the most interesting facts about the Incas as well as some Inca fun facts for kids.

Facts About The Incas For Kids
At Hatunrumiyoc, the 12 angled stone, in the heart of Cusco, with my kids in 2015.

Who Were The Incas

The most important fact about the Incas is – who were they?  They were a tribe who settled around the Valley of Cusco, and through warring with other tribes gained dominance of more and more land.  The Incas steadily built a massive empire that spanned from what is now Northern Ecuador all the way down to Chile.  The center of the Incan Empire was the city of Cusco.

Inca fun fact
A view of the lower part of the Valley of Cusco

Cusco Translates As ‘Belly Button Of The World’

Here’s an Inca fun fact for you –  in Quechua, Qosqo  (Cusco) translates as the belly button of the world.   Now that sounds really funny and like they were making fun of their own city.  However, it is quite the opposite.  The Incas were meaning that Qosqp (Cusco) was the center of the universe.  From Qosqo were the four quarters of the universe, Tahuantinsuyo.

Cusco Is Shaped Like A Puma

Another of my favorite facts about Cusco Peru is that from above, Cusco is shaped like a puma.  This is still evident from above when you look at the main roads today.

Inca fun fact
A lesser-known view of Machu Picchu

What Did The Inca’s Call Their Empire

See if you can pronounce this – Tahuantinsuyo  – Tah-whan-tin- SU-yo.  It translates as the four corners of the earth, and that is what the Incas called their empire.

Where Was The Inca Empire Located

One of the most interesting facts about the Incas was the enormous land that they held.  Their empire stretched from modern-day southern Colombia to Central Chile (the Maule River).  At the height of the Incan Empire, the empire ruled over nearly 12 million people! That is a lot of people and land!

interesting facts about the Incas
The perfect stonework of the Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu.

How Did The Incas Control Such An Enormous Area

There were no phones, no way of communicating during the Incan times.  They imposed their language – Quechua- on conquered peoples, and for this reason, various forms of Quechua are spoken throughout the Andes.  In addition, they moved entire populations of hostile tribes to the Cusco region, while moving loyal tribes to other strategic locations.

The Incas Were Incredible Road Builders

One of the most famous facts about the Inca empire is that they held their empire together by a road system.  The Inca Empire was so vast that it built a road system with over 18,000 miles of road and even made up their own sort of postal /messenger system.  There were relay messengers called chaskis that would run up and down the mountains until they met another relay messenger.  This system worked throughout the entire empire.  The messengers lived and worked in pairs and one person would sleep while the other was awake and ready to receive and relay messages.

Characterised by steep slopes and many, many steps, the Incan roads were best traversed by humans, thought llamas could still use them.  The Incan roads were useless to the Spanish with their wagons and horses.  This significantly delayed the Spanish during their conquest, but not enough.  (The Incas never built the wheel)

Not only were the Incas great at building roads, but they also excelled at masonry too.  They constructed their buildings without mortar and used flat stones that fit perfectly together with no cracks.  This made their buildings very strong and super earthquake resistant.

facts about machu picchu
The Classic photo of Machu Picchu

The Most Famous Inca City Is Machu Picchu

A fun fact about Machu Picchu, and what probably contributed to its excellent state of preservation was that it was “lost” to the Western world until a local led American explorer Hiram Bingham to visit it in 1911.  It was never discovered by the Spaniards during the conquest, though many expeditions passed right by it during the final uprisings of the Incas.

The Incas Worshipped The Sun, Moon, And Earth

The principal god in the Inca culture was the sun god Inti and the Emperor of the Inca was considered to be a son of the sun. The moon, mother Quilla was the goddess of the moon.  Today, Mother Earth or Pachamama is still worshipped on a daily basis by many of the descendants of the Incas, the Quechua people.

The Incas Also Believed In Life After Death

Much like the Egyptians, the Inca believed in life after death.  When an emperor died, he was mummified.  The emperor’s possessions would be kept with the mummified body and also passed on to other children besides the heir.

For any important ritual, the Mummies of Inca rulers were brought out for ceremonies.

Facts About The Incas For Kids
Herding llamas in the Sacred Valley

Llamas were the Inca’s most important animal

Pre-Inca tribes living in Peru had domesticated the Llama a couple of thousand years before the Incas came into power.  The Llamas were very important to the Incas as they provided meat and also carried their cargo on the narrow and steep roads that the Incas built.  They were also sacrificed to the gods in great numbers.  Their relative, the Alpaca was bred for its fine fleece, and the Incas wore woven alpaca clothing.

Why Is So Much About The Incas A Mystery

One of the facts about the Incas for kids is that even today we don’t know everything about the Inca Empire. Many things remain a mystery because they did not have a written language. This is because they used a system of knotted and colored strings, called a khipu.   The khipu has never been deciphered, and it is thought that they provided an inventory of the assets of the empire.

Textiles told stories, and still do today, but do not represent a factual record.

Inca facts for kids
The church of Santo Domingo built on the remains of the holy Coricancha in Cusco.

How Did The Inca Empire End

Quite simply the Inca Empire was already weakened by civil war and the diseases of the Spanish conquerers – namely smallpox, well before the Spanish conquistadors tread on the soil of the Inca Empire.   While the structures of the Inca empire began to dissolve around 1532, there are still some elements of their culture and society that lives on in modern-day Peru.

Inca facts for kids
Norman dwarfed by the stones of Sacsayhuaman

How Many Spanish Defeated The Incas

One of the saddest facts about the Incas is that the Emperor Athahualpa leading an army of up to ten thousand was defeated by just 168 Spanish conquistadors.  The Inca’s were already weakened because so many had died of diseases the Europeans brought and because of an ongoing civil war.

Inca facts for kids
Preparing the Kintu prior to doing an offering to the mountain gods.

The descendants of the Incas still live in Peru today

Far up in the mountains, the descendants of the Incas keep the Inca history alive, in their language, textiles, customs and lifestyle.  Most women are still monolingual (that means one language only) Quechua speakers, while the men tend to also speak Spanish. The women weave using the methods of the Incas, while the families still revere nature, the sun, moon and mountains.

Conclusion – Facts About The Incas For Kids

There are many fun facts about the Incas, and we have shared several of them here for you.  Peru is one of our most favorites places for family travel and there is so much to learn and see.  If you want to learn more about Peru in general, please take a look at our Peru Destination Guide.

Have you ever been to Peru?  Do you have any Inca facts for kids to share?  Let us know in the comments below.

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Facts About The Incas For Kids

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Hi! We are a multicultural family from Peru, Nicaragua & Australia. We believe adventures can be global – and local – and are one part of our sustainable lifestyle, and raising children who are global eco-citizens.

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