The Origins of the Incas

The history of the Incas truly begins some 9000 years ago, when the first nomadic hunters entered the area now known as South America, dated by spearheads found on the southern tip of the continent in the Patagonia region (Metraux, 23.). However, it was not until the thirteenth century A.D. that the Inca empire would begin to arise in the central city of their eventual empire, Cuzco, located in the Andes Mountains in the southern part of contemporary Peru at an altitude of more than 11,000 feet (Metraux, 21).

Although the history of the Incas prior to their arrival in the Cuzco valley is not evident in any archaeological finds, legend tells of the first man and woman arising from Lake Titicaca, about 250 miles to the southeast of Cuzco, seeming to indicate local origin of the tribe (Baudin, 29). Another theory, which refutes the idea of indigenous origin, is that of Polynesian decent, formed on the basis of both Indian legend and linguistic similarities. The legend states that on the northern coast of Peru once landed a great chief, already ruler of an advanced civilization, who eventually situated his people inland and had a "long and prosperous reign," about which there is no further information (Baudin, 33). However, anthropologists who subscribe to this theory state that the landing site alone provides enough information to deduce that the migration of these legendary people must have originated in the west, perhaps Fiji or Easter Island, and not in southern Peru, as if this had been the point of origin for rafts following the coast, they most likely would have stopped at the attractive port of Tumbez, as did conquistador Francisco Pizarro (Baudin, 33). Furthermore, there are many linguistic similarities between the Maori language, a Polynesian tribe from New Zealand, and the Quechua language used by the Incas--including the word inca , meaning emperor or warrior in both languages (Baudin, 36).

From Josh Marcy's, Topher Wilkins' and Adam Tarnoff's ID1 paper.