If there’s one thing that can help people learn all about ancient civilizations, it’s the puzzle pieces they leave behind — specifically, their achievements and inventions. In fact, it’s often the only thing an ancient civilization has to offer for many people. It’s a shame, as so much of the world today wouldn’t exist without the achievements and inventions of civilizations long past. In this case, we’re looking into the top achievements of the Inca civilization, which flourished in Peru somewhere around the 1400s BCE.
While other civilizations might seem more interesting and are more popular in today’s cultural climate, the Inca civilization is not something to be taken lightly. There was a time when their empire was the largest in the world. Given their time frame, it’s an amazing achievement. That being said, here are the top achievements and inventions from the Inca civilization.
The Concept of Roads
It’s strange to imagine that there was a time before the concept of roads, though there is something of a technicality when it comes to the achievement of the Inca civilization. Technically, the ancient Romans had already invented roads, though they did not depend on them like the Inca did. The Inca civilization also was not aware of the presence of roads due to the location of their empire. So much of their day-to-day life depended on travels around the mountainside, which was when they developed their own concept of roads.
The thing about the mountain roads of the Inca was that they were surprisingly advanced for the time. The Inca didn’t have the wheel, and so they had to make sure the roads were as advanced and well-built as possible. In fact, a highway spanning 45,000 km developed by the Inca still exists today.
The Concept of Accounting
Ancient Mesopotamia was the first civilization to develop a system of writing. Such a system was needed if people were going to trade between cities, which — funny enough — the concept of cities was also invented by Mesopotamia. The Inca have their own contribution to the world of trade, specifically with accounting. While the writing system might have helped with trading all over, the Inca had a record keeping system that was way ahead of its time.
Using rope and llama or alpaca wool strings, the Inca were able to keep track of various things for accounting. This includes materials, debts, and even the population. It’s still a relatively unknown system, though top universities around the world hope to shed more light on the matter.
The Rope Bridge
The Inca empire spanned across various mountainsides, which was why they were forced to develop a highway system for traveling. That said, how about the steep cliffs where you had to travel from one side of a mountain to another? The Inca developed the first rope bridges, which they used to great effect as it made traveling much easier. However, the construction of rope bridges came at a steep cost.
The development of these bridges were so perilous that many people would die in the process. These Incas were revered for their sacrifice, as the rope bridges were undoubtedly some of the most useful inventions created by the Inca civilization.
A Proper, Effective Government
By the time the Spanish managed to conquer the Incas, they were surprised to note that there was a surprisingly low number of vagabonds or beggars in the area. It seemed as though everyone knew their place, which meant there was likely little internal conflict between the Incas. Such a thing is practically unheard of, especially when the ancient Greeks and Mesopotamians would constantly squabble.
It turns out the Incas took control of the population by creating a system that unified people through various goals, and offering them food and shelter as a reward for participating in the system. They would use the decimal system, where the lowest ruling figure might control 10 families, and the next figure would control 100, and so on. The fact that they would democratically elect rulers also resulted in a relatively peaceful reign.
Brain… Surgery (?)
Did you ever think that the concept of brain surgery would be tackled by a civilization thousands of years old? The Inca civilization was relatively peaceful, and created the concept of governments. It still seems like such a stretch that they were also advanced enough to consider the art of brain surgery — or at least a primitive form of brain surgery.
The Incas would use various tools as well as materials to help numb the pain, and reduce inflammation by creating holes on the skull. While the survival rate was relatively low when it was first conceived, the Incas were said to continue perfecting their primitive form of brain surgery, to the point where a staggering 90% of the patients would live through it. The Incas truly were a fascinating civilization, considering what they were able to accomplish.
The Concept of Freeze Drying
Most people know the many benefits of freeze drying, and it’s hard to believe that an ancient civilization would use such a modern tactic — especially a civilization as old as the Incas. However, the Inca empire was the first to figure out how to effectively freeze dry their food. They would leave their potatoes with a cloth overnight in the freezing weather, and they would then stomp out the excess moisture the next day.
Such a process would repeat until the potatoes were effectively freeze dried. What they got as a result were potatoes that not only tasted better, but would also last years before eventually going off. You can imagine how such a thing helped the Inca civilization keep their people well-fed.
A Thriving Economy Without Money
They say that money makes the world go round. However, in the ancient days, money was not necessarily a cornerstone of a city — or even an empire. While the ancient Chinese invented paper money and the ancient Mesopotamians worked on a system of trade, the Inca civilization thrived without a need for any money.
They accomplished this by creating the aforementioned government, and developing a system where everyone can contribute and flourish as a result. It’s the primary reason why there was so little in-fighting amongst the Incas. Everyone contributed, and they were able to thrive, even without the use of money.
The Inca Aqueducts
Considering the area where the Inca empire was located, the people likely would not have thrived if they weren’t such wizards with engineering. The Incas were extremely good at solving problems, which was how they managed to build such a long highway to help with traveling. In this case, the Inca civilization built marvelous aqueducts to help irrigate the land.
It’s not easy to farm anything on the mountainside, as they had to find a way to bring the water to their fields. The answer came in the form of aqueducts, which was surprisingly advanced for its time. It’s likely they were able to accomplish such a thing thanks to their primitive (yet surprisingly advanced) form of government.
Back in the days of the ancient Greeks or the Egyptians, you could get the help of messengers to deliver communication to locations too far for people to travel. Even then, it was considered a luxury only afforded by the wealthiest classes. In the Inca civilization, it was even trickier as they didn’t have the wheel to help them travel. The Incas solved the issue by having messengers position themselves a mile apart all over the empire.
Such a tactic allowed the civilization to relay important information, as well as deliver parcels as efficiently as a primitive civilization could for the time. It might not seem like much, but it was groundbreaking give what they had to work with.
The Primary Goal of Keeping Everyone Fed
Last but certainly not least, one of the most incredible things about the Inca civilization was how they were able to develop one of the largest empires in the world — the largest in the world during their time — thanks to a strong foundation. In many civilizations, people often thought for themselves more than others, but the Incas were different. Without money, the idea was to get everyone to help by ensuring everyone got to eat.
At the core of the Inca society is the desire to feed everyone. It was by no means an easy feat, especially considering the landscape. However, the Incas were incredibly progressive and creative, and they found all sorts of solutions. The people knew that those who ruled over them wanted to keep them fed, and so they were happy to contribute. It’s amazing what a single mindset can do to help a civilization grow.