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Inca Kings and Chronology

Inca Empire Study Guide

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Fine Inca masonry work, at Machu Picchu

Fine Inca masonry work, at Machu Picchu

Gina Carey
Double Jamb Doorway at Ollantaytambo

Double Jamb Doorway at Ollantaytambo

Ed Nellis

Timeline and Kinglist of the Inca Empire

The Inca word for ruler was 'capac', or 'capa', and the next ruler was chosen both by heredity and by marriage lines. All of the capacs were said to be descended from the legendary Ayar siblings (four boys and four girls) who emerged from the cave of Pacaritambo. The first Inca capac, the Ayar sibling Manco Capac, married one of his sisters and founded Cusco.

The ruler at the height of the empire was Inca Yupanqui, who renamed himself Pachacuti (Cataclysm) and ruled between AD 1438-1471. Most scholarly reports list the date of the Inca empire as beginning with Pachacuti's rule.

High status women were called 'coya', and how well you could succeed in life depended to a degree on the genealogical claims of both your mother and father. In some cases this led to sibling marriage, because the strongest connection you could have would be if you were the child of two descendants of Manco Capac. The dynastic king list which follows was reported by the Spanish chroniclers such as Bernabé Cobo from oral history reports, and to a degree it is somewhat under debate. Some scholars believe that there was actually a dual kingship, each king ruling half of Cusco; this is a minority viewpoint.

Calendrical dates for the reigns of the various kings were established by Spanish chroniclers based on oral histories, but they are clearly miscalculated and so are not included here. (Some reigns supposedly lasted over 100 years.) Dates included below are those for capacs that were personally remembered by the Inca informants to the Spanish. See Catherine Julien's fascinating book Reading Inca History for an interesting glimpse into genealogy and historicity of Inca rulers.

Inca Kings

  • Manco Capac (principal wife his sister Mama Occlo) ca. AD 1200 (founded Cusco)
  • Sinchí Roca (principal wife Manco Sapaca)
  • Lloque Ypanqui (p.w. Mama Cora)
  • Mayta Capac (p.w. Mama Tacucaray)
  • Capac Yupanqui
  • Inca Roca
  • Yahuar Huacac
  • Viracocha Inca (p.w. Mama Rondocaya)
  • Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (p.w. Mama Anahuarqui, built the Coricancha and Machu Picchu, reformed Inca society) [ruled AD 1438-1471], royal estates at Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu
  • Topa Inca (or Tupac Inca or Topa Inca Yupanqui) (principal wife his sister Mama Occlo, first capac considered supernatural in his lifetime) [AD 1471-1493], royal estates at Chinchero and  Choquequirao
  • Huayna Capac [AD 1493-1527], royal estates at Quespiwanka and Tombebamba
  • [civil war between Huascar and Atahuallpa 1527]
  • Huascar [AD 1527-1532]
  • Atahuallpa [AD 1532]
  • (Inca conquered by Pizarro in 1532)
  • Manco Inca [AD 1533]
  • Paullu Inca

Classes of Incan Society

The kings of the Inca society were called capac. Capacs could have multiple wives, and often did. Inca nobility (called Inka) were mostly hereditary positions, although special persons could be assigned this designation. Curacas were administrative functionaries and bureaucrats.

Caciques were agricultural community leaders, responsible for maintenance of agricultural fields and tribute payment. Most of the society was organized into ayllus, who were taxed and received domestic goods according to the size of their groups.

Chasqui were message runners who were essential to the Inca system of government. Chasqui traveled along the Inca road system stopping at outposts or tambos; and were said to be able to send a message 250 kilometers in one day, and to make the distance from Cusco to Quito (1500 km) within one week.

After death, the capac and his wives (and many of the highest officials) were mummified and kept by his descendants.

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