The Incas: Machu Picchu, Cuzco, Inca Trail

The Incas People: Inti Raymi

Inti Raymi's light,
Inca people's sacred sun,
Honored with great feast.

The Incas: People


Hiram Bingham, the American explorer who found the ruins of Machu Picchu in 1911, wrote:

No one knows the origin of the people over whom the Incas rules. Physical anthropologists assure that the bony structure of the American Indian is closely related to that of the people of Northeast Siberia. However, that does not prove that the migration went from Asia to America any more than it proves the people of Eastern Asia came from America. Whenever that migration took place, and in whichever direction, it happened so many thousands of years ago that archaeological evidence, as distinct from anthropological, is lacking. In other words, there appears to be no resemblance between the culture of Northeastern Asia and Central South America. Furthermore, since wheat, one of the most valuable crops on the world, was developed in Asia and was unknown in America, and since similar ignorance prevailed in Asia regarding two other enormously important crops, potatoes and maize, it appears fairly certain that the migration took place many thousands of year ago. This appears to be borne out by the recent discovery in North America of the remains of glacial man whose age is estimated to be about 20,000 years.

The Incas took such trouble to spread the Quechua language wherever they went that it is fair to assume that they descended from a Quechua tribe. The Quechuas are brown in color. Their hair is straight and black. Gray hair is seldom seen. It is still the custom among the men in certain localities to wear their hair long and braided. Beards are very rare and when they occur are extremely sparse. Bearded Indians are almost certain to give signs of traces of Spanish blood.

Among the Quechuas, bald heads are very rare. Teeth seem to be more enduring than with us. Throughout the Andes the frequency of well-preserved teeth is noteworthy, except on sugar plantations where there is opportunity to indulge freely in crude brown sugar nibbled form cakes or mixed with parched corn and eaten as a convenient ration. Since the Incas did not know how to make sugar, it is fair to assume that they had good teeth and were not troubled by having to chew the hard kernels of their favorite parched corn.

The Quechua face is broad and short. Freckles are not common, although a large proportion of the mountain Indians are pock-marked. Asiatic smallpox was probably not known in the Andes in prehistoric times. On the other hand, there is abundant evidence, both in prehistoric tombs and in the vivid records of coastal pottery, that syphilis did not come from the Old World, but was an aboriginal disease. In fact, it was probably taken from America to the Mediterranean by the sailors of the early discoverers and explorers. It was the worst gift the New World gave to the Old World in exchange for the "benefits" of European culture.

There is no evidence that the Incas were fat. One hardly ever sees a fat mountain Indian today. It is difficult to tell whether this is a racial characteristic or due to the necessity of hard exercise in the mountains. Certainly the abundant use of white potatoes is supposed to be fattening. The diet of the Incas did not contain much meat since both llamas and alpacas were too useful to be used as food except in the case of animals that died of old age.

Inca Calendar according to Guaman Poma's work 1615


Although the Peruvian highlander made the best use he could of the llama, he was never able to develop its slender legs and weak back sufficiently to use it for loads weighing more than one hundred pounds. Consequently, for the carrying of heavy burdens he has had to depend on himself. As a result it is not surprising that while his arms are poorly developed his shoulders are broader, his back muscles stronger and the calves of his legs, larger and more powerful than those of almost any other race.


‘Lost City of the Incas, The Story of Machu Picchu and its Builders’ by Hiram Bingham
The American explorer who found the ruins of Machu Picchu in 1911

Hiram Bingham at Machu Picchu
The inspiration for Indiana Jones?