Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Inca Road System (wikipedia.org)
90 points by benbreen 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 26 comments





For those interested in this, I highly recommend hiking the Inca Trail or other areas of Peru. You come across ruins constantly and the true scale of the civilization is really striking.

Usually when I go to tourist attractions, I'm disappointed because the pictures look better, when I visited Macchu Picchu and other Inca ruins and remnants I was astounded by how little justice pictures do them.

You can't understand the sheer magnitude of what they did until you stand there and see it for your own eyes. They built an entire town on top of an 8000 ft mountain. Parts of Peru and Bolivia (especially around Lake Titicaca) are littered with ruins that are still in relatively good condition, there are terraces dug into the hills that have existed for over 500 years now.

All this was achieved by a "stone-age" civilisation.


The inca is not a "stone-age" civilization. They arose in the 13th century. They have writing, metal working, amazing agriculture, bureaucracy, road systems, storage, planned cities. They effectively eradicated starvation in the empire with their public storage systems.

Calling things stone age is wrong. That period, if you're being gracious, ended roughly 2,000 BCE which is about 3300 thousand years before the Inca started their civilization.

If you want to learn a bit more about civilizations in this part of the world, I heartily recommend a book called 1491 by Charles Mann: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39020.1491


While using the term "stone age" in this case is obviously incorrect, all the human ages depend on the place you're talking about. The Iron Age started in Anatolia around 1000BC but even today there are uncontacted peoples (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncontacted_peoples) that still haven't reached it.

Human society development is not uniform nor universal.


> Parts of Peru and Bolivia (especially around Lake Titicaca) are littered with ruins that are still in relatively good condition, there are terraces dug into the hills that have existed for over 500 years now.

My understanding is many of these have undergone substantial partial restoration to preserve them in a somewhat arbitrarily determined state of ruin. So it's not really obvious how well they've aged, they're not left to decay naturally. It was a fairly controversial thing when they decided to start rebuilding Machu Picchu.

"Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of how they originally appeared. By 1976, 30% of Machu Picchu had been restored and restoration continues."

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machu_Picchu


We took the night train into Aguas Calientas, the town that’s at the foot of Machu Picchu. The surrounding area has few lights at night, so we didn’t see much on our trip to AG.

We took a day train out of AG, and we were blown away by the tide. There are so many ruins you can catch quick glimpses of from the train car, some very close to the railroad itself. The amount of ruins in Peru is astonishing. And the scale of the Inca’s roads rivaling, and even besting, the road distance of the Romans is a stunning feat that I barely heard of before visiting Peru.


I've been to Macchu Picchu as a kid and can't wait to take my own kids, probably in their early teens, and then later in life am keen to spend a few weeks just hiking. Would you mind sharing which specific areas/routes you hiked? I'm interested in the northern region around Kuelap too.

Yes! We did the pretty vanilla Inca Trail -- 5 days, 4 nights.

The day before, we stopped at Winay Wayna[1], which was the highlight of our trip. Not sure how true it is, but some say that this was a research site where the Incas would acclimatize plants to different altitudes.

More importantly, it's completely desolate and has no crowds, so you get the place to yourself... At least we did.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi%C3%B1ay_Wayna)


Thanks. That article put me on to this book [0] which I am adding to my list straight away. It's a bit of a daydream of mine to explore some of the more off-beat parts of the Inca road, but it's hard to find information about which sections are still walkable. And passable without the rope bridges that they used to use.

[0] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10111087-turn-right-at-m...


Given your photography skills, that would be immensely cool!

Don't tell anyone, but I only have an iPhone now. ;)

Seriously though, upgraded to the 11 Pro before our first trip to Europe recently. No regrets not having a "real" camera, except every once in a while I miss not having a >= 85mm lens.

Things that are way more awkward on a "real" camera: night shots, ultra-wide shots, doing multi-image stacking in crowded tourist spots to get a nicer shot with all the people ghost-like, and so on.

Essential accessory: mini tripod+selfie stick+Bluetooth remote.


Oh man, I recently got an 11 Pro and feel the same way. No need for any other equipment. Your secret is safe with me.


When I read the headline I first thought it was about the song :D (which is a bit sad considering I’m south american)

I'm around a third of the way through 'The Last Days of the Incas' by Kim MacQuarrie [0]. It's quite a gripping read, trying to wrap your head around how (spoiler? ;) a few hundred Spaniards conquered an empire of millions. Can recommend.

[0] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/354038.The_Last_Days_of_...


The battle of Cajamarca happened during a spiritual retreat after Atahualpa defeated Huascar during the Inca war of succession.

The focus of the Spanish was to offer the "requerimiento" and then kidnap the Sapa Inca in order to ask for a ransom.


Yep. But the difference between reading the book and just hearing assorted facts about it is a reminder of why I hated history in my school years.

They didn't conquer an empire of millions. They conquered the elites. As best as we can tell, from mexico to parts of south america, they expertly pitted groups of native elites against each other and somehow ended up on top. Nobody really knows how or why they were able to succeed. But even more impressive than the conquest is their staying power. The spanish essentially took over the elites and managed to maintain that position for hundreds of years.

Take mexico for example. After the spaniards positioned themselves atop mexican society 400+ years ago, they never relinquished that position. Even though ethnic spaniards made up anywhere from 1% to 5% of total mexican population thoughout the 400 years. Even more astounding is that the spaniards used their position atop mexican society to outbreed the native population. 66% of current mexican Y chromosomes are of european ancestry, while 90% of mexican mitochondrial dna comes from native ancestry. Fascinating stuff.

The spaniard conquest of central and south america differed markedly from the genocidal conquest of north america which is reflected in the genetic makeup of the populations in the americas.


Most mestizos were illegitimate and did not enjoy the same rights as the Spanish under the casta system.

They were illegimate and didn't enjoy the same rights as full blooded spaniards for sure. But the illegimate male children of spaniards had better mating privileges as nearly two thirds of mexican males have european Y chromosomes. That can't happen without the illegimate male offprings of spaniards having privileges that allowed them to mate at a much higher rate than native males since the full blooded spaniard population was never great enough to produce such drastic genetic disparity. What the privileges and rights were, who knows?

Do you have any sources on that? As far as I know they had the same rights given by the Crown (legally at least).

Legitimate mestizos enjoyed privileges. Otherwise they had to stay close to their parents.

But native women could not represent themselves in court so they could not challenge a Spanish man to recognize their children.


I... was simplifying just a tad?

> they expertly pitted groups of native elites against each other

In the Andes, they walked right in at the end of a civil war.

The Incas had actually established their own empire less than 100 years earlier, and indeed ruled over an estimate 12 million from their tribe of ~100,000, who became the elites.

Also interesting; I'm up to the bit where the Spaniards actually have their own little civil war between two of the conquistadors, and not all that far into the conquest.

> The spaniard conquest of central and south america differed markedly from the genocidal conquest of north america which is reflected in the genetic makeup of the populations in the americas.

Absolutely. Ditto for Australia.


> 66% of current mexican Y chromosomes are of european ancestry, while 90% of mexican mitochondrial dna comes from native ancestry

That's some damn good virility on the part of Spanish men. Must've been having endless binge coochie-coochie with the local senoritas))


I wonder how the lack of pack animals (aside from alpacas) altered the development of both the Inca roads as well as modern highways in the country, which having been on, are nothing to speak highly of (that said, roads in most countries with difficult terrain and lack of funding suck).

A llama can be a more convenient pack animal than a donkey or a mule. Better temperament too. Alpacas are not viable pack animals.

And ccara llamas were more adapted to high altitudes than a donkey or a mule.

Horses don't work well on mountains.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: