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Discovering the Ancient Incas of Peru

February 23, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 129

On walking holidays, Peru will offer you many incredible, and literally breathtaking, attractions - but many visitors have a fascination with discovering more about the ancient Inca civilisation.

Why the fascination?

When the first European explorers 'discovered' the American continent in the 15th and 16th centuries, they also discovered a number of peoples and civilisations. Perhaps none of these captured the imagination quite as much as the Aztecs (in the present day Mexico), and the Incas that occupied an area roughly corresponding to modern-day Peru and vast surrounding territories in other countries also.

Much is now shrouded in mystery and imagination and some modern scholars maintain that a lot of what we think we know about these ancient civilisations is, in fact, propaganda passed down by the conquistadores. Yet however much we try to rationalise the way we think about the Incas, the reality is that for many people their name is synonymous with vast monumental building, massive empires, conquests and bloodthirsty rituals.

For those arriving in the country on walking holidays, Peru is a destination that offers not only stunning wildlife and scenery, but also a wealth of history - evident in abundance on many hikes and walks. So, what is the reality?

Facts and interpretations

Nobody disputes that by the time the Spaniards arrived in Peru, the Incas had built a vast empire and achieved a high degree of cultural sophistication. Exploring the remains of their capital city of Cusco (Cuzco) or the incomparable Machu Picchu, gives some indication into the architectural sophistication of their engineers. Their artistic skills were also legendary, as can be witnessed in things such as their use of textiles and incredible metalwork in gold and silver.

Some scholars even question the extent to which they genuinely conquered and subjugated all of the constituent peoples of their empire, as there is some evidence that some areas amalgamated with the Incas on a voluntary basis. Their highly centralised and efficient civil service was based in Cusco and administered the empire based upon an excellent network of engineered roads. On walking holidays, Peru offers a number of opportunities to encounter the marvels of this civilisation and many visitors are simply awe-struck by their ruins and artefacts.

Yet almost inevitably, it may not be possible to look too far into the Inca civilisation without coming across stories of human sacrifice. How does this reconcile with the great achievements of these peoples? It is an unfortunate fact of human history that such sacrifices were relatively commonplace in some forms of Bronze Age civilisation (although they existed long after what we call the Bronze Age in Europe, the Incas had no iron or steel). Although it is the subject of debate, there is some evidence that some forms of the sacrifice appeared to have been based around a lottery and at least some victims may have been willing to participate - at least initially. Yet there is equally little doubt that prisoners and other unfortunates were also subjected to this treatment and some of sites where the rituals took place, are still visible.

The Incas today

Today the indigenous Andean peoples still have echoes of Inca culture in their daily lives and are proud of the achievements of their ancestors. The original Inca civilisation was quickly virtually wiped out by the arriving Spaniards, partly intentionally through military conquest and partly incidentally by the introduction of European diseases for which the Incas had little natural immunity. On walking holidays, Peru offers numerous opportunities to follow in the footsteps of the Incas and the conquistadores, as you explore this one aspect of this marvellous country.

Tony Maniscalco is the Sales and Marketing Manager for Ramblers Worldwide Holidays. For walking holidays Peru is a fascinating destination. Join us to experience scenic locations & landscapes at the best value prices. We offer over 250 guided group walking holidays in over 65 different countries.

Source: EzineArticles
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