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Andenes in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, close to Pisac, Peru. Symbol of the technology used by Andean people in agriculture.

Andean civilizations were predominantly agricultural societies; the Incas took advantage of the soil, overcoming the adversities of the Andejuian terrain and the weather. The adaptation of agricultural technologies that had been used previously allowed the Incas to organize production of a diverse range of crops from the coast, mountains, and jungle regions, which they were then able to redistribute to villages that did not have access to the other regions. These technological achievements in agriculture would not have been possible without the workforce that was at the disposal of the Sapa Inca, as well as the road system that allowed them to efficiently store the harvested crops and to distribute them throughout their territory. These practices were so effective that many experts believe that if they were readopted today, they would solve the nutritional problems of Andean people for many decades.[1][2]


Farming tools

Farming was celebrated with rituals, sacrifices, and songs. Teams of seven or eight men, accompanied by a like number of women would work in line to prepare fields. Men used foot plows, chakitqlla, to break the soil. Women followed, breaking the closes and planting seeds. This work was accompanied by singing and chanting, striking the earth in unison. By one account Spanish priests found the songs so pleasant that they were incorporated into church services.[3]


Several types of fertilizers were used across the Inca Empire. In coastal regions, small fish such as Peruvian anchoveta and sardines were buried with maize kernels to spur their growth. This practice was represented in the walls of the Pachacamac temple, where maize plants were shown germinating out of small fishes. Coastal farmers also used guano produced by the thousands of marine birds that nested on offshore islands and isolated parts of the littoral. In the rest of the empires, farmers had to resort to other types of fertilizers, including manure from domesticated camelids and fallen leaves from trees such as guarango.

Land use

The Incan agricultural terraces at Moray.

The land was divided into 3 parts: one part for the aristocracy, another for the religious establishment, and the last for the farmers themselves, who were obliged to farm for all three groups. Among the staple crops grown were quinoa, potatoes, and maize.[4]

Inca farmers had to deal with the difficult terrain of the Andes as usable land was mainly limited to the narrow valleys carved by rivers between the mountains. Additional flat terrain was available on the plateaus, but their high altitude and cold weather severely limited their usefulness for farming. To expand the available land, the Incas used several Andean techniques which made it possible to farm on high altitude hillsides; these included the following:



Incan andenes.

The andenes are artificial agricultural terraces that served to create useful land for crops on the steep Andean hillsides. They allowed the Incas to take greater advantage of the water available from rain and irrigation, making it circulate along channels that connected their diverse levels, while at the same time avoiding soil erosion. The andenes were not only used for corn crops, but also for growing other agricultural products. The also served a number of other purposes including [allowing?|preventing?] the washing of mineral salts [from the soil?]. Although their construction required the mobilisation of large workforces, the Inca state could meet this demand with relative ease.


These were artificial areas constructed on the banks of lake Titicaca. They consist of mounds of land that were able to store and take greater advantage of the water in places of frequent floods. They used a series of agricultural technologies in the mounds, including: the creation of artificial channels to give protection to the plants, and to facilitate drainage during the rains; floods; irrigation; as sources of credit; and, especially, to diminish the cold at night at these high altitudes, thereby reducing the risk from frosts.

Camellon or Waru waru.


In pre-Hispanic times "cochas" or artificial lagoons were created in the punas. They were used for cultivation and to give something for the cattle to drink. These lagoons can be round, elongated or rectangular, and are composed by a great number of symmetrical channels that gather the water of the rains and lead it among the channels.

Also there is highlighted the technology of improvement of species, they knew the major influence of the temperature of the soil than the temperature of the air on the plants, since Moray's laboratory testifies it.

See also


  1. ^ (Spanish)
  2. ^ (Spanish)
  3. ^ The Incas. by Terrence N. D'Altroy. Blackwell Publishers Inc. 2002. pages 198, 199. ISBN 0-631-17677-2.
  4. ^ Earle, Timothy K.; Johnson, Allen W. (1987). The evolution of human societies: from foraging group to agrarian state. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-1339-1. 


  • (Spanish) Rostworowski, María: Enciclopedia Temática: Incas. ISBN 9972-752-00-3.
  • (Spanish) Editorial Sol 90: Historia Universal: América precolombina ISBN 9972-891-79-8.
  • (Spanish) Muxica Editores: Culturas Prehispánicas ISBN 9972-617-10-6.
  • Rivero Luque: The use of the chakitaqlla in the Andes, 1987.


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