If people were to ask anyone who works on uncovering history (such as historians or anthropologists for example) which ancient empire was the greatest, most of them will probably say it is the Roman Empire. Initiating in 27 BC and lasting up to around 285 to 395 AD, the Roman Empire dominated most of the known world at the time, which included much of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. However, one of the unique traits of the Roman Empire that differs from other empires is the fact they allowed the people of regions conquered to keep their culture. This may have been one of the reasons why the Roman Empire actually lasted for so long. However, this melting pot situation may have also caused numerous cultural clashes, which in turn was one of the factors in the Roman Empire’s downfall.
Though the Roman Empire (as well as the United States) are often cited for such a unique trait for its people, there was another empire that may have allowed the people of conquered regions to keep their culture and it is the Inca Empire. As a matter of fact, the archaeological site known as Ingapirca may indeed be proof that the ancient empire show such respect to those under their power.
According to Ancient Origins, Ingapirca – the largest and best-preserved archaeological site in Ecuador – is located at an altitude of over 3,000 meters in the Andes Mountains. Known as “The Machu Picchu of Ecuador,” it is recognized as an important archaeological site because it is a lasting record of the two cultures living side-by-side. They are the original Cañari, a matriarchal moon-worshiping society, and the Inca, a patriarchal sun-worshiping empire. Despite their differences being as opposite as day and night, the two cultures lived in harmony.
Ingapirca was originally known as Hatun Cañar when it was originally settled by the indigenous Cañari. As mentioned earlier, they based their religion on lunar activities best shown with the building of moon temples as well as a rock calendar that recorded the lunar cycle. By the end of the 15th Century, the Inca arrived with Túpac Yupanqui with the intention of taking over their land and subjugating the Cañari. The Cañari, however, proved to be difficult to defeat so the Inca proposed a political alliance in which Inca nobles married the Cañari princesses. The Cañari accepted which benefited both them and the Inca. The former now had the protection of Inca warriors and the Inca had a strategic base within the area.
What is amazing about the alliance is that both the Cañari and Inca respected each other cultures, but as time went by, they started to fuse as detailed in a translation by La Voz. After the alliance was made, the Inca started to build their own dwellings and buildings in their own methods and styles. This can easily be differentiated because the Cañari used mortar to fit stones together, while the Inca used cut blocks to stack them into walls without mortar. Why the most prominent structure in Ingapirca is the Inca Sun Temple which stands like a colossus among the other ruins of the city.
The growth of Ingapirca was short, however. The Spanish would eventually arrive, ransacking the city and slaughtering its inhabitants. Many of the buildings were knocked down so its stones could be used to build churches. As for what remained, they were abandoned for centuries until a farmer discovered the ruins followed by the Ecuadorian government initiating its restorations in the 1970s. The site is now open to the public, maintained by the local Cañari people.
[Featured Image via Cayambe/Wikipedia Commons]