The Incas called themselves Quechua (KETCH-wa). This was their name for their language. They took over much of Peru.
The Quechua called their leader Inca. Inca means “lord.” The Spanish conquered the Quechua in the 1500s. They called all of the people living there Incas. But the Incas were really many different groups. They spoke more than 20 different languages.
The Incas had no written language. Most of what is known about them came from the stories they told. After the Spanish came in the 1530s, some Inca history was written down. But no one knows for sure what stories were true.
About 1200, the leader Manco Capac moved his people north. They settled in what is now Cuzco. They were probably looking for better farmland.
The Incas took over many nearby lands. But they did not govern them. Instead, they made these villages pay them taxes of goods or food.
Then in 1438 the Inca leader Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui made all the lands part of the Inca Empire. He and the next leaders used wars and friendship to make their empire larger.
At its height, the Inca Empire went from Chile to Colombia. The Incas ruled lands from the Pacific coast to the Andes Mountains. Roads connected all parts of the land. About 8 to 10 million people lived there.
Early Incas lived in family groups. These groups owned land. They worked it together.
The farmers grew a lot of food. They helped feed others in the empire, too. Then those people could do different jobs. Workers built roads, mined gold, made crafts, and fought in the army. This made the Incas strong and powerful.
In the 1500s Spanish explorers came to Peru. They killed the Inca ruler and many of his people. The Spanish fought the Incas for a long time. But then they captured Cuzco on November 15, 1533. But they did not capture and kill the last Inca ruler until 1572.
The Spanish did not let the Incas practice their religion. They melted down their gold statues and other artworks. They tore down buildings. Then they built their own town on top of the Inca capital.
The Spanish made the Incas work in the mines. Many Incas died. Other Incas died from disease. The Spanish had brought the diseases with them. So the Inca civilization ended.