The Incas

The Inca empire spanned a large portion of South America by the late 1400s C.E. Although many different cultures prospered in the South American Andes Mountains before 3000 B.C.E., the Incas developed their distinctive culture beginning in 1200 C.E. and by 1471 became the largest empire in South America, reigning over a region that stretched from modern-day Ecuador to Chile. Incas built roads, developed trade, created stone architecture, made beautifully worked gold art and jewelry, became skillful potters, and wove lovely fabrics. Much like the Aztecs, the Incas suffered from the attacks of Spanish conquerors and the spread of smallpox. In 1532 Spaniard Francisco Pizarro (c. 1475—1541) conquered the Incas and the territory soon became a colony of Spain. The last Inca emperor remained in power until 1572, when Spaniards killed him.

While the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas each had distinct clothing traditions and costumes, many similarities exist. In the broadest terms these cultures wore the same types of clothing styles. But the different ways they decorated their skin, adorned their hair, and patterned their fabric, among other daily habits, made them quite distinct.


Aztecs: Reign of Blood and Splendor. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1992.

Bray, Warwick. Everyday Life of the Aztecs. New York: Putnam, 1968.

Cobo, Bernabé. Inca Religion and Customs. Translated and edited by Roland Hamilton. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1990.

Day, Nancy. Your Travel Guide to Ancient Mayan Civilization. Minneapolis, MN: Runestone Press, 2001.

Incas: Lords of Gold and Glory. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1992.

Wood, Tim. The Aztecs. New York: Viking, 1992.

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