Ancestors of the Inka

Long before the Inkas reigned, there lived in these regions men like giants,
as large as the figures sculpted in stone reveal.

—Pedro de Cieza de León, chronicler of Peru, 1553

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    The sun gate, Tiwanaku, Bolivia, 2009. Photo by Wayne Smith, NMAI.

The Beginnings of the Road

Chavín | 1,000 BC–AD 100

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    Select highlighted words to hear them spoken in Quechua.

    The Inka spoke the Quechua language, which is still spoken today in the Andes.


Chavín was the first great unifying culture in the Andes. Its scattered settlements, the largest of which was Chavín de Huántar, shared a distinctive art, architecture, and way of life that influenced a number of ethnic groups.