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

Chimú | AD 1100–1400

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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.


The well–organized Chimú capital, Chan Chan, was the largest city in the Western Hemisphere in its day. The Chimú built a road network, canals, and irrigation systems to help them expand along the northern coast of Peru.