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

Tiwanaku | AD 400–1000

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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.


Located near Lake Titicaca, the city of Tiwanaku was the core of a culture whose religion, art, and architecture influenced much of the southern Andes. To foster trade and the distribution of resources, the Aymara people of Tiwanaku built roads all the way to the Pacific Coast.