The Incas (1200-1535)
Standards: 7.7.2
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Inca society

Key Terms and People

hierarchy a system of ranking members of a group according to their importance

ayllu: a group of related families that lived in the same location

communal property: owned and managed by the government for public use

mita: labor tax

theology: religious teachings and practices


Section Notes

Inca Life

  • Inca society was divided into two large classes: nobles and commoners. Each class had its own hierarchy. There were three ranks of nobles; nobles by birth, the appointed nobles, and the curacas (local non-Inca chiefs). The commoner class was divided into categories based on their age and gender.
  • Commoners lived in communities called ayllus. Aside from a few personal possessions, there was no private property.
  • All land in the Inca empire was communal property. The state divided land into three parts: one for the government, one for the priests and the religion, and one for the ayllu. Commoners had to supply labor for state projects and military service. This was known as the mita.
  • The Incas did not use money. Most communities produced the goods they needed. Simple markets existed for exchanging basic goods like food and wool. But they ran on the barterto trade one thing for another without the use of money system.

Inca Religion

  • The Incas never developed a system of writing so scholars know little about Inca theology. Scholars do know the Incas worshiped many gods. Viracocha was the creator god. The most important God, though, was the sun god, Inti. The Incas also believe in nature spirits, which were thought to occupy a special place is in the natural world, such as rocks, caves, and waterfalls.


Summary: The Incas had a highly organized society. They worshiped a number of gods and nature spirits.

Study Guide Questions

How did farmers and commoners support the Inca government?

Why was Inti the most important god in Inca life?

How was land owned and divided in the Inca Empire?

Why do you think the Inca rulers set up that kind of system?

How did the Incas view their ruler?

How were Inca religion and government combined?

Practice Test

Homework: Choose one
  1. Workbook Chapter 8, section 2 (Page 99)
  2. Answer three of the study guide questions using complete sentences.
  3. Draw a picture of something important from this section and summarize this section of the text (three sentences minimum).