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Know your Inca: Manco Capac

Secondary Categories: PeruDig DeeperThe Great Inca Trail

Manco Capac is today recognised as the first Inca Emperor, although when he came along the humble Inca tribe wasn’t an empire by any stretch of the imagination (his title ‘capac’ translates to ‘warlord’).

Although there are as many as four different Inca founding myths, Manco Capac features in all of them, and for this reason historians generally agree that he was a real person as well as being a mythical figure.

The most enduring foundation myth holds that Manco Cápac, the sun of Inti the sun god, and his sister Mama Occlo, the daughter of the moon, were sent by the sun to find a suitable place to build an empire. They were told to carry a special golden rod (tapac-yauri) with them at all times. This rod would sink into the ground when they had found the ideal location for their empire. Thus was Cusco founded – the staff plunged into the ground at Pacaritambo, near to the modern location of Cusco.

Cusco's rooftops - Kenneth Moore.

Manco Capac is thought to have ruled for between 20 and 40 years. He reformed Inca society in many ways, including abolishing human sacrifice and forbidding tribesmen and women from marrying their siblings. Ironically this latter rule did not apply to nobility…which was rather convenient considering Manco Capac married his own sister, Mama Occlo. She bore him a son, Sinchi Roca, the second Inca Emperor.

Manco Capac is remembered for being the guy who started it all, but the truth is that it would be hundreds of years before the Inca tribe developed into the great civilisation we revere today.

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