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August 31, 2010

The Great Inka Road


This summer, Ramiro Matos, an archaeologist and curator on the staff of the National Museum of the American Indian, is conducting field research to document oral histories and contemporary life along the roads that traversed, and united, the Inka Empire. “Through the engineering of the roads,” Dr. Matos explains, “the Inkas and their subject peoples established the best system for communication, trade, and long-distance political integration in the pre-Columbian world. The road network connected hundreds of settlements, provinces, and regions of Tawantinsuyu, the four regions, or suyus, of the empire, with Cusco, its capital city, the center of the universe.”

Writer and photographer Megan Son will be reporting regularly on Dr. Matos's fieldwork, which is supported in part by an award from the Latino Initiatives Pool of the Smithsonian Latino Center. “Instead of presenting the Inka Road as a system of linear routes connecting spaces for the purpose of travel and trade,” Dr. Matos writes, “I hope we will be able to convey a sense of the road in the framework in which it was created and within which it still shapes life in the Andes—as threads interwoven to form the fabric of the physical and spiritual world. The role of the Inka Road as a protagonist in the history of indigenous people in the Andes is the central focus of this work.”

  Grande Route Inca_Megan Son_2  Megan Son

 Ramiro and people along the road_2 

Ramiro Matos (2nd from left), speaking to people along the Inka Road


From the humid coastal desert of Lima, the plane ascends with the Andes as it flies inland to Cusco, the religious­–political seat the Inkas and former capital of Tawantinsuyu. From the main plaza of Haukaypata, roads lead to the four provinces. Now covered in asphalt, the original stones were laid for pedestrians. The city has seen upheaval. Stripped of its wealth and splendor by the conquering Spanish beginning in 1533, Cusco went through a colonial transformation. The cathedral replaced a palace; monasteries, temples. The stately architecture that housed Inka rulers now contains restaurants and shops, and the smooth pillowed stones of ancient Inka walls stand behind neon signs.

Stone walls in Cusco_2 Stone walls in Cusco

Often called “the archaeological capital of the Americas,” the sites of Cusco and its region—the walled complex Sacsayhuamán, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, the Inka estate of Tipón, the sacred site of Koricancha—are a backdrop to the ethnographic investigations that are the point of this trip. Over seven weeks, Dr. Ramiro Matos and I will travel in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile, talking to the people who live along the massive network of Inka roads, researching the traditions that persist and the culture that continues.  —Megan Son

The Cathedral of Santo Domingo, built on the foundations of the Inka palace Kiswarkanchar 


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Interesting stuff. I've just started reading Kim MacQuarrie's 'Last Days of the Incas' so it dovetails well.
I'm curious as to your use of 'Inka' rather than 'Inca'. I've always seen it spelled as 'Inca', including when I was in Peru. What's the history behind the different spellings?

Would absolutely love to take a trip through the Andes and meet folks living there. I realize this maybe a little off base but you guys know that back in the early 70's real close to the Argentinian border in the Andes is where that famous Rugby team plane crashed. I'm visiting nearby and looking to visit the memorial.

I'm taking an immersive learn Spanish tour from http://learnspanishprograms.org in S. Argentina...maybe our paths will cross?
Best of luck on your trip!


Although I've never been to Macchu Picchu, I've read a lot about it and I'm planning to go next year.

Cusco or "Cuzco" (in Quechua) seems to be "THE" place to see when visiting Peru, an awesome site of ancient ruins that looks like a fortress.

Years ago, I did a report about Korikancha, an important temple, and a few other sites. It sure makes a difference to visit a place like that when you have some knowledge of its past.

I envy you!

This is realy intresting the Inka Road...
It seems like you learn a lot form that experience. ( :


As a Spaniard, I enjoyed your text very much.

I also noticed the "Inka" spelling. Inca is the way we say it, but Inka offers a new perspective, so I say go for it! Also, in Spain we say Cuzco instead of Cusco (with a "th" sound).

I teach screenwriting and I will be glad to refer your text to some of my students who are working on a story on the subject.

Screenwriter and teacher

I have a brother in law who is headed to Macchu Picchu around March 11 - loverd the pictures - it looks like an amazing journey

He is finishing with some firefighters doing relief work in Peru

Nice post.I like the way you start and then conclude your thoughts. Thanks for this information. I really appreciate your work, keep it up.

A friend of mine visit Macchu Picchu last year. I saw some amazing pictures. I just find the history of the Incas fascinating. Thanks

I think is very interesting and people can learn a lot !!!!

I'm an Architectural Design Consultant and I just love this kind of historical places. Do they speak Spanish or Inkan language? I am studying Spanish so when I visit one of the Spanish country I will be able to communicate easily.

Nice post about the historical places.And the pictures are really fantastic.I am fond of historical places.It must be lot of fun to visit a historical place or country.

So beautiful places and nice picture of you. Thanks for your useful information sharing.

nice posted and amazing pic, and classic. very artistic

Amazing Pictures! Some day I want to travel through the Andes. But I need to learn Spanish first.

Visiting historical places makes one be intouch with both nature and the sipirtual side. I would love to travel through Andes. I have been learning to speak Spanish and I think I can cope with the language now.

Great pictures, there and a lovely article, will keep reading.

A fascinating adventure and I'm sure you unearthed some fairly groundbreaking findings, literally!

The second picture is perfectly shot. And the rest are all great. I really love it. Thanks for posting it here.

Hola friends. My name is Walter Varela. I am Argentine. This blog is my language, but is fantastic. Seizing the opportunity that they are traveling the roads of the Inca. I encourage the people to know in Argentina "Purmamarca". A town frozen in time. I recommend purmamarcajujuy.blogspot.com know through how to get there you can find, its history and culture. It is a place to visit, come back and do not forget .- Congratulations for your blog. It is of the highest quality.

Miguel Varela Walter

Some close friends of mine visited Macchu Picchu 3 months ago and thought it was amazing. There is so much Inca history and its most fascinating to explore more of this region and Hope to do so myself this coming year.


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