You say potato, they say – well, who knows what the ancient Incas called the potato, which was just one of their many contributions to the Western world? These “Children of the Sun”, as they called themselves, built a powerful empire down the length of South America about 600 years ago – all without horses, the wheel, or even a written language. How did they do it? Incas, for kids, answers this question and more. For starters, kids will find, the Incas did it not just by conquering nearby peoples, but through diplomacy. In just over 100 years, they brought 12 million people under their control, and ran their well-ordered regime using messengers who raced over the Andean peaks to spread the news of the empire from town to town.
Daily life for the Incas was full of pomp and ceremony; they marked life changes, like birth and marriage, with elaborate rituals. They were innovative farmers and master builders who left behind the sky-high royal city of Machu Picchu. Yet, like the Aztecs and Mayas before them, the Incas were also crushed in the 16th century by Spanish explorers looking for gold. Though the empire did not survive, the Quechua language spoken by Andean villagers today, as well as farming and weaving methods, are echoes of the Incas; for kids who want to try this ancient craft, a how-to on making and using a backstrap loom should be lots of fun.