What Was the Environment Like for the Incas?

environment-like-incas Credit: Photography by Gene Wahrlich/Moment/Getty Images

The Inca empire spanned along a vast portion of the South American coastlines, which contained the Andes Mountains, jungles and deserts. They typically built their homes in the mountains.

The mountains the Incas built their cities upon acted as a natural defense against any threats to their kingdom. They built a system of bridges to move from one mountain peak to another. Only military personnel, animal caravans,and other members of high social status made use of these bridges, as commoners were not permitted to use the bridges. In the event of an attack, the bridges could be destroyed in order to isolate any enemies in the mountains, leaving them susceptible to the cold weather.

Hardy crops such as potatoes were a valuable food source due to the harsh weather conditions at high altitudes. They were able to be preserved by a process in which they were frozen during cold nights and dried in the sun, allowing for large stockpiles of stored food. Proper irrigation was a necessity to grow crops and feed livestock, especially near the surrounding desert environments and in the dry mountain terrain. The Inca people built large, flat terraces in the mountains to be used as irrigation systems for crops such as corn, which was able to be grown at lower altitudes. Incas typically did not build homes in the desert or jungles, and instead harvested food from them to be brought back to the mountains.