The Chakana symbol is considered the most holy symbol of the Inca culture that has survived to the present day. It represents the Tree of Life and the four levels of the world: the underworld, the Earth and the realm of the gods. The snake, puma, and condor are associated with each of these planes of existence, respectively. Another explanation holds that the Chakana represents the Southern Cross constellation, as this was thought by the Incas to be the location of the centre of the universe.
The Inca Empire existed in South America, in the area that is modern day Peru and Bolivia, from the early 13th Century until its last city was taken by the Spanish conquest in 1572. It was the largest and most developed empire in the Americas before the arrival of the Spanish.
The Incan Empire was defined by its impressive and enormous architecture – the most famous being Machu Picchu which was constructed using stone blocks that fit together so tightly that a knife would not fit between the building stones. Incan pyramids survive to this day, sustained without any need for mortar within the stonework.
The Empire also featured an extensive network of roads that served to connect even the most remote outposts of the territory. The Inca produced fine woven textiles (featuring architectural motifs) and were particularly inventive when it came to communication, organization and labor.
The majority of the Inca lived at a particularly high altitude in the Andean mountains, and so their agriculture practices were both impressive and innovative .
The Incas were polytheists who worshiped many gods. They believed in reincarnation and human sacrifice. They did not use money or exchange goods using markets. Inca culture was built upon reciprocity. Each individual paid something like a tax to the Empire through labor, while the emperor and nobles would throw feasts and sponsor festivals for their subjects.
After the fall of the Inca Empire many features of Inca culture were destroyed by the Spanish. Huge numbers of Inca were devastated by the rapid spread of smallpox, another effect of the invasion. Other diseases soon followed. As such, much of the culture and many Incan innovations have been lost to history.