Putting the rise of the Inca Empire within a climatic and land management context 1Institut Français d'Etudes Andines (IFEA), Lima, Peru
2Centre for Bio-Archaeology and Ecology, Université Montpellier 2, Montpellier, France
3Department of Geography, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
4Department of Anthropology, The University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois, USA
5NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory, Nottingham, UK
6School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences, University of Cardiff, Cardiff, UK
7Paleoenvironments and Chronoecology, Institut de Botanique, Montpellier, France
8Hydrosciences, IRD, Lima, Peru
Received: 30 Jan 2009 – Published in Clim. Past Discuss.: 04 Mar 2009 Abstract. The rapid expansion of the Inca from the Cuzco area of highland Peru (ca.
AD 1400–1532) produced the largest empire in the New World. Although this
meteoric growth may in part be due to the adoption of innovative societal
strategies, supported by a large labour force and a standing army, we argue
that it would not have been possible without increased crop productivity,
which was linked to more favourable climatic conditions. Here we present a
multi-proxy, high-resolution 1200-year lake sediment record from Marcacocha,
located 12 km north of Ollantaytambo, in the heartland of the Inca Empire.
This record reveals a period of sustained aridity that began from AD 880,
followed by increased warming from AD 1100 that lasted beyond the arrival of
the Spanish in AD 1532. These increasingly warmer conditions would have
allowed the Inca and their immediate predecessors the opportunity to exploit
higher altitudes (post-AD 1150) by constructing agricultural terraces that
employed glacial-fed irrigation, in combination with deliberate agroforestry
techniques. There may be some important lessons to be learnt today from
these strategies for sustainable rural development in the Andes in the light
of future climate uncertainty.
Revised: 07 Jul 2009 – Accepted: 11 Jul 2009 – Published: 22 Jul 2009
Citation: Chepstow-Lusty, A. J., Frogley, M. R., Bauer, B. S., Leng, M. J., Boessenkool, K. P., Carcaillet, C., Ali, A. A., and Gioda, A.: Putting the rise of the Inca Empire within a climatic and land management context, Clim. Past, 5, 375-388, doi:10.5194/cp-5-375-2009, 2009.