Five Lessons from the Incas That Remain Relevant Today

lessons from the Incas
Master Healers of Chinchero village from a past journey to Peru. All rights reserved.

The Inca civilization is often celebrated for its impressive architecture, intricate road network, and massive empire. However, beyond these remarkable achievements, the Incas also offer us valuable lessons that remain relevant today. From their sustainable agriculture practices to their emphasis on community, the Incas had a unique perspective on how to create a thriving society. In this blog post, we’ll explore five lessons from the Incas that we can apply to our modern lives, including the role of traditional medicine and the significance of their architecture. By examining these lessons, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the wisdom of this ancient civilization and learn how to incorporate their insights into our own lives and communities.

The Incas’ Sustainable Agricultural Practices

The Incas were able to sustain their large empire and feed their population through innovative and sustainable agricultural practices. One of the most notable of these practices was terraced farming, which allowed them to grow crops on steep slopes and mountainsides. By constructing terraces on the sides of hills, they were able to create flat surfaces where crops could be planted. These terraces also helped to prevent soil erosion and retain moisture, which was critical for agriculture in the Andean region. The Incas also used irrigation systems to transport water from rivers and streams to their fields, allowing them to cultivate crops in areas with little rainfall.

Crop rotation was another key strategy employed by the Incas. By rotating crops between different fields each year, they were able to maintain soil fertility and prevent nutrient depletion. This practice also helped to control pests and diseases, as different crops attract different pests and diseases, and rotating crops reduces the likelihood of these problems becoming established. The Incas also used a form of natural fertilization by using guano, or bird droppings, to enrich the soil. 

Today, the Incas’ agricultural practices offer valuable lessons for creating resilient and sustainable food systems. With climate change and other environmental challenges affecting agriculture worldwide, the Incas’ approach to terraced farming, crop rotation, and natural fertilization can help us to adapt to changing conditions while minimizing environmental impact. 

Lessons From the Incas on Community Building

Pilgrims on a past journey to Peru. All rights reserved.

The Inca civilization was built on a foundation of community and interdependence. The ayllu system, or extended family groups, played a central role in organizing society and managing resources. Each ayllu was responsible for a specific area of land and worked collectively to build infrastructure, cultivate crops, and provide social support to its members. This approach to community building helped to create a sense of shared responsibility and interdependence among the Inca people.

The Incas also placed great importance on social harmony and conflict resolution. They used a system of mediation known as Tinkuy to resolve disputes between individuals and communities. This involved bringing together representatives from each side to discuss the issue and find a mutually agreeable solution. This approach prioritized dialogue and understanding over punishment and conflict, helping to build trust and cooperation among community members.

In a world where social isolation and disconnection are becoming more prevalent, the Incas’ emphasis on human connections and collective well-being can inspire us to prioritize community building and social support. This can include initiatives such as community gardens, neighbourhood associations, and mutual aid networks that help to build trust, cooperation, and social resilience.

Inca Architecture and its Influence on Modern Design

The Incas were renowned for their impressive architectural achievements, including Machu Picchu, the Temple of the Sun, and the massive road system that connected their vast empire. What is perhaps most remarkable about their architecture, however, is its combination of grandeur and functionality. The Incas used advanced engineering techniques to build structures that withstood not only natural disasters such as earthquakes but also served practical purposes such as providing shelter, storing food, and regulating temperature.

By prioritizing local materials and environmental conditions, we can create buildings and structures that are both functional and environmentally responsible. In addition, by incorporating advanced engineering techniques and technologies, we can build infrastructure that is capable of withstanding natural disasters and other challenges, such as climate change.

The Role of Traditional Medicine

The Incas were skilled practitioners of herbal medicine and had a deep understanding of the healing properties of plants. They used a wide range of herbs, roots, and other natural substances to treat a variety of physical and mental ailments, such as fever, headache, and anxiety. Their medicine was based on a holistic approach that recognized the interconnectedness of physical health, emotional well-being, and spiritual balance. The Incas believed that healing should involve not only the body but also the mind and spirit, and they integrated spiritual practices into their medicinal treatments.

The Incas’ approach to medicine is particularly relevant today, as there is growing interest in natural and holistic medicine as an alternative to conventional Western medicine. The Incas’ use of plant-based remedies and emphasis on holistic healing can provide valuable insights into how to promote health and well-being in a more integrated and sustainable way. By incorporating natural remedies and practices that support physical, mental, and spiritual health, we can create a more comprehensive approach to healthcare that addresses the needs of the whole person.

Inca Religious Syncretism

In today’s world, where globalization and cultural exchange are increasingly common, the Incas’ approach to religious syncretism can offer valuable lessons on how to navigate cultural differences and find common ground. By embracing diversity and finding ways to bridge cultural divides, we can create a more inclusive and tolerant society. Just as the Incas were able to blend their own traditions with those of the Spanish conquerors, we can learn to appreciate and celebrate the richness of different cultural traditions while also finding ways to create a shared cultural identity.

Lessons from Incas
Ceremony with Puma on a past journey to Peru. All rights reserved.

The Incas left behind a legacy of innovation, sustainability, community, and cultural adaptability that continues to inspire and inform us today. Their remarkable achievements in agriculture, architecture, medicine, and religious syncretism offer valuable lessons in how to create a more sustainable, resilient, and interconnected world. By drawing on their wisdom and experience, we can learn to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time, from climate change to social isolation to cultural conflict. By embracing the Incas’ vision of a more harmonious and integrated world, we can work towards a brighter and more equitable future for all.

Join us to learn more about these important lessons from this ancient civilization in late September for our journey: Heart of the Pachamama with Puma Quispe Singona.