Heart of the Inca Empire

Production Date: 
Wendell C. Bennett
Run Time: 
Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs

Establishing shot: Starts in the middle of a shot of Mochica and Nazca highlighted on a topographic map.  First live-action shot is a long shot of Machu Picchu peak in clouds.  Tilts down to Machu Picchu city settlement.


Named locations: Machu Picchu (1:26 and throughout); Urubamba River (1:21); Ollantaytambo (6:52); Colcampata (9:16); Cusco (11:30, 13:00 - end); Saksaywaman (Saqsaywaman) (11:32); Calle Loreto, Cusco (13:45); Santo Domingo Convent (15:21); Inticancha (Koricancha) (15:27).
Major themes covered: explores Inca history and society while visiting the ancient ruins of Cuzco and Machu Pichu. Focuses discussion of Inca way of life around Machu Picchu.  Provides thorough explanation of Inca society, culture, and history, including politics, social hierarchy, division of labor, architecture, engineering, agriculture, quipu message and accounting system, and other things.  Latter half presents Cusco and discusses Inca architecture in Cusco at length.

Native activities shown:  Unidentified indigenous (presumably Quechua) peoples’ activities depicted in the film: woman standing beside Machu Picchu structures looking into camera (4:30); women herding mules up a hill (6:31); man herding llamas (6:41); man walking up stone stairs projecting out of Machu Picchu masonry (7:40); man tilling field with plow and oxen (7:49); man spreading seeds among field (7:52); man pouring and another man drinking something, presumably chicha or some other ceremonial drink, from zig-zag grooves carved in rock (8:15); woman standing in front of large stone (presumably for scale) at Saksaywaman (12:01); man playing a quena (12:38); child sliding down natural stone slides near Saksaywaman (18:19); group of indigenous people walking through Cusco plaza (19:28).

Inca activities implied or alluded to in the film: building houses on ridge for protection and for agricultural practices (1:54); Inca masonry (3:55); Inca construction and architecture practices (4:35); Inca record-keeping and organization of labor (5:12); record-keeping and accounting using quipus (5:30); use of sundials (5:45); construction of roads (6:31); dividing crop/harvest evenly between government, official religion, and people (7:00); terrace agriculture (7:23); use of chicha in religious ceremonies (8:05); use of amphitheater (8:44); function of fortresses (10:12); Inca conquest of neighboring peoples (10:15); cutting drains into masonry at Saksaywaman (12:31); building/keeping cloister of chosen women and textile weavers (14:03); decorating Templo del Sol at Inticancha with gold and silver (16:15).

Individuals Named: None
Native language spoken: None
Print Resources:

Bingham, Hiram. Machu Picchu, a Citadel of the Incas. New York: Hacker Art Books, 1979.

      *Hiram Bingham’s original report on the discovery and excavation of Machu Picchu.  Includes findings and details of 1911, 1912, and 1915 expeditions and excavations.

Burger, Richard L, and Lucy C. Salazar. Machu Picchu: Unveiling the Mystery of the Incas. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.

      *More recent and oft-cited collection of studies of Machu Picchu.  Includes chapters on Bingham’s discovery of Machu Picchu, the significance of Machu Picchu as an Inca royal estate, and the contemporary issues revolving around Machu Picchu.

Fenninger, Tomas.  “The Extraordinary Striated Outcrop at Saqsaywaman, Peru." Geography Society of America Bulletin.  89.4 (1978): 494-503.   

      *Provides a geologist’s perspective on the unique andesite rocks used in construction of Saqsaywaman.

Harvey, Katherine, and Valencia A. Harvey. Saqsaywaman. Cusco: Centro Cósmico Andino, 2000.

      *Spanish-language book discusses religious and cosmic significance of Saqsaywaman.

Malpass, Michael A. Daily Life in the Inca Empire. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1996. 

      *Provides broad overview of ancient Inca way of life.  According to Handbook of Latin American Studies review, Malpass “Looks at everyday life in the Inca empire, based on current research. Reconstructs Inca way of life using information on life-cycle events, food and drink, dress and ornaments, recreation, religious rituals, the calendar, and the labor tax.”

Niles, Susan A. The Shape of Inca History: Narrative and Architecture in an Andean Empire. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1999.

     *Explores connection between history/historical narrative and architecture in Inca society, with special emphasis on time of Huayna Capac’s reign.  From the book jacket: “Susan Niles considers the ways in which the Inca concept of history informed their narratives, rituals, and architecture. Using sixteenth-century chronicles of Inca culture, legal documents from the first generation of conquest, and field investigation of architectural remains, she strategically explores the interplay of oral and written histories with the architectural record and provides a new and exciting understanding of the lives of the royal families on the eve of conquest.”

Wright, Kenneth R, and Zegarra A. Valencia. Machu Picchu: A Civil Engineering Marvel. Reston, VA: American Society of Civil Engineers, 2000.

     *Thorough exploration of various engineering aspects of Machu Picchu.  Includes chapters on hydraulic engineering, irrigation, construction of stone walls, and others.  Concludes with a civil engineering tour of Machu Picchu.

Online Resources:

Encyclopedia Britannica entry for “Inca:”


Provides broad overview of Inca history, language, social structure, engineering practices and religious beliefs.  Includes a wide variety of links to other informative Britannica pages on Inca art, architecture, history, and language.

National Geographic “Inca Empire” site:


Interactive website hosts article on current archaeological and academic efforts to more fully understand the ancient Incas. Discusses Inca history and civilization.  Links to a variety of pages on Inca architecture and organization, Hiram Bingham’s excavation expedition, and more. 

British Museum page on Incas:


Short article gives broad overview of Inca life, economics, politics, and religion.  Includes snippet on Inticancha (Coricancha) and links to Inca artifacts housed at the museum.

UNESCO World Heritage Site page on Machu Picchu:


Multimedia page presents information on the history and cultural significance of Machu Picchu among the Incas.  Also includes variety of links to other informative pages.

Map of Machu Picchu:


Drawn map locates sites of funerary and religious rituals.

UNESCO World Heritage Site “City of Cuzco” page:


Multimedia page includes a wide variety of cultural and historical information about Cuzco, Peru.  Discusses historical and architectural encounters between Inca and Spanish peoples as they are manifested in the city of Cuzco.

Official Municipality of Cuzco government website:


Spanish-language site features current events and news items for Cuzco.

University of Pennsylvania page on Chicha:


Includes discussion of ceremonial significance of the beer-like Inca beverage.

--Adam Iddings, 2013