The Inca Empire was the last chapter of thousands of years of Andean civilizations. The Andean civilization is one of five civilizations in the world deemed by scholars to be “pristine”, that is indigenous and not derivative from other civilizations.
The Inca Empire was preceded by two large-scale empires in the Andes: the Tiwanaku (c. 300–1100 AD), based around Lake Titicaca and the Wari or Huari (c. 600–1100 AD) centered near the city of Ayacucho. The Wari occupied the Cuzco area for about 400 years. Thus, many of the characteristics of the Inca Empire derived from earlier multi-ethnic and expansive Andean cultures. To those earlier civilizations may be owed some of the accomplishments cited for the Inca Empire: “thousands of miles of roads and dozens of large administrative centers with elaborate stone construction…terraced mountainsides and filled in valleys,” and the production of “vast quantities of goods.”
Carl Troll has argued that the development of the Inca state in the central Andes was aided by conditions that allow for the elaboration of the staple food chuño. Chuño, which can be stored for long periods, is made of potato dried at the freezing temperatures that are common at nighttime in the southern Peruvian highlands. Such a link between the Inca state and chuño may be questioned, as other crops such as maize can also be dried with only sunlight. Troll also argued that llamas, the Inca’s pack animal, can be found in its largest numbers in this very same region. The maximum extent of the Inca Empire roughly coincided with the distribution of llamas and alpacas, the only large domesticated animals in Pre-Hispanic America. As a third point Troll pointed out irrigation technology as advantageous to the Inca state-building. While Troll theorized environmental influences on the Inca Empire, he opposed environmental determinism, arguing that culture lay at the core of the Inca civilization.