The Great Inka Road, an engineering marvel, 24,000 miles long and passing through 6 Latin American countries, is the focus of a new two-year exhibit that opened this week at the Smithsonian's Museum of the American Indian in Washington.
The Inkas (the Smithsonian wants us to change our spelling from Inca) ruled the area from the 14th century until Spaniards arrived in the 16th. The road system, lengthened because it climbs up and around mountains, served to connect their realm to its capital and allow trade along the way—even though the Inkas had no wheels, no draft animals, and did not use iron.
Most of the system is in the Andes mountains, but includes coastal desert and high plateaus as well, with great biodiversity and unique—and in some case, endangered—ecosystems. While the 500-year-old road no longer serves as primary long-haul transportation, it is still important to the contemporary descendants of the Inkas. Several million still speak the native Quechua and Aymara languages.
The exhibit is the museum's first major bilingual exhibition on the area. For more information from the Smithsonian, click HERE For more information on visiting the museum and the exhibition, click HERE
Photo: Doug McMains / National Museum of the American Indian