How was education in Inca times?

The Incas did have an educational system, although different from the one currently conceived. Inca education consisted of preparing men and women of the Inca people for specific tasks. Only the Inca elite had access to various subjects such as religion, astronomy, language, and military instruction. Learn more about education in Inca times!

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How was the Inca education?

Education in the Inca era was intended for the elite because they were in charge of governing and for this they required certain knowledge in matters such as: religion, astronomy, language and military instruction.

The education of the Inca elite was carried out by teachers or wise men, the so-called ‘amautas’. The teaching sites were the Yachayhuasi in the case of men and the Acllahuasi in the case of women.

The people in the Inca era, which was the vast majority of people, received a practical education in daily tasks necessary to survive such as: agricultural work, livestock activities, instruction for the construction of simple houses, mining and basic military training.

Popular education was transmitted from parents to children in the same home.

Educación inca
La educación era destinada a la élite inca.

Education in the Inca elite

The Inca nobility was educated for government work.

The young people went to the Yachayhuasi (house of knowledge), an institution that was established by the Inca ruler Roca in the city of Cusco.

The young women went to the Acllahuasi (house of the chosen) who were educated to be priestesses of the sun.

The young people were educated in subjects such as language (Quechua), religion, the interpretation of the quipus (string-based communication system), philosophy, astronomy, medicine and, very important for the election of the Inca ruler, military instruction.

The preparation of the Inca elite was intense. At the end of their studies, around the age of fifteen or sixteen, the young people were subjected to the Huarachico ceremony, where they demonstrated their physical skills that made them fit to govern.

After the education of the young Inca elite, they were prepared to become rulers, amautas, military chiefs, priests or the Inca emperor himself.

Women, on the other hand, after their education in the Acllahuasi, were destined to be priestesses for the cult of the sun, those in charge of attending to the clothing of the Inca emperor or being the wives of the nobles.

Education in the Inca people

The common Inca population, which was the vast majority of the settlers, had a practical education that served them for their daily tasks in favor of their family, community and the Inca state.

These tasks were intended for agriculture, livestock, housing construction, clothing manufacturing, mining and warfare.

In addition, the settlers learned activities related to ceramics, goldsmithing, textiles and other arts.

In any case, these activities were taught by the fathers and mothers of the boys and girls of the incanato. These activities were taught in the same home in the daily activities.

In the incanato all the people had to fulfill a work in the community and in favor of the Inca State. The organization of the empire was based on labor.

Educación inca
El pueblo inca aprendía labores prácticas en el hogar.

The education of the Inca women

Inca education was classist. The nobility received a well-organized education for government tasks. On the other hand, the common population received a practical education aimed at agricultural and livestock work mainly.

The women of the Inca nobility, for their part, received a discriminatory education, destined to make clothes, to worship the gods (the so-called Virgins of the Sun) and to become wives of the Inca nobles.

The women of the common population were educated by their mothers in the daily tasks of weaving and spinning garments, raising domestic animals and taking care of the home.

That is to say, the role of women in the incantation was considered below the role of men. Even the Inca emperor was allowed to have several wives and concubiness.

Religión inca
Las más bellas mujeres de la élite inca eran recluidas en los acllahuasi.

Questions and answers about Inca education

  • 1) What was the education of the Incas like in summary?

    The Incas had a class education for the elite for government tasks. The common population received a practical education in their homes by their parents.


    2) What subjects were learned in Inca times?

    The Inca elite learned subjects necessary for government tasks such as: religion, astronomy, medicine, language, and military instruction. The common population learned in a practical way: agriculture, cattle raising, housing construction, clothing manufacturing, mining and warfare.


    3) Who were the teachers in Inca times?

    The amautas were the sages who imparted (some chronicles indicate that they recited) their knowledge of language, history, astronomy, medicine and religion to the young men belonging to the Inca elite.


    4) Did women receive education in Inca times?

    No. Women did not receive a proper education, as did the young men of the Inca elite. The most beautiful elite women of the empire were confined in the acllahuasi where they became priestesses of the sun. The women of the Inca people simply learned the daily tasks taught by their mothers: weaving, cooking, raising animals, etc.


    5) What education did the Inca people receive?

    The Inca people received a practical education aimed at the necessary jobs for their family, their community and for the Inca state. Men mainly learned agricultural and livestock work. Women, tasks of making garments and the maintenance of the home.


    6) What language was taught in Inca times?

    In Inca times the official language was Quechua. This language was taught in the yachayhuasi or houses of knowledge. However, it is presumed that puquina, the original language of the first Incas who came from the highlands, was also taught.


    7) Where was it taught in Inca times?

    The young people of the Inca elite received a careful education in the yachayhuasi or houses of knowledge. Here the future rulers, generals and priests of the empire were prepared.


    8) What was the acllahuasi in Inca times?

    The acllas were the women of the Inca elite chosen for their beauty who were confined in the acllahuasi or ‘house of the chosen ones’. At the end of their confinement they were destined to make clothes for the rulers, to worship the gods (the so-called Virgins of the Sun) or to become wives of the noble Incas.


    9) What was the huarachico ceremony in Inca times?

    The huarachico ceremony was a virile initiation ritual for the young men of the Inca elite who received their education in the yachayhuasi. The ceremony consisted of physical tests to demonstrate their abilities in the military field. In the end, if they approved the ritual, they received gold discs in their ears (the lobe was dilated). For this reason they were also called ‘orejones’.


    10) What education did the Inca emperor receive?

    All future Inca emperors had to receive a careful education in the yachayhuasi. They also had to demonstrate great military skill in the huarachico ceremony. Finally they had to receive the approval of their father, the Inca emperor to assume the position of being the new ruler of the empiree del imperio.

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