The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire at National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. June 26, 2015–June 1, 2018. Because the Inka Empire was one of the greatest civilizations in human history, and one of its crowning achievements was the Qhapaq Ñan – the Great Inka road.
One of the most monumental engineering achievements the world has ever seen, the Qhapaq Ñan was a network of hand-built roads, bridges, and “inns” called tampus that crossed over 20,000 miles of mountains, tropical lowlands, rivers, and deserts. At the height of Inka power, the Qhapaq Ñan linked Cusco in Peru, the center of the Inka world, to the farthest reaches of its vast empire.
The Great Inka Road is a critical part of our history as Americans – one that continues to shape our world today.And it is a story that needs to be told.
That is why the National Museum of the American Indian created our stunning new exhibition, The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire, which opened in June to rave reviews. Running through June 1, 2018, The Great Inka Road is a fascinating journey through the cultures and technologies that produced the Qhapaq Ñan.
Much of the Qhapaq Ñan was destroyed after the Inka Empire fell to Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s. But parts of the road, including the Q’eswachaka bridge, are still traveled by Native peoples in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile – physically and spiritually linking Andean communities to their past.
The Q’eswachaka bridge over the Apurimac River Canyon in Peru has been in use for 500 years. It is the last surviving suspension bridge built with traditional Inka techniques. Every June, villagers on both sides of the canyon rebuild the bridge by weaving thick cables from a grass called q’oya, which they anchor to stone abutments. When the two communities meet in the center, 13,000 feet above the river, and complete the bridge, they celebrate with three days of rituals, music, dancing, and feasting.
Through exhibitions like The Great Inka Road, the National Museum of the American Indian is presenting and preserving the truth about Native peoples, past and present. By highlighting epic achievements like the Qhapaq Ñan, we are sweeping away inaccurate and harmful caricatures and stereotypes of American Indians.
Video: The Bridge at Q’eswachaka.