The Inca empire (1500 AD) was possibly the most organized civilization in South America. Their economic system, distribution of wealth, artistic manifestations and architecture impressed the first of the Spanish chroniclers.
The Incas worshipped the earth goddess Pachamama and the sun god, the Inti. The Inca sovereign, lord of the Tahuantinsuyo, the Inca empire, was held to be sacred and to be the descendant of the sun god. Thus, the legend of the origin of the Incas tells how the sun god sent his children Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo (and in another version the four Ayar brothers and their wives) to found Cuzco, the sacred city and capital of the Inca empire.
The rapid expansion of the Inca empire stemmed from their extraordinary organizational skills. Communities were grouped, both as families and territorially, around the ayllu, their corner of the empire, and even if villagers had to move away for work reasons, they did not lose their bond to the ayllu. The Inca moved around large populations, either as a reward or punishment, and thus consolidated the expansion while drawing heavily from the knowledge of the cultures that had flourished prior to the Incas.
The Inca's clan was the panaca, made up of relatives and descendants, except for the one who was the Inca's successor, who would then form his own panaca. Sixteenth-century Spanish chroniclers recorded a dynasty of 13 rulers, running from the legendary Manco Capac down to the controversial Atahualpa, who was to suffer death at the hands of the Spanish conquerors.
The Tahuantinsuyo expanded to cover part of what is modern-day Colombia to the north, Chile and Argentina to the south and all of Ecuador and Bolivia.
The members of the panaca clans were Inca nobles, headed by the Inca sovereign. The power of the clans and the Inca was tangible in every corner of the empire, but the might of the Incas reached its peak in the architecture of Cuzco: the Koricancha or Temple of the Sun, the fortresses of Ollantaytambo and Sacsayhuaman, and above all the citadel of Machu Picchu.