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Chronology of the Conquest "Exploring the Inca Heartland"
September 1, 1999


Atahuallpa's death




Captive Tupac

How did Pizarro, a 50-year-old illiterate ex-swineherd with a force of only 200, conquer a realm that stretched from southern Colombia to central Chile? Partly it was superior weapons and the horse. Partly it was the swift capture of Atahuallpa, which effectively beheaded the Inca decision-making hierarchy. Partly it was the empire's exhausted condition after a five-year-long civil war between the brothers Atahuallpa and Huascar. Partly it was the Indian allies of the Spanish. But over the long haul, in terms of taking and holding the region, the role of disease cannot be underestimated. It has been suggested that European diseases--smallpox, measles, mumps, influenza, and typhus--reduced the pre-conquest population of some 12 million people to about 670,000 within the span of a century.

 1528. Francisco Pizarro lands at Tumbes, southwest of Quito, his men report walls covered with gold and silver. Pizarro returns to Panama and then Spain, and asks the crown for help in conquering the region.

 1528. The Inca ruler Huayna Capac and his designated successor die of smallpox, which is spreading south from Panama, precipitating civil war between his sons Atahuallpa in Quito and Huascar in Cusco.

  January, 1531. Pizarro sets out from Panama with his invasion force, 200 horsemen and foot soldiers, and arrives at Tumbes by April 1532.

 1532. End of five-year civil war with capture of Huascar, who is later executed on Atahuallpa's order.

  November 16, 1532. Pizarro entraps Atahuallpa at Cajamarca.

  July 26, 1533. Atahuallpa garroted on Pizarro's order.

  May 3, 1534. Manco, a younger son of Huayna and at first a puppet of the Spanish, rebels and after a three-year struggle retreats to jungle sanctuary of Vilcabamba in 1537.

  1544. Manco killed by Spanish outcasts hoping to redeem themselves with the crown by his murder.

  1561. Sayri Tupac, son of Manco, negotiates with Spanish and in return for recognition and limited estates returns to Cusco.

 1571. Titu Cusi, son of Manco, dies.

 1572. Capture of Tupac Amaru, son of Manco, and his execution in Cusco.


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© 1999 by the Archaeological Institute of America