Inca Agriculture

        What we have learned and use from ancient civilizations? If they helped to create our foods, we should use some of their same farming practices right? According to the article by Cynthia Graber, the Inca were able to use the Andes Mountains (Figure 1) to get more water through canals. (Graber 2011) She also says, the Inca cultivated many variations of the vegetables we use today, such as, potatoes, quinoa, and maize. (Graber 2011) Was this because of their climate? The structured agriculture?

Figure 1

Inca Empire Image Credit: Kylie Blangley

           The Inca Empire have left a lot for archaeologists to explore and even experiment with. (Figure 2 Moray Ruins 2018) Kaushik’s article says, the Incas were truly ahead of their times. According to Archaeologists, these huge stone depressions are in the land, to cultivate the different crops. (Kaushik 2013)  Kaushik describes, in the article, about how these circular terraces are so well designed, no matter how much it rains, these beds never flood. They drain perfectly. (Kaushik 2013)

Figure 2

Circular Terraces in Peru
Image Credit: Savage McKay April 14, 2012


         Looking at these vast circular terraces and learning that they had more than three crops to cultivate. The Incas were true genius’ to create such a landscape. According to Carolyn, the land wouldn’t get as much sunlight and there could be a 27* difference from the bottom to the top. (Graber 2011) The Inca lived in South America, (Figure 1) which means there wouldn’t be a very long growing season. The more crops the Inca could  grow at a time, the better. Many archaeologists decided to explore more about the Incas agricultural process, especially the water systems.

           “Over the years, Kendall learned how the Inca builders employed stones of different heights, widths and angles to create the best structures and water retention and drainage systems, and how they filled the terraces with dirt, gravel and sand.” (Graber 2011) Kendall speaks about terracing and how people in Mountainous regions will practice these methods in order to conserve water.  (Graber 2011) In this article, Kendall goes on to discuss how after the canals were irrigated, they were found six months later damp. This shows how sophisticated the canals were. (Graber 2011)

           Now the question is, what can we change about our own farming methods?  According to Carolyn’s article, Archaeologists have found many of the canal systems and the people who live there are helping to restore this old way of gathering and collecting water. (Graber 2011) Maybe once this process is restored, it can make its way to other farms all over the world. This method could help us cut down on our own water waste around the world! Also if we remember how our food was originally created, we wouldn’t feel the need to genetically modify it all the time. 

              In the Carolyn’s article, Archaeologists have also found some of the stone in the canals to be older than Inca times. (Graber 2011) The Incas used what was already on the land and mastered it. Proving to be one of the most sustainable civilizations on the planet. 



Further Reading



Learn about the food they cultivated for us: Inca Food and Agriculture–agriculture/

How the climate affected the Inca?:

Hotter Weather Fed Growth of Incan Empire



References Cited



Graber, Cynthia

2011 Graber, Cynthia. Farming Like the Incas. Accessed September 6, 2011


2013 Kaushik. The Mysterious Moray Agricultural Terraces of the Incas. Electronic Document. Accessed March 4, 2013

Moray Ruins

2018 Moray Ruins. The Only Peru Guide. Electronic Document. accessed 2018

National Science Foundation

2005 National Science Foundation. News Release 05-088. Electronic Document. Accessed May 27, 2005.


Images Cited



Blangley, Kylie

2018 Blangley, Kylie. Inca Empire. Electronic Document, Accessed 2018.


McKay, Savage

2012 McKay, Savage. Peru – Cusco Sacred Valley & Incan Ruins 045 Moray. Flickr. Accessed April 14, 2012.

Corn, Cultivation and Native Americans

Have you ever heard of “Indian Corn”? All corn is “Indian Corn”. The Native Americans discovered a way to make the corn they had more edible and bountiful, to feed a vast majority economically. Corn started out as a black big, almost pointy and hard kernels called Teosinte. (NativeTech)

This is the Teosinte plant and what Corn looks like now.

Photo Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation

According to the National Science Foundation, in 2005, a scientist in California, Brandon Gaut, helped to make this process more visible by recreating it. He did exactly what the Native Americans did around 10,000 years ago. The scientists took a Teosinte plant, which was only 2-3 inches long and produced about 5 to 12 kernels, which were very hard and mostly for animals to eat. When early botanist found this plant, the scientists quickly dismissed how it could be related to modern corn. Especially when our modern corn is about 12 inches long, and 500 or more kernels. (National Science Foundation, 2005)

Here is a chart of the corn broken down to show the differences. The picture has a chart at the bottom that describes it in scientific terms. The first photo is what we know Maize (corn) to be today. The picture (B) is the grass seed Teosinte ear that has the rachis internode (in) and glume (gl) labelled. The picture ( C) is one of the first cultivations of maize and teosinte. The picture (d) is the actual closeup of the teosinte fruitcase. The picture (e) is a closeup of the cultivation between the maize and the teosinte. The next three pictures at the bottom of the chart (f,g,h), show us what the tesonite glumes and internodes look like in the corn after all the cultivations.

Wang, H.H., Nussbaum-Wagler, T., Li, B., Zhao, Q., Vigouroux, Y., Faller, M., Bomblies, K., Lukens, L., & Doebley, J. (2005). The origin of the naked grains of maize. Nature, 436, 714-719.

Although scientists cannot say how long this cultivation process took. There is some archaeological evidence about how the corn plant completely lost its genetic diversity, which would mean a domestication event. The scientists from the National Science Foundation, believe that it took around 3,500 teosinte plants to create the modern corn.  They figured out from this experiment that it took about 1,000 genes from the Teosinte plant to create the corn. (National Science Foundation, 2005)  During this cultivation process, corn lost its survival ability in the wild.

The cultivation process softened the kernel up and infused it into the cob more. The new corn gained larger ears with more rows of soft kernels. (NativeTech) There is some archaeology that shows this cultivation happened about 6,000 years ago. Archaeology has shown that Argiculture is around 9,000 – 10,000 years old. Archaeologists have found the domestication event of corn to be between 6,000 and 10,000 years old in central Mexico. (NativeTech)

Corn found in Storage Pit

Image Credit:
Wendy and Michael Scullin
UI-OSA Photo Archives

Native Americans made over 250 different kinds of corn, all different colors. (Hilarie, Larry, 1)Maybe these different kinds of corn are just what happened during different cultivations? Did the Natives like them enough to eat? 

Further Reading

Follow the “Three Sisters Method” for planting

WOW! You can eat the colored “Indian Corn”

“Indian Corn and edible?”