A journey to the sacred mountains of the Incas - Seminar with the Welcome Centre


The Department of Languages FEM and Welcome Centre invited Renata Collard to the CZU Prague to have a lecture in English about the sacred mountains of the Incas on Wednesday, 29.3.2023. All international researchers and students received an invitation to the event. 

Renata Collard, a Czech scientist and mountain climber currently living in the USA, travelled to Peru in October 2022, following the path of the Incas with views of Salcantay and Ausungate in the Andes near Cuzco. She followed the footsteps of the National Geographic expedition in 1999 to the 6,000-meter Chachani and Ampato mountains.

The Inca empire was enormous. In 1470-1532 it covered the land from the north to the south, comprising parts of Ecuador, Peru, western Bolivia, northern Chile and Argentina. The Incas were warriors who conquered a vast territory. There was a great variety of landscapes; they had tropical forests and deserts and the Andes and the ocean coast. The centre of their empire was Cuzco, all pilgrimages to sacred mountains started from there. The empire was intertwined with the Inca trails – one along the coast, one along the mountain ranges (altiplano) and they were all connected. Although the Inca Empire was conquered by the Spanish in 1572, their language, Quechua, is still used by local Peruvians.

In the beginning of her lecture, Renata explained the basics of the Inca culture, their beliefs, rituals on the mountain summits of the Andes (over 5000 m) and customs to worship, especially the God of the Sun, but also water and the mountains. She spoke about salt mines, tropical plants, about colouring of textiles with red “cochinilla” (woodlouse) and agriculture on the terraced gardens in high altitudes where the Incas grew potatoes, corn and quinoa.

She visited Machu Picchu and was impressed by this magical place. The structures of houses in Machu Picchu were built in such a way that they would survive an earthquake. The Incas were great architects and new different successful building techniques. That is why their structures have been preserved till nowadays.

Adaptation to high altitudes is not easy even now. We can admire how the Incas managed to climb mountains over 6000 m high with only woollen clothes and in leather sandals/moccasins. Not only did they walk many kilometres, but they also had to adapt to the altitude (not enough oxygen), survive in the cold, and carry provision, water, wood, or dry plants for making fire. They used llamas to help them.

In the second half of the lecture, Renata spoke about Johan Reinhard, an American archaeologist and mountain climber, who found in 1995 the first sacrificed human body near the summit of Mount Ampato. The first mummy found was named Juanita (Johan – Juan – Juana - Juanita) to honour him. The Incas sacrificed children from noble families to satisfy their Gods when a volcano erupted, there was no rain and prolonged drought, or when somebody from the ruler dynasty got ill or died. It may be surprising that they sacrificed children or young people. That means their future. They even had special convents where chosen young girls were educated and prepared to be sacrificed. They were usually from noble families and were beautiful, perfect, and the best of all, as the Gods deserved to get the best.

Together with the mummies, some small objects and statues were found – usually made of gold (symbol of the Sun), silver (symbol of the Moon) and specific sea shells (symbol of the ocean). The sacrificed person was accompanied by dried food, clothes, shoes and ceramics for their afterlife. Before their death, the Incas used to give the sacrificed children coca leaves and the alcoholic drink „chicha“, and the cold did the rest. They did not kill them with weapons.

A re-enactment of the Inca processions along the Inca trail (about 5,000 km long) is taking place nowadays, and volunteers can participate. They should be prepared to wear traditional Inca costumes and shoes and walk many kilometres on the Inca trail.

Renata showed many mountain photos of the Andes, from the life of local people, their agriculture, plants and crops of the Incas. In the end, there were a couple of questions for her from the audience. Everybody wished her success in her next expedition to the Andes in Argentina.

It may be a coincidence, but a day later, a photo exhibition about the Inca Trail (El Gran Camino Inca) opened at the Instituto Cervantes in Prague. The exhibition is free of charge (30.3.-27.4.2023) and is open from Monday to Friday (10-19). Everybody is welcome to see it.

 Author: Drebitková Malá Alena

Další články v rubrice

English ☰ Menu

We use cookies on the web presentations of the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (under the czu.cz domain). These files give us ways to serve our services better and help us analyze site performance. We can share information about how you use our sites with our social media, advertising, and analytics partners. In the settings, you can choose which cookies we can use. You can change or revoke your consent at any time.