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|One of the most imposing architectonic complexes inherited from the
Inkan Society is precisely Saqsaywaman, which because of several of its
qualities is considered as one of the best monuments that mankind built
on the earth's surface. When the Spanish conquerors arrived first to
these lands; they could not explain themselves how Peruvian "Indians" (ignorant,
wild, without any ability of logical reasoning, one more animal species
according to conquerors) could have built such a greatness. Their
religious fanaticism led them to believe that all that was simply work
of demons or malign spirits. Still today, many people believe in the
inability of ancient Quechuas to create such a wonder, so they suggest
that they were made by beings of some other worlds, extraterrestrial
beings with superior technology that made all that possible. However,
our history and archaeology demonstrate that those objects of admiration
are an undeniable work of the Inkas, Quechuas, Andean people or however
pre-Hispanic inhabitants of this corner of the world would be named.
The original name of this site causes controversy existing many
interpretations. The form stated by tradition is Saqsaywaman (in the
native language accent is in "wa") that comes from the Quechua verb "saqsay"=
to satiate or to get satiated, and the noun "waman"= falcon; thence, in
a narrow sense as it is found with the imperative verb, it means "get
satiated falcon". Some others believe that the name is Saqsawaman that
is derived from "saqsa"= marbled, speckled, and "waman"= falcon; in the
Quechua language the noun goes after the adjective, thus, it would mean
"marbled falcon". Likewise, history demonstrates that Qosqo City had the
shape of a puma (cougar or mountain lion) which head was formed by this
complex. So, its name is perhaps a deformation of Saqsauma that comes
from "saqsa"= marbled, and "uma"= head; meaning like this "marbled head".
Its construction was began by the ninth Inka: Pachakuteq, that is, after
1438. In spite of the many criticisms he got, Garcilaso Inca de la Vega
(1539-1616) gives most of the information and better describes the
monument. Garcilaso was son of Isabel Chimpu Oqllo, a Quechua princess
who was first cousin of Inka Atawallpa, and the Spanish Captain Garcia
Lasso de la Vega, related to the Spanish nobility. Garcilaso wrote that
its construction lasted about 50 years until the Wayna Qhapaq's period;
so when Spaniards arrived it was completely finished and fully in use.
Pedro Cieza de Leon asserts that for its construction about 20 thousand
men were brought and that the different towns must have sent "necessary
supplies" for their sustenance. That was not a permanent crew, because
workers were replaced temporarily. In the Inkan Society there were no
slaves as in the Old World. Since money was not known over here, people
had to pay taxes to the Inkan Government as labor or as divers goods
such as food, clothing, weapons, etc.
Today, when reading books, brochures or some other written material
about this site; normally the name "Saqsaywaman Fortress" is found.
Chroniclers state that Saqsaywaman was built in order to put it ahead of
the city's Sun Temple, Cieza de Leon indicates that it was a " Royal
House of the Sun", Garcilaso says that it was a " ...Sun's House, of war
weapons, as well as it was a temple for prayers and sacrifices". Thus it
is evident, that Saqsaywaman had a preponderant religious duty, that is
why it was very well protected. Confusion starts in 1536 when Manko Inka
gave it a warlike duty in order to fight against the invaders that had
occupied the downtown area of the city. In this place Juan Pizarro (Francisco's
brother) received a blow with a stone that sent him to his grave; in the
Saqsaywaman siege also appeared a Quechua warrior whose name according
to tradition was Qawide or Kullas (an anonymous nobleman whose real name
does not matter) that defended with amazing bravery the Inkan position,
exalted even by Spanish chroniclers. Before all that, in 1535, in this
same spot Manko Inka or Manko II was secluded, humbled and ill-treated
when claiming to the Spanish conquerors restitution of his society.
The same Garcilaso wrote that in his childhood he used to visit and play
in this spot, that was a very complex and broad labyrinth because of the
existing amount of underground passages and doorways. He indicated that
it was necessary to have the help of a guide for its visit or the use of
a ball of yarn which tip was tied to the entrance; like this a person
could get out guided by the yarn. Originally there were three "walls" or
"bulwarks" which foundations are still seen today; they are the most
spectacular remains of that fabulous building that according to
chroniclers did not have any comparison in the old world. They are three
parallel walls built in different levels with limestones of enormous
sizes; zigzagging walls that because of their appearance it is suggested
that they represent the "teeth" of the puma's head that the complex
represented. The boulders used for the first or lower levels are the
biggest; there is one that is 8.5 mts. high (28 ft.) and weights about
140 metric tons. Those boulders classify the walls as being of cyclopean
or megalithic architecture. Some authors believe that the three walls
represent the three levels of the Andean Religious World: beginning from
the bottom would be the Ukju Pacha (underground stage), the Kay Pacha (earth's
surface stage) in the middle, and the Hanan Pacha (sky stage) on the top.
Besides; those levels are identified with their three sacred animals:
the Amaru or Mach'aqway (snake), the Puma (Cougar or Mountain Lion), and
the Kuntur (Andean condor). Because of the zigzagging shape of the walls,
some authors suggest that they represented the Illapa god (thunder,
lightning and thunderbolt). It is possible that all the previous
elements related to their religion would not be excluding, because there
are divine interactions, and as it is known "three" was a key number
What is left from the three walls is made with limestones that in this
case were used just in order to built the bases or foundations. The main
walls were made with andesites that are blackish igneous stones which
quarries are in Waqoto on the mountains north of San Jeronimo, or in
Rumiqolqa about 35 Kms. (22 miles) from the city. Limestones are found
in the surroundings of Saqsaywaman but they are softer and can not be
finely carved as the andesites of the main walls that were of the "Sedimentary
or Imperial Inkan" type. Destruction of Saqsaywaman lasted about 400
years; since 1536 when Manko Inka began the war against Spaniards and
sheltered himself in this complex. Later the first conquerors started
using its stones to built their houses in the city; subsequently the
city's Church Council ordered in 1559 to take the andesites for the
construction of the Cathedral. Even until 1930, Qosqo's neighbors just
paying a small fee could take the amount of stones they wanted in order
to build their houses in the city: four centuries of destruction using
this complex as a quarry by the colonial city's stone masons.
Garcilaso wrote that on the top of the three "walls" or "bulwarks" there
were three strong towers disposed in a triangle. The main tower was in
the middle and had a circular shape, it was named as Moyoc Marca (Muyuq
Marka), the second one was named as Paucar Marca, and the third Sacllar
Marca (Sallaq Marka); the last two ones were rectangular. Between 1933
and 1934 thanks to an authorization of the Peruvian Parliament in order
to commemorate the fourth century of the Spanish refoundation of Qosqo,
some works were done emphasizing on cleaning up and putting in service
deteriorated monuments. Those works were led by Luis E. Valcarcel, who
after having read Garcilaso's books dug on the top of the three walls,
and found the towers' foundations described by the Cusquenian Chronicler,
thus, it was demonstrated the truth of the document about the topic.
About the main tower or "Muyuq Marka"; today, there are three concentric
rings that were the foundations of its three stories or levels; its
original height is unknown but it must have been important because it
dominated the whole city. Even more, its walls were adorned with inlaid
elements of the regional flora and fauna, in natural size and made in
gold and silver. This tower's central portion was used as an abundant
water reservoir for supplying the complex; the water was harnessed from
springs in the higher part of the northern mountains where there are
also several reservoirs; and transported to the "Muyuq Marka" through an
underground channel made of carved stones coated with clay. Wet clay
made its interior surface impermeable setting it up as a real siphon.
Even today, the carved water channels are found in the surface of the
tower's foundations. More over, between the concentric rings there are
foundations of 12 small transversal walls that served in order to
protect the building from the enormous pressure of water stored up in
the middle; because of presence of those transversal foundations some
dreamers refer to the "Muyuq Marka" bases as "solar clock". The last
decades have also witnessed the apparition of several "prophets"
practicing a pseudo Andean Esotericism or Mysticism. They make believe
to unaware people that the axle of the circular bases is the special
spot where a person can get "recharged" with "positive energy", and
magnetic and spiritual power; and that it is a phonic space that
produces different echoes. Many authors suggest that those foundations
represent the "eye" of the "marbled head".
In front of the three walls is the plaza of " Chukipanpa" (Spears Plain),
that surely served in order to carry out different special open-field
ceremonies by the very exclusive and important persons dwelling here.
Although, it is argued that the complex could easily house about 5
thousand persons, this site must have been used only by very few persons.
In Inkan times the towns and cities were inhabited just by noble people
while common people lived in far away places and near their farmlands.
Inside the towns and cities there were Waqas (shrines) that were used
only by the Inka and priests. Thence, all temples or sanctuaries like
Saqsaywaman were very exclusive and very well protected, not because
they were fortresses but because of their religious duties. Since 1944
at the "Chukipanpa" plain, every June 24th the Inti Raymi (Sun Festivity)
is staged. That was the most important festivity in Inkan times; it was
originally performed at the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere,
that is, on June 21st (a broad information about this festivity is given
in the Inti Raymi chapter of this book). Also in the same "Chukipanpa"
or "spears plain" annually the Warachikuy festival was carried out;
Spaniards called it "party in order to arm gentlemen". It was something
like an "initiation" ceremony in which young men got their first Wara (breechcloth).
In order to get the "wara" the young men had to pass different athletic
tests and sham battles; after successfully passing all tests they got
their citizenship and ability for getting married and warring.
What is seen today in Saqsaywaman is not an isolated unit but part of a
broad complex comprised of several "Wakas", different civil buildings,
reservoirs, aqueducts and a considerable territory today known as "Saqsaywaman
Archaeological National Park". Towards the Chukipanpa's north there are
remains of terraces and diverse walls that were part of the complex. On
top of those semi-destroyed terraces is a "stock" protrusion, that is, a
natural diorite formation known as " Suchuna" ("sliding spot"; for some
people, that formation served as playing toboggans for kids). On its
upper side it has some finely carved steps known as the "Inka's Throne";
carvings that according to various authors have some relationship with
some key numbers and solar observations. Also in this spot there is a
wooden cross memorializing the arrival of Pope John Paul II, who said
mass right there in 1985. Further to the north, some remains of a
magnificent circular water reservoir were discovered a few years ago;
because of its quality that reservoir must had a religious duty.
According to some studies, in Inkan times there were many fountains,
reservoirs or water tanks used as mirrors during clear nights in order
to observe and study the stars and constellations. Possibly, the
reservoir found over there also had that duty. Towards the northeast of
the reservoir there is a karstic formation, an effect of the dissolution
of calcium carbonate contained in limestones, caused by water that also
drilled a tunnel known as small " Chinkana" ("spot to get lost"). That
passage shows areas that were modified or carved by Quechuas; it is
supposed to be a temple dedicated to the "Ukju Pacha" or "Underground
World" and the cult of snakes and corpses. Even further to the north is
the big "Chinkana" under a huge carved boulder that local people know as
the " tired stone" (according to tradition it never arrived to the spot
where it was supposed to serve), as many people argue it is a large "chinkana";
but today it is flooded and closed.
That is an archaeological group found towards the east of Saqsaywaman,
at an altitude of 3600 mts. (11800 ft.); over a protrusion of the
Yunkaypata limestone formation that was formed in the Cretaceous about
80 million years ago. Limestone is a sedimentary rock with marine
origins, found here because in prehistoric times the Qosqo Valley was a
huge lake named Morkill that on its eastern side went as far as
Angostura. The rock surface is very irregular and known as "karstic
landscape" that is formed due to the dissolution by water of calcium
carbonate concentrations contained in the rock.
The original name of that site is lost and the current one seems to have
been used since the XIX century. Q'enqo is a Quechua word that means "labyrinth",
"twisted" or "zigzag". This must be one of the 365 adoratories that
should have existed in the Qosqo Valley. Presides this site the "plaza"
or open space that many call "amphitheater" that served in order to
carry out different ceremonies in presence of their idols and mummies
that occupied the 19 trapezoidal niches that are partially destroyed
today. Those niches were high enough to let a person stand up inside,
this is why it is suggested that they also served to keep the Wayke of
noble people (wayke = brother); that is, human shaped idols in natural
sizes and made in precious metals that according to local belief
contained the spirits of the represented persons. In front of the niches
there is an enormous Sacred Rock that because of its location must have
had a special meaning; it has a base of well carved stones in which two
rows are missing. Scholars suggest that this rock was an impressive
sculpture having the shape of one of the Inkan Gods; perhaps that of a
feline or a snake. But, as it was a god for the Quechuas, it was totally
broken and deformed when Spaniards performed the sadly famous "
Idolatries Extirpation"; by which they destroyed everything opposing
Christianity and having any relationship with Inkan Religion. Some
audacious people do not hesitate arguing that this sculpture was a
Towards the plaza's northeast side, there are remains of one liturgical
fountain that contained abundant and good water. Unfortunately, today it
is dry and semi-demolished after that the water was channeled and taken
to the Cusqueña's brewery that boasts of producing beer "made with the
On the top of the rock protrusion there are many carved areas that
surely served as bases for some other buildings that were demolished.
There are many steps carved in the natural rock, remains of zoomorphic
sculptures specially those of a bird and a quadruped. There is also a
very interesting Phaqcha (fountain) consisting of a bowl on its upper
side and a zigzagging small channel that is branched into two in its
lower end. It is suggested that this device served in order to carry out
divination rituals: in the upper cup they probably poured liquids that
could be "Aqha" (maize beer), or perhaps blood of animals sacrificed
inside the semi-underground chamber; the liquid flowed through the
zigzagging channel and then followed through one of the two branches
that must had different or opposing meanings (perhaps positive and
negative). Thus, they could foretell diverse happenings; it seems that
the present-day name of the monument comes from this zigzagging channel.
Crowning the top of the limestone formation there are two carved
cylindrical uprights over an ovoid pedestal. They are known as the
Q'enqo's Intiwatana, that it's supposed was used as a solar observatory
along with some other elements. The Intiwatana was used in order to
measure the different variations of the sun, fix solstices and equinoxes,
calculate seasons, etc., with the aim of facilitating farming activities.
It is obvious that another of its duties was for worshipping the Sun God
and maybe some other astral bodies. It is surprising that two
transversal sides of those two uprights indicate exactly the magnetic
north, what is easily proved with a compass; something similar is
observed in Machupicchu, thence, it is probable that Quechuas also knew
directions because many coinciding elements are found. Today it is also
possible to read or listen to non serious stories telling that
originally those two uprights were used for performing sacrifices or
also for checking the virginity of girls (according to this they were
kept standing up over the carvings and forced to urinate, if they did it
right into the small carved groove that is by the middle then it was
because they were virgins, otherwise they were not). People very often
create funny stories and theories that without any doubt are a product
of their dreaming imagination.
In the lower part of the huge boulder there is a narrow passage carved
on its lateral surfaces following the natural rock fault. Even lower is
the so-called "Sacrificial Chamber" that was also carved taking
advantage of a small naturally formed cave. Inside the cave; towards the
east is a trapezoidal niche surely used in order to keep elements and
tools for performing sacrifices. Towards the west of the cave is an
opening in the rock as a window facing the narrow passage, opened surely
in order to have some more light inside the dark cave. In the cave's
central part there is a sacrificial stone altar where perhaps animal
sacrifices must have been performed for divination or ceremonial
purposes. Human sacrifices were seldom practiced in the Inkan Society,
that is why for example, in the Inti Raymi, the most important ceremony
in their festivity calendar just a llama was sacrificed.
Towards the southwest of this sanctuary is another one having a spheroid
shape today known as Q'enqo Chico (Smaller Q'enqo). Both sites had
apparently a very close relationship. Q'enqo Chico is surrounded by a "cellular"
type wall that must have been higher; inside it there are some stairways,
aqueducts, niches and some other elements that had religious duties.
It is an archaeological site found at kilometer 8.5 (5.3 miles) on the
road leading to P'isaq and the Sacred Valley of the Inkas; at an
altitude of 3750 mts. (12300 ft.). Its name is compound and comes from
two Quechua words: "puka"= red, and "pukara"= fortress. So "Puka-Pukara"
means "Red Fortress" (perhaps because its limestones acquired a reddish
color, since the soil over which it was built is also reddish as it
contains a lot of iron). The existing wall type over here is "cellular"
with small and medium polygonal or irregular stones. It occupies a very
strategic space over a natural mountain spur for facilitating
observation and control of a broad territory. Likewise, it also had
visual communication with the small "pukara" in Tambomach'ay about one
Kilometer away (0.62 miles). It was supposed to protect Tambomach'ay
that was an important palace in Inkan times. But besides, because of its
architectonic layout and existence of fountains, aqueducts and several
rooms, and its closeness to the ancient trail it was used a small
"tambo" (the trail is seen winning the pass on the northern mountain
leading to Huch'uy Qosqo and Calca in the Sacred Valley). That is, it
was also a collective lodge offering shelter and food for travelers, as
well as for the retinue escorting the Inka in his retirement in
The present-day name is a deformation of the original Tanpumach'ay ,
that is a compound and comes from "tanpu"= lodge and "mach'ay"= resting
place. This place and its name are consigned in different chronicles,
which also indicate that originally it was an exclusive relaxing and
retirement palace for the Inkas. According to Polo de Ondegardo, it
belonged to Inka Yupanqui who used it when hunting; which is probable
because even today, on the mountains surrounding it there are many wild
animals such as deer, pumas, foxes, partridges, etc., and in Inkan times
perhaps also wild South-American cameloids.
The Inka was considered as the Son of the Sun, thence, he was a living
god. Thus, his house or palace also had a sacred character, which is
demonstrated as this place is considered in the chronicles as Waqa (Sanctuary).
What is left from the building is leaning against the mountain face and
constructed with medium polygonal limestones, with the "cellular" wall
type. There are four trapezoidal niches in the upper wall and two other
ones lower to the right; all with monolithic lintels. Those niches were
probably used in order to keep Inkan idols as well as mummies. There are
three Ceremonial Water Fountains too. They were built in two different
levels and had a strictly ritual duty when considering that Unu or Yaku
(water) was an important male deity that fertilized the earth. Thus,
water had always special temples for its cult in all the important
religious complexes. The water found here is clean and crystalline; its
source is unknown and it is conducted through an underground channel. It
is supposed that the water spring is located toward the west, in the
skirts of the range of mountains known as " Senqa". This water being
clean and crystalline is inoffensive for us, people who dwell in the
region because of our custom and acclimatization; but it could not be so
good for foreigners. Many authors call this site "Inka's Bath", others "Ñusta's
Bath" (ñusta = princess); some others with certain audacity say that
these liturgical fountains are "Eternal Youth Fountains" or "Fertility
Fountains" inducing visitors to drink the water. There is not so much
knowledge of the practice of ceremonial baths among Inkas; however, they
could have existed as a way to purify the body.
On the other side, in front of the fountains there is another building
also made with carved stones. Because of its location it must have been
a point of protection and vigilance; that is, it was a small "pukara"
from which upper side there is visual communication with Puka-Pukara
Around here, today, there are frequently many beggars; peasant kids and
women that find in the tourists an easy income source. They are an
undesirable product of tourism development in the region; since that in
the traditional Andean Society it is impossible to find beggars because
their social relationship is based in patterns of mutual reciprocity. In
certain cases those beggars offer to tourists small bunches of "muña" (Minthostachys
spicata), a native mint plant that when rubbed in the hands emits its
fragrance that when breathed offers relief for those suffering from
nausea, dizziness, headaches or other undesirable effects of high
altitudes. Besides, that herb is also used in order to make medicinal
infusions for diarrhea and dysentery due to colds; the leaves used as
plaster are an efficacious anti-inflammatory.
LAQO (SALONNIYUQ, SALONPUNKU)
It is an interesting archaeological group found approximately 1 Km.
(0.62 miles) away northeast from Q'enqo by the existing trail (today a
car way). Likewise, it is possible to get to that spot through a dusty
road branch from km. 6 of the Qosqo - P'isaq road. In the popular
knowledge this site is also called "Moon Temple" or "Monkey's Cave". It
is located on the ancient Inkan Road towards the Antisuyo, and surely it
was also another of the "Wakas" or adoratories reported by chroniclers.
Its original name is lost, that is why today it is known with several
names. It is placed over a gray limestone protrusion of the Yunkaypata
Cretaceous Formation. The natural rock was carved all over its
surroundings showing a large amount of stairways, niches, foundations of
some other buildings, two birds very similar to those found in Q'enqo
and a quadruped, of which the heads were mutilated. Also on the upper
side there is an "Intiwatana" or interrupted-conical (it has no vertex)
solar observatory, sculpted in the in-situ rock. In the lower part there
is a passage communicating the two faces of this shrine that was
partially carved taking advantage of the natural fault. Besides, there
are two carved rooms inside the great rock which because of the elements
they contain must have had strictly religious duties. The second room (the
upper one) is the most interesting and has a great snake carved in its
entrance and, inside it a quadruped with a broken head. Deeper inside
there are niches, platforms and toward the ceiling an interesting
skylight that according to popular belief it was a moon temple. At
midnight of the full moon closest to the winter solstice the cave's
interior is fully illuminated by light going through the skylight. Today,
this spot is mainly visited by "mystics" and "esotericists" who carry
out sometimes circus-like ceremonies willing to emulate to the real
Andean Religion priests. This same spot has become famous during the
last decades as it is preferred by confused young people that in the
full moon nights visit it for a pilgrimage of "alcohol, sex and drugs".
It is located a half Km. south of Laqo, always on the ancient Inkan Road
toward the Antisuyo. Its original name is lost too, today it is named as
K'usilluchayoq that translated into English would be "Spot having a
Small Monkey" (Kusillucha: monkey in diminutive). It is likewise, an
archaeological complex mainly carved on a limestone protrusion that has
a lot of karstic surface. On the Inkan Road side there are remains of
aqueducts and a fountain having two spillways; which because of the work
quality must have had a ceremonial duty and perhaps as well as for
supplying travelers. In the lower part of this site there is a
protrusive carved stone that was badly hit and broken and which
according to many authors must have represented a toad or frog. In the
rear side of that stone there are high relief carvings with zoomorphic
shapes that seem to have been monkeys and snakes. In this site are also
deteriorated remains of a monolith that seems to have represented a
feline. There are, more over, carvings with different shapes that
corresponded to foundations of some other elements and buildings.
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