Today P'isaq constitutes
one of the most important Archaeological Parks in
the region. It is located about 30 Kms. (18.6 miles)
toward the northwest of Qosqo City. Possibly its name
comes from a type of partridge very common in the
area known as "p'isaqa". Some scholars suggest
that the pre-Hispanic City had the shape of a "p'isaqa"
(-ornate tinamou- Nothoprocta ornata); a tinamidae
that represented the local fauna.
Today, there is also a colonial town named P'isaq in the lower
part of the valley, established as consequence of the famous
"Indians Reductions" by which the Quechuas were
joined in small towns. The Inkan City is on the upper side
of the mountain, over the well preserved terracing. It was
classical among the Inkas that the most fertile zones must
have been reserved for agriculture without being wasted for
building towns or cities. Therefore, the city was built taking
advantage of the dry and rocky mountain; even more, its location
enabled its protection because this was a fortified city on
the way to the Antisuyo (Amazonian Jungle). Historians suggest
that it was established over there in order to protect the
great capital from possible attacks of the Antis nations (the
name of the "Andes" Mountains derives from "Anti")
that were their worst and never "submitted to" enemy.
Today it is still possible to observe the surrounding wall
that protected the most important zone of the city. More over,
inside the protected area are the vast farming terraces that
supplied enough food for its inhabitants in case of sieges
or prolonged wars; and there are also aqueducts that supplied
water for agricultural development. It seems that water for
consumption of the inhabitants was harnessed on the mountain's
upper side and transported through underground channels.
There are two possibilities in order to get to the archaeological
site from the colonial town: Hike, taking the street on the
western side of the present-day church and go up through the
terracing and the mountain, it is a hard hike because of the
mountain's altitude and inclination that requires one to be
in good physical condition. Otherwise, take a car that must
follow the 8 Km. (5 mile) road toward the northeast of the
town as far as the parking lot from which it will be necessary
to follow the 1.5 Km. (1 mile).
path in order
to get the "Intiwatana" sector. Nowadays,
the second possibility is the easiest and most popular;
the most interesting variant is to get by car to the
"Qanchisraqay" sector in order to start
the hike, for which it is commendable not to suffer
from vertigo as the mountain is somewhat steep.
Almost all the original names of the different sectors in
P'isaq are lost; the names that are known today were established
by tradition, historians and archaeologists. Therefore, in
many cases the names do not represent their real nature or
duty; the reason for this is that there is no precise information,
or old documents serving as authentic testimony for interpretation.
But, the "P'isaq" name is genuine because it is
consigned in some chronicles. Today, archaeology and history
are trying to decode the site's mysteries through archaeological
diggings, logical deductions and comparative studies stating
analogies with some other known elements. As there is an Inkan
architectonic type classification, today, it is possible to
establish the roles of almost all the buildings, but, there
are many other aspects that will remain as an eternal enigma.
"Qanchisraqay" (qanchis = seven, raqay = inclosure)
is one of the districts in P'isaq remaining outside the fortified
city, about ½ Km. (0.3 mile) away from the surrounding
wall. That sector is also known as "Kanturaqay",
the name being related to our national flower "kantu".
It is constituted by many buildings with "pirka"
type walls, that is, made with non-carved mud bonded stones
that originally had a clay stucco. Over here there are some
"kanchas" (apartments) for non-noble people that
must have cultivated the lower terracing; around here there
are also some remains of aqueducts and fountains supplying
water for people dwelling in the area. From this spot there
is a panoramic view of the terracing that seen from the valley's
bottom look narrow but staying up here one discovers that
they are broad. Its location on the edge of a precipice is
also exceptional for watching over and controlling the movement
of people or travelers who used the road toward the Paucartambo
region and the Antisuyo.
trail toward the west of Qanchisraqay one reaches
the crossroads known as " Antachaka" (anta
= cooper, chaka = bridge), where there are some water
fountains and a surface aqueduct for the terracing.
Towards the west, on the irregular almost vertical
surface of the mountain there is a large amount of
something like hollows: they are looted tombs of the
biggest pre-Hispanic cemetery in the region. Today.
the cemetery is known as " Tankanamarka"
(tankay = to push, marka = spot; it may be translated
as "hurling spot"), and according to some
estimates it must have contained about 10,000 tombs
that were mostly looted. In the Inkan belief it was
stated that once persons died they began a newer life;
therefore, their mummies were kept along with all
their goods and necessary food.
When the conquerors arrived they soon knew that inside the
Inkan tombs they could also find jewels of precious stones
and metals, thus they began with their diabolical profanation
and pillaging of ancient Peruvians' tombs. That is why that
cemetery in P'isaq contains mostly looted tombs, some mummies
are still inside the graves but not their jewels and daily
Continuing the hike, one crosses the partially destroyed surrounding
wall, in which the trapezoidal doorway named as Amarupunku
(amaru = snake, punku = doorway) still keeps its lintel. Around
there, is the district known as K'alla Q'asa (k'alla = cut,
q'asa = pass) also named as Hanan P'isaq (Upper P'isaq); it
contains many "pirka" type buildings among apartments,
storehouses, towers and so many stairways on the edge of the
Following the trail after the "Amarupunku" there
is a small tunnel drilled taking advantage of a natural fault;
it is 16 mt. (52.5 ft.) long and its height is irregular and
low, so people must bent down to cross it. This was not a
principal path but a secondary one in the city, which can
not be compared with the Inka Trail toward Machupicchu that
was a real "Inka Ñan" or "Royal Road"
where there are much more comfortable tunnels. Going on, by
the uneven trail with many stairways is the religious sector
in P'isaq. Today this sector is named as Intiwatana (inti
= sun, watana = fastener).
Intiwatana is the most important district in P'isaq, it corresponds
to the ceremonial core or religious complex of the city that
has the best quality constructions with "sedimentary"
type walls; that is, with polished-joint carved stones that
have a rectangular outer surface. Its location on the mountain's
upper section is superb and dominates visually a great territory
of the valley. This sector must have been constituted by diverse
temples such as Qosqo's Qorikancha with shrines for different
deities. The lack of precise information today makes it difficult
to know which were the gods worshipped in every temple. In
the complex's central part is a semicircular building with
one lateral straight wall which main gate is toward the south,
by deduction and analogy with other similar buildings it is
established that this was the Sun Temple in P'isaq. On both
side walls of its ascending entrance there are small hand-boxes
carved in the rock that were surely used as holders, like
a handrail. By the middle of this building is the altar carved
in the in-situ rock, with a central interrupted conical protuberance
that is known as "Intiwatana" ("Sun Fastener";
but its original name must have been "Saywa" or
"Sukhanka") and must have been used for allowing
observation of the solar movements with the help of some other
elements or carved angles that served as "pegs"
for calculating the shadow projections. Today that Intiwatana
has many signs of having been hardly hit; though, it is still
possible to notice its original shape: an interrupted cone.
The altar served to carry out different ceremonies worshipping
the Sun God, as well as for sacrificing animals for divination
Descending the Sun Temple stairway, farther to the southwest
side is another interrupted conical carving that was surely
used in a close relationship with the "Intiwatana".
Even farther down to the west is a carved stone altar and
a "stepping symbol" sculpted in the natural rock
representing the three stages of the Andean Religious World:
the heaven, the earthly world and the subsoil. That sculpture
was possibly used as a help element for solar observations
In this complex there are some other rectangular temples with
very good quality walls. Their specific duties are unknown;
but, today tradition is trying to impose names for them, of
course, without any documented support. A small room placed
by the middle of this sector breaks the architectonic balance
of the spot; it was made with "pirka" type walls
that served perhaps as an inclosure for the "tarpuntay"
or priest in charge of service in these temples. Besides,
in this area there are some very well carved channels and
remains of fountains that because of their quality and location
must have had strictly religious duties as water was a special
deity among Andean people who always had channels, fountains
and reservoirs for its cult. About 20 mts. (65 ft.) in front
of the complex's main gate is a very special fountain of which
the bottom is below the floor level and served as a water
receptacle. On both sides of its spillway there are two carvings
that look like handles; because of its layout it perhaps served
as a bathtub to take "ceremonial baths" as a way
of purifying the body. From this zone there is a partial view
of the original channeling of the Urubamba River that flows
in a straight line about 3.3 Kms. (2 miles). It is known that
in Inkan times this river was completely channeled from P'isaq
and as far as Ollantaytambo. The aim of the channel was to
gain farmlands and protect them, covering a length of about
90 Kms. (56 miles) in the valley; today, in many sectors it
is still possible to observe remains of the channel's lateral
Going down by the stairway towards the southeast of the "Intiwatana"
sector is the P'isaqa district that has a somewhat semicircular
shape following the mountain's silhouette. It has a few walls
with carved stones, some of the "pirka" type, and
some others simply made with sun dried mud bricks. Over here
there are some very well distributed "kanchas" (apartments).
From the southern end of this sector, it is possible to see
on the mountain abrupt surface some circular "pukaras"
(defensive towers) and the adobe "qolqas" (storehouses)
of sustenance goods. All over the complex there are farming
terraces built even as far as the edge of precipices that
still keep their straight sometimes vertical aqueducts (water
does not flow any more) and their projecting ladders made
with stones that are fit into the retaining walls allowing
one to pass from one terrace to the other. From this sector,
there is a trail toward the South in order to go down as far
as the P'isaq colonial town; it offers a very interesting
panorama. Otherwise, it will be necessary to take the northern
trail to get the parking lot.