It must have
served to hold ceremonial elements and perhaps an "aryballus"
(classic Inkan jar having a sharp-pointed base) of "chicha"
Going up the stone stairs is the "Quarry"
or " Granitic Chaos" sector, where there are
amorphous granite boulders; it is suggested that they
were being exploited slowly.
All the mountains around the Inkan City have the same quality
of rocks; that is, white-gray granite of the Vilcabamba Batholith.
Therefore, the rocks were in the place and were not transported
from the valley's bottom as some authors pretended to state.
In this sector there is a partially broken rock frequently pointed
out by local guides; that is not a genuine Inkan work but simply
a sample of the technique used by that age in order to split
stones, it was made in 1953.
When magma was cooled off in order to form granites, there was
also a crystallizing process by which those rocks show always
natural nerves (faults or lines) on their surfaces; they were
located by the Quechua stonemasons who made holes along them.
Those holes were filled up with wooden wedges that were then
soaked; thus, using expansion or swelling of soaked wood they
could split the rocks. By the start of this book there is a
chapter about the techniques and tools used in Inkan stonemasonry.
From the quarry, it is possible to go up by the stone stairway
towards the southeast in order to get the sector named as "
Superior Group" (some historians name this sector as that
of the "Main City Gate", or of the "Yachaywasi"
-school-). In this sector there are many constructions with
"pirka" type walls that apparently served as public
buildings, among which there are some "Qollqas" (storehouses).
In this sector is the Machupicchu's Main City Gate that was
the only entrance by the southeastern part of the city. The
main gate of Machupicchu was very well protected in order to
allow the entrance of just its exclusive population; in the
interior face of that doorway it is also possible to see its
locking system with the stone ring over the lintel and the two
stakes inside the small carved boxes in the jambs.
Towards the quarry's west is the "Sacred Plaza" (Holy
Group), where in its western end is the " Main Temple"
(Chief Temple); it is a "Wayrana" type Temple, that
is, it has just three walls made with stones that have rectangular
faces and perfect snug joints, with the "Imperial Inkan"
wall type. The Main Temple shows seven trapezoidal niches on
its central wall and five on each of the lateral ones. In front
of it, about 8 meters ahead and close to the "Three Window
Temple" is a huge boulder partially carved that must have
been its central pillar for supporting the roof beams; today
some guides call that rock "sacrificial altar". Nowadays
the Main Temple has its central wall broken moving towards the
northeast; archaeological works demonstrated that it is a displacement
due to rain filtering. Although, some geologists suggest that
it is due to a geological fault passing across this spot; they
indicate even more, that there is another fault across the Sun
Temple. The deity worshipped in this Main Temple is unknown,
though, historians argue that it could be Wiraqocha, the Andean
invisible superior god. In front of this Temple's south side-wall
there is a small outcrop of carved stone that according to some
authors it is a representation of the Southern Cross, which
is not categorically proved. On the northern end of the "Sacred
Plaza" is the " Temple of Three Windows".
It only has
three walls and when in use it had a two-slope roof;
its stones are polygonal, and comparatively it must
have been earlier or less important than the "Main
Temple". The evidences indicate that this temple
was originally projected for having five windows; it
seems that the two end windows were walled up once the
Temple was finished. In the central part of what would
be the front wall is a single stone pillar that served
to support the thatched roof, and on its western side
is a carved stone with steps representing the three
levels of the Andean World: the "Hanan-Pacha"
(heaven), the "Kay-Pacha" (earth surface)
and the "Ukju-Pacha" (underground).
The existence of this Temple made Bingham believe that he had
found the mythical "Tampu T'oqo" so this was where
the Inkan Civilization was originated; all that is demonstrated
wrong today. In front of the "Main Temple" there is
a room having two doorways and "pirka" type rough
walls that today is named as the " Priest's House";
which is probable because of the architectonic contrast with
the surrounding buildings, as the quality of walls is in direct
relationship to the importance of every building. Behind the
"Main Temple" is a small room of excellent quality
that is known as " Ornaments Chamber"; because of
its location it must have kept a close complementary relationship
to the Temple. Inside it, in the lower part of the rear wall
there is an unusual low platform like a stone seat or couch;
more over, there are two very impressive polygonal boulders
in both sides of the entrance that have more that 30 angles
each. Some people with very westernized or Catholic influence
call this room the " Sacristy" of the Main Temple.
From the "Holy Plaza", towards the northwest is a
stairway that rises conducting directly to the " Intiwatana"
group, which seen from far away has the shape of an irregular
interrupted pyramid that Bingham named "Sacred Hill".
It is impressive how the whole sector was adapted to the shape
of the natural hill. Surrounding the hill, there are many narrow
terraces that are not necessarily farming ones but served in
order to stop erosion and protect the "Intiwatana".
Almost always those narrow terraces were also used as gardens,
that is, with an ornamental purpose; they have no irrigation
systems as in the farming ones (excepting the farming terraces
in Machupicchu that are in a very humid area making aqueducts
unnecessary). Thus, according to their duty, it is possible
to identify three terrace types: farming, protective, and ornamental.
Before arriving to the top of the hill, on the right side of
the stairway there is a ring carved on a rock that is encrusted
in the wall; it possibly served in order to support an insignia
or flag kept by a spear; old accounts suggest that it was something
common in platforms like this. The eastern top of the natural
formation was flattened artificially in order to be used as
an "Usnu", that is, a special platform from which
the Machupicchu chiefs could talk to their people who were standing
up on the Main Plaza located in the lower part towards the northeast.
The communication was facilitated by the high location of the
platform from which there is no interference, and by the sonority
reached by human voice that is apparently reflected and amplified
when colliding with the opposing terraces. In the central part
of that "Sacred Hill" there are vestiges of finely
finished buildings with their classical trapezoidal openings;
around here, there is an apparently non carved natural rock
that is suggested to be a vestige of a Machupicchu model; curiously,
the shape of that rock has many coincidences with the local
geography. By the top of the hill is the famous carved rock
named as "Intiwatana", its shape is irregular (polygonal)
finishing with an almost cubic polyhedron on which the top has
signs of having been hit. Originally, all the faces of this
boulder must have been finely polished; possibly the same way
as the Main Temple in Ollantaytambo, that is, it had a smooth
surface almost as glass. Moreover, it must have had other auxiliary
elements for its use. The word "Intiwatana" labeling
carved stones like this was first used by George Squier in 1877;
that name is not found in any ancient chronicle. The correct
names would be "saywa" or "sukhanka" that
were used by chroniclers. "Intiwatana" is translated
as the "place where the sun is tied up" or simply
"sun fastener". The day of the winter solstice (June
21st) the Quechuas had to perform the "Inti Raymi"
(Sun Festivity) that was the biggest celebration of the Inkan
Society. In this date, the sun is located in the farthest point
from the earth or vice versa, thus the Quechuas believed that
their "Tayta Inti" (Father Sun) was abandoning them.
They had to perform different rituals in order to ask the sun
not to move away any more and symbolically they had to tie it
up to the "Intiwatana". However, "Intiwatana"
could also have another sense, since "Inti" is "sun"
and "Wata" is "year", it could be translated
as the "place where the solar year is measured". It
is unquestionable that it served as an efficient solar observatory
through measurement of the projected shadows, enabling thus
fixing solstices and equinoxes; therefore, calculating the different
seasons and the 365 day year. Referring to this stone as a "solar
clock" or "sun dial", or other similar names,
is wrong and results from bad speculation. The Inkas did not
need to measure the day in hours or minutes, therefore, they
did not know how to do it. Many scholars suggest that the "Intiwatanas"
also served as directional pegs in which protrusions or determined
angles the magnetic north and south may be found; all that is
true in Q'enqo, near Qosqo, and over here in Machupicchu where
one angle of the carved rock and the polyhedron base indicate
the magnetic north. The astronomers White, Dearborn and Mannheim,
state that from this complex it is possible to have observations
of the pleiades, very important for Andean farming, and constellations
like the Southern Cross, Spica - Alpha and Beta Centaurs, Vega,
Deneb and Altair. Local scholars indicate that Machupicchu's
Intiwatana is closely related to a regional "ceque"
system (an imaginary alignment of observatories and temples)
that includes surrounding mountains and valleys. According to
Cusquenian archaeologists Valencia and Gibaja, "All these
elements affirm the idea that the Machupicchu's Intiwatana sculpted
rock, is a cosmic and ritual axle of great religious and tonic
meaning, clearly associated with some other points, that determine
important ceremonial axles in Inkan times".
Going down by the stairway towards the Intiwatana's northwest
is the north end of Machupicchu, where the " Sacred Rock"
is found. It is a small complex where there are two very similar
"wayranas", one in front of the other and with "pirka"
type walls. They served as temples or altars for worshipping
the "Sacred Rock" that stands towards the northeast,
by the middle of them. The "Sacred Rock" is a natural
projection of the mountain and stands surrounded by a stone
pedestal, its surface is relatively smooth and was possibly
also finely polished like the Ollantaytambo boulders, but erosion
of 4 or more centuries of abandonment changed the surface polish
and even its whole shape. In the Inkan Religion it is believed
that the mountains constitute or have "apus" (superior
spirits) considered as peoples' protectors (today mountains
are still worshipped in the Andean Religion). Many scholars
believe that the "Sacred Rock" is simply the representation
of the Yanantin Mountain, standing behind it. In ancient times
the silhouettes of the rock and mountain were identic, but today
they are almost similar due to the natural erosion over the
rock. However, some authors argue that the rock must had another
shape, possibly that of a "Lying Puma" or a "Guinea
Pig". Behind this rock, in 1911 Bingham found the writing
"A. Lizarraga 1901". Towards the north of this complex
is the trail leading to the Waynapicchu Mountain and towards
the Southeast is the city's Main Plaza.
The " Main Plaza" is the biggest open and flat space
existing in Machupicchu, it is towards the northeast and by
the feet of the "Intiwatana". It was the place where
the population's popular ceremonies were carried out; perhaps
also the "Inti Raymi" or Sun Festivity like as in
Qosqo's Main Square. Nearby this plaza there are terraces that
did not have a farming duty but served simply to flatten the
terrain; in the totally irregular Machupicchu's topography,
that was the only way to achieve flat spaces.
eastern area, toward the northeast of the Main Plaza
there are many other buildings with "pirka"
type walls (with rough mud-bonded stones); the buildings
layout in this area is somewhat complex, and includes
sectors that are differently named, such as " Higher
Group", " Three Doorway Unit", etc.
Those are basically buildings that served as apartments, storehouses,
and some other utilitarian duties. Towards the east of this
complex are interesting buildings with different altars, semi-underground
buildings, sculpted stones with diverse shapes, etc., about
which there are not deep interpretative studies yet. By this
zone there is also an interesting cave containing a partially
carved window named Intimachay that was studied by Dearborn
who argues that from inside the cave it is possible to see just
2° of horizon through the window that is aligned with the
sunrise in the summer solstice (December 21st). The 2° margin
enabled the solstice observation during 10 days before and after
the event, a lapse that was necessary in the case of a cloudy
and rainy zone like Machupicchu.
Even farther to the southeast of the previous sector is the
named " Mortars Group", to which some authors name
the " Industrial Sector". The architectonic quality
of its walls indicate that it had a serious importance in the
city; Bingham named it as "Ingenuity Group". This
was apparently a very exclusive group because it has a double
jamb doorway and inside, it still has the door locking system
with two small carved boxes and their stone stakes. From the
floor to about two meters high, the walls were made with sculpted
stones, but the superior part was made with rougher ones; that
difference suggests perhaps a construction in two different
stages. Inside that group there is a room having two circular
"mortars", both having almost the same diameter and
carved on a granite outcrop in the floor. Some historians suggest
that those were mortars used in order to grind diverse elements
for making weavings or pottery in the sector that was "industrial";
though, the mortars do not appear to have had much use. Others
indicate that those were seats for "aryballus" (pointed
base jars) containing "chicha" (maize beer). Likewise
it is suggested that they were filled up with water in order
to serve as "mirrors" for astral observations during
clear nights, alleging that this enclosure was not roofed; but
according to many modern astronomers that is a weak possibility
because it is more practical to observe the sky directly and
not using mirrors. Towards the south of the previous room there
is a very interesting building compound of two identical "wayranas"
or rooms having just three walls that share one central dividing
wall; instead of their front wall they present a column that
supported the roof beams. In this complex there are also some
other rooms having the same quality, sculpted rocks looking
like altars, etc.
One of the most fascinating and enigmatic sectors in Machupicchu
is that of the "Condor" located toward the southeast
of the "mortars". The "Temple of the Condor"
form something like a labyrinth where in its lower and central
portion there is a sculpture on a granite outcrop with the shape
of an Andean Condor having a beak, the classic white collar
around its neck and its whole body. Behind, there are two huge
rocks surrounding it; they represent its wings, giving the impression
of being a landing condor. It is obvious that this was a sacred
spot built on purpose in order to worship the "Apu Kuntur"
(Condor God) that was one of the three sacred animals of the
Inkan Society along with the Puma (cougar or mountain lion)
and the Snake; therefore its duty was strictly religious. The
Andean Condor was and still is a special divinity on the Andes
highlands, but the ceremonies carried out to worship it in ancient
times are unknown. However, today the Andean people of some
concealed villages in the highlands of Peru annually carry out
their festivity called "Yawar Fiesta" or "Blood
Festivity" (see chapter of Andean Condor) in which a living
Condor is worshipped in a very special way. On the other hand,
some other authors suggest that over here was Machupicchu's
"Jail". It is argued that in this place there were
pumas and perhaps also snakes, so those who were punished were
left inside and had to die inexorably; after those persons died,
over here landed Condors and some other birds of prey to devour
the remains of the punished fellows. It is argued that over
here existed two types of punishment and that the niches with
small holes on their jambs that are found over the Condor's
left wing served for tying the hands of those punished (those
niches were originally covered with a roof). Moreover, it is
argued that the other higher niches in the rear wall that have
a small back opening served for another different punishment:
the "walling in" of punished fellows, who were inserted
and walled up inside the niches with their faces towards the
upper openings that served them in order to breath and consume
food. In Inkan times this sector was complementary to the "Temple
of the Condor"; and because of its location and its multiple
characteristics this complex must have carried out a highly
ritual duty and not that of a "jail".
Hiram Bingham and his teams worked intensively in Machupicchu
and the whole archaeological park during 5 years, digging practically
every square meter. In its surroundings they found ancient tombs,
mummies and remains of 173 persons always enclosed along with
their daily life belongings; including clothing, pottery, food,
ornaments, etc. After all his works Bingham informed that no
artifact of precious metal was found in Machupicchu; that which
today is refuted by the Agustin Lizarraga's widow and descendants
who assert that the intrepid young peasant established in the
area before Bingham's arrival, discovered Machupicchu during
his explorations looking for farming lands by the year 1900.
They say that Lizarraga arrived to this lost city using the
trail that leads from the San Miguel zone to the "Holy
Plaza" and that in his successive visits found in some
niches objects of ceramic, stone, gold and silver. Objects that
he sold to a well known rich merchant in Qosqo. That could be
true because of the "crude charcoal autographs" found
by Bingham on the beautiful granite walls including the writing
"A. Lizarraga 1901" behind the "Sacred Rock";
and as the same North-American explorer when describing a grave
wrote: "We know that Lizarraga had been treasure hunting
on these forest-clad slopes at least ten years before our visit...".
Once that Lizarraga died "in very strange circumstances"
in 1912, he left for his widow some treasures that she donated
to the Santa Clara convent in Qosqo, after being in Catholic
confession persuaded by the priest so that with her donation
she could get "peace and salvation for her soul".
It is possible that no peasant other than Lizarraga could have
had profaned the site because in the traditional Andean Society
there is always a profound ancestral respect and reverence towards
ancient "Wakas". There is much more respect for the
ancestors' tombs that can not be profaned believing that they
are protected and profaning them brings misfortune, diseases,
death and some other maledictions.
Bingham wrote that every object he got when working in Machupicchu
was deposited in Yale University. But today (1997) a visit to
observe the Machupicchu's artifacts in Yale's "Peabody
Museum of Natural History" located in New Haven, Connecticut,
is more than disappointing (Click here to go to the museum website).
The exhibit consists of 10 pieces of Inka pottery, 10 of metallurgy,
10 of stonework, 3 wooden cups, very few textiles, and one of
the nicest Inkan "qhipu" existing in the world (most
of the pieces are from Machupicchu, not all of them but the
exhibit does not tell which ones; even more, not even a single
picture of Machupicchu!). Besides, there are small niches displaying
mainly pottery of pre-Inkan Civilizations. Peruvians hope that
someday, the artifacts listed by Bingham in his various publications
will be returned to Machupicchu where they belong.
The Waynapicchu Mountain is that found towards the north of
the city and which appears in the background of Machupicchu's
classical pictures. By its summit there are some retaining terraces
that were made for avoiding erosion as well as for serving as
gardens. It is possible to get to the summit using the path
that is located by the left flank of the mountain. The way up
was basically a long stairway; in various sectors its steps
were simply carved on the mountain rock. Climbing up slowly
takes one hour approximately, and it is not dangerous; however,
the person that tries it must keep his eyes open since the path
is by the edge of precipices and some carelessness or a wrong
step could be fatal, and whoever attempts it must not suffer
from vertigo. From the summit, there is a spectacular panoramic
view of the Inkan City, of the Urubamba canyon and the mountains
around; it seems that over here existed a very important Quechua
From Machupicchu it is also possible to take some other short
walks. One of them is towards the " Inkan Bridge"
for which, it is necessary to reach the small "Watchman
Post" located on the upper area of the farming sector;
from that spot there is a trail towards the southwest. After
about 20 minutes of walking one gets to the present-day end
of the path, from where there is a view of the trail carved
on the mountain-face as well as of the bases of a draw bridge.
It is supposed that the draw bridge structure was of light wood
that was removed or saved in order to avoid trespassing of non
authorized persons; thus they enabled the protection of Machupicchu.
Somewhat lower than the same "Watchman Post" is the
Inka Trail that originally joined Machupicchu with Qosqo; that
trail is a good sample of the Quechua engineering and construction
technology, it still keeps its original pavement of flagstones
and it is very wide. When following it, after about 1.5 miles
is the pass named Intipunku (Sun Gate), and even farther, about
7 Kms. (4.4 miles) away from Machupicchu is the small Inkan
town of Wiñaywayna. Around there, in a higher level is
the farming complex of Intipata.