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::: CuscoWeb.com Cusco Info Machu Picchu Info
It must have served to hold ceremonial elements and perhaps an "aryballus" (classic Inkan jar having a sharp-pointed base) of "chicha" (maize beer).
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.
In Machupicchu's 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 sanctuary.
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.


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