A Travellerspoint blog

Peru : Cusco

Museums, Empires, Inca and monuments; a clash of cultures

Saturday 25th August – City Tour of Cusco

Got up early (rubbish room- told them to move us) and had rubbish brekkie. Our tour was a late morning one, so we decided to go exploring wherever the fancy took us. We started at the Plaza de Armas. This was originally the Inca Square of the Warrior. It witnessed Pizarro’s entrance, the murder of the resistance leader Tupac Amaru II as well as other events. The Spanish added a cathedral, the Jesuit church (picture previous page).and stone arcades around the plaza, but the walls and streets give away its origins as the royal palaces. We watched as a trolleybus made its way in front of the cathedral. On the other side was the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesus (Jesuits)- a fine Baroque church built in 1576 on the foundations of Inca Huayna Capac’s palace (Amarucancha). The beautiful stone façade and the gold altar are lovely.
To the side of the cathedral was a wide alley (Tucuman), cobbled and with part Inca walls (huge blocks) past an Inka museum to the Plaza de Nazarene with a pleasing little church with bells and a super (but clearly expensive) restaurant. Next to it was a free (!!!) pre-Columbian art museum (who even let us take pictures). The museum was brilliant. Based around a courtyard on 3 levels it was arranged chronologically with lovely ceramics and metal work.
We stayed several hours before heading back down via Calle Hatun Rumiyuq (Old Rock) which was the Palace of Inca Roca (converted to the Archbishop’s palace). We saw the Stone of 12 Corners (a wonderful example of Inca stonework), to the Plaza to grab a hot chocolate in a little
corner café called Greens Organic (and pancakes). We popped our heads into a handicrafts shop that had been recommended because it sent profits
directly to a female co-op but couldn’t find anything we liked. Then it was time to meet our tour outside the cathedral.
Now, cos Steve is Steve, he HAD to go to Burger king and get lost while I went into the cathedral but didn’t enjoy it as much as I could because a) S had disappeared and b) it was chokka. It felt quite heavy and dark to me but I did get a chance to see the famous Last Supper with guinea pig painting that I’d really wanted. This was painted by the Cusco artist, Zapata, who tried to imagine a delicacy for Jesus and decided on an Andean one, guinea pig!
The first cathedral built in Cusco is the Iglesia del Triunfo in 1539 on the foundations of the Palace of Viracocha. This is now a chapel of the main Cathedral (1560-1664). The cathedral, the seat of the archbishop from very early, is a late Gothic/ Baroque construction of stone and red granite from Sacsayhauman. Inside it is plateresque (a silver work technique), colonial goldwork and beautiful altars.
Barrio de San Blas/ Toq’ocachi. San Barrio is an early part of the Spanish town, containing Spanish houses over Inca walls. In Inca times the area was called Toq’ocachi or Opening of the Salt.

The Foundation of Cusco- Creation/Origin stories
The Inca had several creation myths. Most are variations on a theme and it’s clear that the only “real” person is Manco and the others are more probably a variety of gods that he or his descendants wanted to be associated with. Many of the tales are found, in slightly different forms in other Andean myths:-
1. God Tici Viracocha had 4 sons (Uchu, Manco, Cachi and Auca) and 4 daughters (Occla, Raua, Cura, Huaco). They wanted to find a
land to live in so set off from Lake Titicaca. En route Ocllo and Manco had a son Sinchi Roca who led them to the valley of Cusco where Manco became the first Inca king.
2. Manco Capac, son of the Sun and his sister Mama Occlo, daughter of the Moon were sent out with a rod. They were told that wherever the rod sank the land was good and they should start a city. The rod sank at Cusco, so the city was built there. This is obviously a reference to the hard unproductive soil of the Altiplano, from where the Inca originated compared to the more fertile soil further north.
3. Tambotoco Mountain (near Cusco) has 3 caves from which 3 ethnic groups descended (Quecha, Amyara, Uros). From one cave came the 8 Ayar brothers and Mama sisters. They set off to find a place to settle. On the way Manco and Oclla had a son, Sinchi Roca. Somehow, Cachi acquired a magic sling, making the other jealous. They persuaded him to go back into the cave to collect seeds, then shut him in. Uchu was petrified (literally) into a great huaca called Huanacauri (making him a god-like being able to intercede with the heavens on behalf of earthly people). His female counterpart, Mama Huaco, threw two golden rods, saying whichever sank would be were their city should be built. The remainder agreed to make Manco their leader, but they could not find the second rod, so Manco told Auca to grow wings (like a condor) and fly to the rod. Once there, however, he turned to stone, but luckily Manco knew where to go and Cusco was born.
3. The Sun God Inti created Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo out of Lake Titicaca. He sent them through secret caves (Pacariqtambo) to find and establish a city- Cusco.
4. Inti, the Sun God created the 4 Ayar brothers (Manco, Cachi. Auca, Uchu) and the 4 Mama (woman) sisters (Ocllo, Raua, Huaca, Cora) from Lake Titicaca. Cachi kept boasting about how strong he was until his brothers tricked him. They persuaded him to go into a cave by saying there was a sacred llama inside, then trapping him. In retaliation Uchu was turned to stone on the mountain to keep watch on people, Auca was told to travel the world alone and only Manco got to create a city (a bit unfair I thought)
5. The Incan Sun god felt lonely, so his wife persuaded him to create people from Lake Titicaca to go to Cusco and worship him.

Then we walked down the pedestrian Calle Loreto (down the side of La Compañia) with its massive Incan road walls visible down it, rising to 20 feet of more, then across Calle Aflegidos Mururi (where we admired a typical Spanish-Cusco balcony) to the Calle Pampa de Castillo.
At this point we stopped outside a Perspex enclosed archaeological site- our guide said it was probably a living area attached to the Koricancha (Golden Temple) and was currently off-limits to the public as it was being excavated. Very interesting, I thought.
Then we could easily see the rising towers of San Domingo Convent (we’d say Monastery) across the Av Santo Domingo. We crossed and entered the church, moving from the church to the cloisters, which surrounded the central quadrangle, but were built on the Koricancha (Inca Temples of the Sun and Moon). Both Temples had most of their lower structure visible behind the cloisters. We went right to the Temple of the Sun (accessed through a low lintelled doorway, tapered). The niches around presumably originally held candles and/or idols. Then on around the edge to come out in the Koricancha gardens, stretching out to the road. A brief stop to admire the Inca walls and gardens, then back in to continue around the cloisters to the opposite side and the Temple of the Moon. The Inca blocks had obviously withstood several earthquakes (until the Spanish structures), showing only a couple of blocks that had moved a few cms. The secret was in the way the blocks were constructed with the ability to move slightly in earthquakes.
There was also a block with little niches cut out.
The Koricancha or Qorikancha (from Quri Kancha = Golden Temple) was the most important temple in Cusco as it was dedicated to the Sun God, Inti. Originally it was covered with gold plate. www.qorikancha.org
After the Spanish took Cusco they used the Qorikancha as a foundation to build the Convento de Santo Domingo in Renaissance style. It has an impressive Baroque tower, which dominates the area and a large number of Cusco School paintings.
The Inca used no mortar to hold their walls in place; they relied upon precisely cut stones, the use of male/ female joints and geometry (e.g. sloping walls). Their best-built structures withstand the passing of centuries, and even earthquakes.
We went right around the cloisters (again) and down through the gardens to catch our waiting coach on the Av El Sol. Up Plateros to the edge of town, then up some quite steep hairpins. We saw loads of dogs, but our guide said they all had owners and would simply find their own way home at night (though when we came back in the dusk, many of them we sleeping on the street edges.

Towering above the city we stopped first at the Inca (and pre-Inca) fortress of Sacsayhuaman. The site is enormous and filled with HUGE Inca walls, with blocks larger than several men, many without an mm between them. The Grand Plaza in which we were standing has three massive stone terrace walls with rounded corners and leaning inwards (helps to withstand earthquakes). The longest wall is 400m long and 6m high and each limestone block can weigh up to 200 tonnes! Given that they did not have animal power or wheels, I can only assume they used manpower and rope. The evidence suggests that the huge stones were rough cut in the quarry using river cobbles, than dragged to the site (probably by groups fulfilled their work/ mita obligations).
The legend goes that Cusco was originally a barren bog. Sinchi Roca reputedly drained it and filled it with stones to provide a strong foundation for his city. He then transported earth in, spreading it over what would become the Sacred Valley. Cusco means “navel of the earth” and was laid out in a puma shape. The main plaza (now the Plaza de Armas) was the belly, the river Tullumayo its spine and Sacsayhuaman its head. An early Spanish chronicler claimed that the Inca Sapa visited the ancient (sacred?) city of Tiahuanaco to see how holy cities were built.

History of Sacsayhuaman (aka Saksaqwaman)
Pottery on the hill top dates back to at least 1000AD. The Killke Culture (900-1200 AD) built the earliest walls at Sacsayhauman, as well as aqueducts and roads. The fort was taken over and extended by the Inca c1200 AD (even though Inca tales try to date their occupation of Cusco to earlier). The fort would have served a double purpose; military (it’s position on the top of a hill gave a strategic advantage) and religious (there was a large Inca or Killke plaza capable of holding several thousand, as well as an Incan Sun Temple and other probable ritual structures). The complex walls are built, like other Inca buildings, of larges, polished stone boulders, each carefully worked to fit exactly with its neighbours. No mortar was used and the whole is remarkably earthquake resistant; indeed, the Spanish builders in Cusco did far more damage by stealing building material from it.
The steep hill and its huge walls meant it had an excellent view all round, and excavations show the terraces contained towers and other structures, now gone. Certainly Manco Inca in 1556 used it when besieging (successfully) Cusco. Pedro Pizarro describes storage rooms filled with military equipment.
Originally the site had three walls (bulwarks) whose foundations we saw. These parallel walls of limestone blocks are in several levels and represent the puma’s teeth in the whole complex. The lowest level has the largest blocks, up to 81⁄2m high and 140 tons. It is probable that the three levels represent the Incan religion- Ukju Pacha (lower world), Kay Pacha (earth) and Hanan Pacha (sky heavens). This is why each level looks like a puma, condor and snake- the lowest being the zig-zag teeth. Other researchers have suggested the zig-zag shape comes from the pre-Inca god Illapa (thunder and lightning). Certainly three is an important number for the Quechua. The site is 3701m altitude.
The whole complex was built by manpower alone- the stones are so perfect you could not even get a blade of grass between them and no mortar in sight. The blocks are irregular and complex. It’s probable that the boulders would first be carved and polished with river pebbles before being carried to the site. The first boulder would be put in place and then a pattern would be traced to roughly get the second’s shape. It would be suspended and finished before being placed in with pebbles used to make precise fitting. This, whilst being the most likely explanation, is not yet proven. We do know that the limestone base was quarried from the local area, but the andesite walls were quarried from Waqoto and Rumiqolqa. The ropes around Sacsayhauman were so large Diego de Trujillo felt obliged to mention them. Suggestions are of 20,000 workers needed for 60 years to build it, yet Garcilaso, raised in Cusco in the 1540’s, says its construction is a mystery! Despite this “ancient man” conspiracy theory. Many contemporary writers mentioned the site, such as Cieza de Leon in the 1540’s. The work would almost certainly be a required labour (mita) from each village under an architect’s control. The blocks (and walls) all lean inwards to help withstand earthquakes, common in the region.
Sacsayhuaman was “completed” in 1508. It was certainly used as a fortress in 1536 when Manco Inca used it to besiege Cusco. Pedro Sancho who visited prior to the siege mentions rooms with large windows overlooking the city. After the conquistadors won, they used the stones to build their houses- in 1559 the City Council ordered them to take stones to build the cathedral. Indeed, until 1930, payment of a small fee would allow you to take stone to build your house. It was the smaller, higher walls that supplied the building stones. Garcilaso de la Vega was born in Cusco in 12/4/1539, the illegitimate son of a Spaniard, Sebastian Garcilaso de la Vega and an Inca princess (name unknown). He grew up in Cusco, educated locally and wrote much about the history of Cusco, making him an excellent source. He wrote that Sacsayhuaman had three towers and excavations have verified this. The circular central tower was Muyuq Marka/ Moyoc Marca, the two rectangular flanking towers were Sallaq Marka and Paucar Marka. The Muyuqmarka is made of three concentric stone walls with three connected channels (like a reservoir). Equally he explained that it was not a fortress, but a “House of the Sun”.
The large plaza is probably pre-Inca in build and can hold many thousand people. It was designed with ceremonial and ritual uses in mind and the large surrounding structures served a similar purpose. It is surrounded by the massive stone walls, which so define the site. Amazingly the plaza is still used today on the 24th of June to celebrate the ancient festival of Into Raymi.
Name: the site has many names; it is known as Saksaywaman, Sasawaman, Saksawaman, Sasaywaman, Saqsaywaman, Sacsayhuamán, Sacsayhuaman, Sacsahuaman, Saxahuaman and finally, Saksaq Waman (which is Quechua for falcon or hawk).

After quite a while (we stopped listening to the guide as we knew all about it anyway) and a good wander, the guide led us out of the other end to catch the bus again up more winding roads to Kenko (aka Qenco, Qenqo) Temple. Even more beautiful views of Cusco, including a really clear view of the Plaza and Cathedral. The most interesting thing here was the huge sacred rock at the entrance and the underground chamber. TBH it reminded me very much of our smaller stone circles and barrows.

The Inca site is actually two sites- Great Qenqo is the one close the road (we visited this one) and Little Qenqo the opposite site of the hill (Socorro)-pic above.
The site is only 5-10 ins out of Cusco, but built on a large rocky promontory overlooking the city which gives great views of Cusco. We entered from above and the first thing you notice is the rock in the amphitheatre at front. The amphitheatre area, presumably for public religious ceremonies seems originally to have been walled (the 19 niches). The huge stone block is 6m tall and rests of a stone base. There are suggestions that it was originally a
sculpture (?zoomorphic) that was destroyed in colonial times, but it also bears, I think, a resemblance to the great rock at Machu Picchu. We passed the rock and headed down stone steps into un underground chamber. The chamber is beautifully worked from the rock, probably for mysterious rites. It is described variously as a Mortuary Room or Sacred Room.
It has small bays, cupboards and ?altars, all from the rock. Possibly it was used to embalm orejones (high ranking nobles) or sacrifices or dedications of chicha?. There were channels to ensure rainwater went straight out. As we went around and out we saw further steps towards the edge before we went around the side, giving great views of the valley and Cusco.
As we carried on by bus up into the hills we passed at least two unexcavated Inca (or possible pre-Inca) ruins before passing Pukara (to our right- see picture left).
Then we parked at the bottom of the track up to Tambomachay, an Inca Baths ruin. We spent a while here, climbing to a vantage point and watching sunset over the Cusco hills before walking back to the bus as it turned dusk. On our way back we were asked if we wanted to visit an alpaca factory, but declined!

Tambomachay is an Inca site, some 9km from Cusco. It was a religious centre, almost certainly used for water ceremonies (as is seen in most Inca sites- see Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo). At times the Sapa Inca would visit Tambomachay with his close family and important advisors (the rest of his retinue would stay at nearby Puca Pucara) and perform various rituals connected with water/ running water. Local people still visit the site in August to give thanks. The site has three terraces and two ceremonial fountain on three levels, all built of perfectly fitted, unmortared rocks.
Sapa Inca
The Emperor lived in a gold and silver palace and worn precious jewellery. His golden fringe on his forehead was a sign of his importance. He had soft
vicuna bedding, but beds had not been invented. A red wood stool provided a throne and, like most high nobles, he was carried around the city by litter. His crockery was gold or silver. Unlike his subjects the Emperor could have many wives, but only his sister could be principal wife – the point of this was, like Egyptians, to ensure the pure-blood of Inti, the Sun God from whom they were descended (this did not always happen- politics would sometimes come in to it, but no doubt it was justified by the wife being a leader of another tribe and therefore also a descendant on Inti). The emperor, his family and all nobility were exempt from tax.
On our return we were still in the **** room, so complained (again). Then (as we not no intention of staying in) went shopping in the Plaza. We found a beautiful silver ring for E, got S a Machu Picchu T-shirt and M a T-shirt. I wanted an alpaca hat or jumper, but could not find a design I liked on the main Plaza. I went down a side street and found exactly what I wanted! We managed to get some money out by bypassing the “you must want dollars at a silly exchange rate” to the “you might want Peruvian money at a sensible rate”, then found a ground floor restaurant (La Retama http://www.laretamarestaurant.com) with the world’s largest candle, where we ate lomo saltado (sliced beef stir fry with onions, chillies, tomato) for S and Aji de Gallina (chicken stew in a creamy sauce of milk garlic, pecans and chillies) for me.

Inca Social Structure
The basic building block of Inca society was the AYLLU (family). This was an extended family who lived together, sharing house, animals and land. As the empire grew, so did the defintion of an ayllu- it could even be a town! The ayllu would organise most of your life, including your marriage.
Technically, all land was owned by the emperor, but practically, it was farmed by the ayllu. Each ayllu would be expected, according to its size, to produce additional crops for the Empire (i.e. the imperial family, the priests & the bureaucracy).
Social classes-
• Imperial family with the Emperor at the head
• Religious officials and “Maidens”
• Administrators
• Artisans
• Yanacona
• Farmers
• Slaves
A note on Cusco- Pre Inca and Inca
Although it became the Inca capital, who claimed their ancestor, Manco Capac and his sister-wife Oclla had founded it, the city seems to pre-date the Inca (evidence of the Killke culture and possibly the Wari). The original name Qusqu comes from an Aymara (not Quechua as the Inca spoke) word- qusqu wanka (rock of the owl), but was adopted into Quechua (where it means naval of world). The Inca used this in their founding myth (see earlier) to say Auca transformed into a bird (variously condor, owl) and turned himself into stone at Cusco’s site. This rock marked his possession of the land for his kin (ayllu- see Inca social structure).
Certainly the city was extensively re-designed by Inca Pachacuti who worked it into the shape of a sacred puma with 2 surrounding rivers. Two sectors, urin and hanan, were subdivided into 2, corresponding with the empire’s four provinces. A road to each province led out. Each provincial leader was expected to build a second, city, house in his part of the city and live there some of each year. On his death the inheritance was split- the title to the eldest son, the property to the other relatives. The son would then have to build his own house and acquire new lands.
A note on Cusco- Post Spanish
Pizarro arrived at Cusco 15/11/1533 after the Inca civil war had wiped out his opposition. The Spanish quickly took it over, using the Inca temples and palaces as bases (or as building materials) to build their churches and villas (e.g. Santo Domingo Priory and Church is built over the Inca Qoricancha-
Temple of the Sun; the Church of the Jesuits over the Amaruncancha); Some Inca building survived earthquakes better than their Spanish superseders- Pachacuti Palace, Temples of the Sun and Virgins of the Sun stand today. It was not long before the Spanish architecture gave way to a mix of styles. The city was briefly retaken by Sapa Inca Manco Yupanqui in 1536, but smallpox forced him to retreat. Thereafter Cusco became a centre of Spanish colonisation and evangelism- it became a wealthy city and the Spanish nobility of Cusco had a powerful voice in Lima. After Peru became independent Cusco retained its importance. It helps that it has a pleasant climate, although a high elevation of 3.300m. In 2006 Cusco had the highest UV level on earth.

Posted by PetersF 16:47 Archived in Peru Tagged peru cusco inca sacsayhuamán tambomachay qenqo kenko/

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.