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Characters and historical events ››

  1. Inca Religion
  2. Inca Art
  3. Coricancha
  4. Cusco
  5. Tiwanaku
  6. Quipu
  7. Pachacamac
  8. Machu Picchu
  9. Coricancha

Historical places, and their characters | Who they were and their facts

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[ 1 ]

Inca Religion

Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

Religion was for the Incas, as with many other ancient cultures, inseparable from politics, history, and society in general. All facets of community life were closely connected to religious beliefs, from marriages to agriculture, government to burials. Success and failures of any kind in life were due to the influence of the gods and the Inca’s ancestors. Keeping these figures content and avoiding their wrath in the form of natural disasters such as drought and earthquakes was a very important purpose of religious practices. The Inca religion was also an important tool for the ruling elite to legitimize both their own privileged position within Inca society and to spread the general belief of Inca superiority over the subjects of their vast Empire.

Influences & Local Traditions

Inca religion was influenced by earlier and contemporary Andean traditions, especially the Wari civilization and ancient Tiwanaku. Indeed, for all the state endorsed religion imposed by Cuzco, many local communities still adhered to their own traditional beliefs throughout the empire even if they were forced to adopt the major Inca gods as well. One such continuing Andean tradition was the belief in a specific founder of the community and an association with a particular spot where that person had emerged from the earth - a paqarisqa.
The long-standing worship of the Sun, Moon, stars and planets amongst ancient Andean communities were other beliefs perpetuated by the Incas. Shamans too, with their feared ability to cast spells and particular skill at divination by reading unfathomable signs in fires, llama's intestines and such like, remained important figures in the Inca world. Cuzco was reputed to have 475 of them, the most important being the yacarca, the personal advisor to the king. Yet another millennia-old Andean tradition which the Incas continued was the belief in oracles - the most famous being at Chavin and Pachacamac.
Inti was the most important Inca god as he was the god of the Sun and the patron of empire and conquest.

Creation of the World

For the Incas themselves, the world was created at Lake Titicaca, long previously considered a sacred place for Andean people and visited by Inca rulers in regular pilgrimages. The creator god Wiraqoca Pacayacaciq (or simply Viracocha) one day, on the sacred Island of the Sun on Lake Titicaca, made a race of giants but, finding these too large for his purpose, instead made humans on a smaller scale. This first race of humans upset Viracocha with their greed and arrogance and so as punishment he turned some of them to stone and others into the earth and natural features. Then he sent a great flood to wipe the earth clean, saving only three humans so that they might start the race again. Also at Lake Titicaca, Viracocha then made the Sun, Moon and stars. Next, the god went travelling around disguised as a beggar and known as Kon-Tiki, amongst many other names. He made carvings at Tiwanaku, established Cuzco by directing the Inca founding couple Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo there, and generally taught people the civilizing arts. Then, when he arrived at the coast, he mysteriously walked away across the sea to the west, promising one day that his messengers would return.

Inti & the Temple of the Sun

Inti was the most important Inca god as he was the god of the Sun and the patron of empire and conquest. His home of plenty was also the destination in the next life for those who lived good lives in this one. The Inca king or ruler was considered divine and a living descendant of Inti legitimizing the Inca divine right of rule. A gold statue of Inti, represented as a small seated boy and known as Punchao, was kept in the Temple of the Sun, at the Coricancha (Qorikancha) sacred complex at Cuzco. With rays projecting from his head and decorated with gold jewellery, the stomach of this figure was used as a receptacle for the ashes of the burned vital organs of previous Inca kings. Each day the statue was brought outside of the temple to bask in the sun. Following the Spanish conquest the figure was removed and hidden, never to be found again. So too, the gold which covered the exterior and interior of the Temple of the Sun, all 1,400 kilos of it, was spirited away by the European invaders. In addition to the Coricancha, Inti had the temple-fortress complex of Sacsahuaman dedicated to him, located just outside Cuzco.
The well-being of the king and the Inca Empire and the guarantee of a good harvest were entirely in the hands of Inti. The god was served by a dedicated High Priest (Villaq Umu), the most senior religious figure in the Inca world, who was aided by a team of young virgin priests, the acllas (also acyllyaconas). Each major Inca town had a temple to the god and a vast amount of resources were dedicated to him. Even land and herds were reserved especially for Inti and a whole province near Lake Titicaca was set aside for him. The Coricancha went one step further where a maize field complete with life-size llamas and shepherds was constructed out of pure gold and dedicated to the Sun.
One of the most important ceremonies in worship of Inti was the 8-9 day Inti Raymi, held every June (winter) solstice on a plain outside Cuzco. Sacrifices were made, libations of water and chicha beer were offered, and all the nobility and priesthood participated in a lavish festival of feasting and singing which also marked the beginning of the ploughing season. Another important festival in honour of both Inti and Viracocha was the Qhapaq Ucha when all towns across the empire were expected to send one or two of good-looking children (copacochas) to be sacrificed at the ceremony in Cuzco and in the subsequent procession in pilgrimage to various important sacred sites across the Inca world. Death was by strangulation or having their hearts removed, and this offering was believed to guarantee the continued well-being of the ruler and his people.

Other Gods

Besides Inti, the sacred Coricancha also had a temple to the Moon goddess Mama Kilya, one to the creator god Viracocha, and another to Illapa the god of thunder, the latter temple being called Pukamarka. Mama Kilya was considered important as she governed the ceremonial calendar whilst Illapa brought rain and storms - the thunder being produced as he wielded his sling while the lightning came from the flashing of his silver robes. Both Cuichu the rainbow god (for the Incas a bad omen) and the personification of Venus (Chaska-Qoylor) had their own temples alongside the others within the sacred Coricancha complex.
Lesser deities, although still important in their particular domains, included the earth goddess Pachamama in whose honour farmers built a stone altar in the centre of their fields where they could easily offer sacrifices in the hope of a good harvest. Pachamac ('Earth Maker') was a celebrated oracle and creator god, especially in the provinces. Particularly associated with earthquakes, he had an entire temple city, Pachacamac, built in his honour, where there was a great wooden idol of the god, which pilgrims visited to hear its advice. Finally, the coastal people held Mamacocha ('Mother of the Lakes and Seas') in particularly high regard. These gods and others had over 400 shrines in Cuzco alone.
The Incas were keen observers of celestial bodies and had mastered their movements and cycles. Accordingly, stars, constellations, and planets also had their personified representations, especially the Pleiades (Qollqa), the Milky Way (Mayu), Orion's Belt, and Venus (Chaska Cuyllor). In general it seems that all creatures had their own particular stellar equivalent which somehow governed and protected all its physical specimens on earth.

Mode of Worship

The Inca gods, then, were worshipped with the construction of temples (wasi) and sacred sites (huacas) where ceremonies were held, prayers made, and offerings given. A hierarchical priesthood conducted such ceremonies, their status depending on that of the god they served. The gods were kept satisfied and the status quo maintained via the sacrifice of precious goods and animals, especially llamas (white ones to Inti, brown ones to Viracocha, and dappled ones to Illapa). Humans, including children, were also sacrificed (even if on a smaller scale than other Americas cultures), typically by hitting them on the head while under the effects of alcohol which was given to them so that they might be happy when they first encountered their god. These more dramatic offerings were generally reserved for times of great strife such as prolonged droughts, solar eclipses, or a royal death. Human sacrifices also occurred after victories in war and were offered in many of the high mountain sacred shrines which dotted the empire.

Huacas & Ceque

The Incas believed that gods, spirits, and long-dead ancestors could be manifested on earth in the form of natural features such as mountain peaks (apu), rivers, springs, caves, rocky outcrops, and even peculiar shaped stones. These places were sometimes modified to accentuate unusual features and were treated as shrines with special power to influence reality. They were known as huacas (wak'a) and, in the case of stones, were taken for safe-keeping in palaces and tombs, on occasion, even transported on military expeditions. People left offerings at huacas, especially sea shells, textiles, coca, precious goods, clay figurines, and sacrifices were made, most commonly of llamas and guinea pigs.
Huacas could also be places used for astronomical observations. Perhaps the most famous is the 'hitching post of the sun' (intihuatana) at the highest point of Machu Picchu which was used to symbolically connect the sun to the earth via a special cord on each solstice. The most important sighting post was, though, the usnu - a raised platform in a plaza at Cuzco. This had a stone pillar used for astronomical observations and an adamantine throne for the Inca king to watch religious festivals from. All of these sacred sites - some 328 - were then linked to Cuzco, the centre of the Inca world, by 41 lines known as ceque (zeq'e) which could be physical trails or sight lines thus creating an imaginary sacred web with Cuzco at its heart.

Ancestor Worship & Mummies

Older generations (ayllu) were never forgotten in Inca society and tombs were re-opened at particular times in order for people to make new offerings to the deceased. These took the form of precious goods and food, and sometimes even purpose built channels permitted the pouring of libations into the grave without otherwise disturbing it. Particularly important individuals who had passed away could be represented in the community by statues, especially the founder of the community whose idol was the most precious object in a community. Indeed, the Incas exploited this tradition and often kidnapped the idols of conquered communities, keeping them hostage at Cuzco to ensure the compliance of the vanquished.
The bodies of important community members were often mummified, principally using processes involving desiccation and alcohol, and then wrapped in textiles and bound with cords in a fetal position. The mummies were then placed in tombs, in special rooms in a community mausoleum, or placed in sacred caves (machay) - most famously in the highlands of Cajatambo where over 1,800 mummies were discovered by the Spanish.
Internment was not usually permanent as mummies were occasionally brought out of their tombs so that they might in some way participate in important community events such as marriages and harvests. The most famous participation of deceased ancestors in the lives of the living was the role of mummies of former rulers, the mallquis. These were pampered during important ceremonies at Cuzco, dressed in fine clothes and even ritually fed. Their opinions were 'consulted' by priests and dedicated attendants (mallquipavillac) when important decisions had to be taken and they were honoured guests in the Inti Raymi festival.

The Demise of the Incas

It is interesting to note that following the downfall of the Incas their state religion and, in particular, the worship of the Sun, quickly fell out of favour with communities outside Cuzco who had long preferred the Moon as their principal god. The Inca-built temples and the land set aside for Inti were abandoned as religious sites and put to other uses. People abandoned the solar calendar and reverted to their time-honoured practices of worshipping their own gods, sacred sites, and ancestors. The local beliefs of the ancient Andean peoples proved resilient then but, in a way, so too did unique elements of the Inca religion, as, in a late 20th century CE revival after centuries of Catholic domination, many of the Inca ceremonies and traditions, notably the Inti Raymi festival and mountain pilgrimages, were revived and continue to be annually re-enacted in modern-day Peru.
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[ 2 ]

Inca Art

Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

The art of the Inca civilization of Peru (c. 1425-1532 CE) produced some of the finest works ever crafted in the ancient Americas. Inca art is best seen in highly polished metalwork, ceramics, and, above all, textiles, with the last being considered the most prestigious by the Incas themselves. Designs often use geometrical shapes, are standardized, and technically accomplished. The European invaders destroyed much of Inca art either for sheer monetary gain or religious reasons but enough examples survive as testimony to the magnificent range and skills of Inca artists.

Influences & Designs

Although influenced by the art and techniques of the earlier Chimu civilization, the Incas did create their own distinctive style which was an instantly recognisable symbol of imperial dominance across their massive empire. The Incas would go on to produce textiles, ceramics, and metal sculpture technically superior to any previous Andean culture, and this despite stiff competition from such masters of metalwork as the craftsmen of the Moche civilization.
Just as the Incas imposed a political dominance over their conquered subjects, so too with art, they imposed standard Inca forms and designs. The art itself did not suffer as a consequence, though. As art historian Rebecca Stone puts it,
Standardisation, though powerfully unifying, did not necessarily lower the quality of art; technically Inca tapestry, large-scale ceramic vessels, mortar-less masonry, and miniature metal sculptures are unsurpassed. (Art of the Andes, 194)
The checkerboard stands out as a very popular design. One of the reasons for the repetition of designs was that pottery and textiles were often produced for the state as a tax, and so artworks were representative of specific communities and their cultural heritage. Just as today coins and stamps reflect a nation's history, so too, Andean artwork offered recognisable motifs which either represented the specific communities making them or the imposed designs of the ruling Inca class ordering them. The Incas did, though, allow local traditions to maintain their preferred colours and proportions. In addition, gifted artists such as those from Chan Chan or the Titicaca area and women particularly skilled at weaving were brought to Cuzco so that they could produce beautiful things for the Inca rulers.
Andean artwork offered recognisable motifs which represented the specific communities making them & the imposed designs of the ruling Inca class ordering them.
It is also notable that both Inca pottery decoration and textiles did not include representations of themselves, their rituals, their military conquests, or such common Andean images as monsters and half-human, half-animal figures. Rather, the Incas almost always preferred colourful geometrical designs and abstract motifs representing animals and birds.

Ceramics

Inca pottery used natural clay but added such materials as mica, sand, pulverised rock, and shell which prevented cracking during the firing process. There was no potter’s wheel in the ancient Americas and so vessels were made by hand, first creating a base and then laying a coil of clay around it until the vessel reached the size required. Then the sides were smoothed using a flat stone. Smaller and medium-sized vessels were made using clay moulds. Before firing, a clay ‘slip’ was added and the vessel was painted, incised (sometimes using stamps), or had reliefs added. In kilns, pits, or open fires, the vessel was then fired using the oxidising method (adding oxygen to the flames) to create red, yellow and cream coloured pottery, or, via the reduction method (limiting the oxygen supply) to produce black wares.
Ceramics were for wider use, and so forms were, above all, practical. The most common shape was the urpu, a bulbous vessel used for storing maize with a long neck, flared lip, two small handles low on the pot, and a pointed base. The point at the base pressed into the ground and stabilised the pot while maize was poured into it. There were standardized sizes of urpu based on their content volume. They were decorated with abstract plant motifs and geometrical designs, most commonly zig-zags and dots. Examples from Cuzco are more elegant than those from other regions and are painted a distinctive black on red.
Other types of ceramics are large flat serving dishes with animal figure handles, bowls, tall qeros beakers (made in pairs and also in wood), and the paccha. The latter was a hollow tube in the shape of a foot plough, typically decorated with three-dimensional additions such as a corn cob and urpu. The paccha (meaning ‘waterfall’) was placed into the ground so that maize beer could be ritually poured into it in ceremonies to promote a good harvest.

Metalwork

Objects using precious metals such as discs, jewellery, figurines, ceremonial knives (tumi), lime dippers, and everyday objects were made exclusively for Inca nobles. Gold was considered the sweat of the sun, and silver was considered the tears of the moon. Copper was another popular material, and these metals would have been inlaid with precious stones such as emeralds, polished semi-precious stones like lapis lazuli, polished bone, and spondylus shell. Alternatively, gold and silver were inlaid into bronze. Metals were alloyed, cast, beaten, incised, embossed, beaded, and used as gilding. Inca jewellery pieces made from precious metals included earrings, earspools, pendants, bracelets, and dress pins.
The Inca royalty only drank from gold and silver beakers, and their shoes had silver soles. Surviving figurines, both of humans and llamas, found in burial sites were made either by cast or with up to 18 separate sheets of gold and carved in intricate life-like detail. Gold and silver were also used for many religious pieces, especially representations of natural phenomena and places the Incas held sacred. These works represented the sun, moon, stars, rainbows, lightning, waterfalls, and so on. Masks representing the principal gods such as Inti the god of the sun and Mama Kilya the goddess of the moon, along with other sacred objects, were then placed within Inca temples but these have since been lost.
Perhaps the most famously lost Inca art piece is a gold statue of Inti, represented as a small seated boy and known as Punchao, which was kept in the Temple of the Sun, at the Coricancha (Qorikancha) sacred complex at Cuzco. With rays projecting from his head and decorated with gold jewellery, the stomach of this figure was used as a receptacle for the ashes of the burned vital organs of previous Inca kings. Each day the statue was brought outside of the temple to bask in the sun. Following the Spanish conquest the figure was removed and hidden, never to be found again.
The Coricancha also had a stunning garden dedicated to Inti. Everything in it was made of gold and silver. A large field of corn and life-size models of shepherds, llamas, jaguars, guinea pigs, monkeys, birds and even butterflies and insects were all crafted in precious metal. All that survives of these wonders are a few golden corn stalks, a convincing, if silent, testimony to the lost treasures of Inca metalworkers.

Textiles

Although very few examples of Inca textiles survive from the heartland of the empire, we do have, thanks to the dryness of the Andean environment, many textile examples from the highlands and mountain burial sites. In addition, Spanish chroniclers often made drawings of textile designs and clothing so that we have a reasonable picture of the varieties in use. Consequently, we have many more examples of textiles than other crafts such as ceramics and metalwork.
For the Incas, finely worked and highly decorative textiles came to symbolize both wealth and status. Fine cloth could be used as both a tax and currency, and the very best textiles became amongst the most prized of all possessions, even more precious than gold or silver. Inca weavers were technically the most accomplished the Americas had ever seen and, with up to 120 wefts per centimetre, the best fabrics were considered the most precious gifts of all. As a result, when the Spanish arrived in the early 16th century CE, it was textiles and not metal goods which were given in welcome to these visitors from another world.
It seems that both men and women created textiles, but it was a skill women of all classes were expected to be accomplished at. At the capital Cuzco, the finest cloth was made by male specialists known as qumpicamayocs or 'keepers of the fine cloth'. The principal equipment was the backstrap loom for smaller pieces and either the horizontal single-heddle loom or vertical loom with four poles for larger pieces. Spinning was done with a drop spindle, typically in ceramic or wood. Inca textiles were made using cotton (especially on the coast and in the eastern lowlands) or llama, alpaca, and vicuña wool (more common in the highlands) which can be exceptionally fine. Goods made using the super-soft vicuña wool were restricted and only the Inca ruler could own vicuña herds. Rougher textiles were also made using maguey fibres.
The principal colours used in Inca textiles were black, white, green, yellow, orange, purple, and red. These colours came from natural dyes which were extracted from plants, minerals, insects, and molluscs. Colours also had specific associations. For example, red was equated with conquest, rulership, and blood. This was most clearly seen in the Mascaypacha, the Inca state insignia, where each thread of its red tassel symbolised a conquered people. Green represented rainforests, the peoples who inhabited them, ancestors, rain and its consequent agricultural growth, coca, and tobacco. Black signified creation and death, while yellow could signal maize or gold. Purple was, as in the rainbow, considered the first colour and associated with Mama Oclla, the founding mother of the Inca race.
Besides using dyed strands to weave patterns, other techniques included embroidery, tapestry, mixing different layers of cloth, and painting – either by hand or using wooden stamps. The Incas favoured abstract geometric designs, especially checkerboard motifs, which repeated patterns (tocapus) across the surface of the cloth. Certain patterns may also have been ideograms. Non-geometrical subjects, often rendered in abstract form, included felines (especially jaguars and pumas), llamas, snakes, birds, sea creatures, and plants. Clothes were simply patterned, commonly with square designs at the waist and fringes and a triangle marking the neck. One such design was the standard military tunic which consisted of a black and white checkerboard design with an inverted red triangle at the neck.
Inca Military Tunic
Additional decoration could be added to textile articles in the form of tassels, brocade, feathers, and beads of precious metal or shell. Precious metal threads could also be woven into the cloth itself. As feathers were usually from rare tropical birds and condors, these garments were reserved for the royal family and nobility.

Conclusion

The European invaders in the 16th century CE not only ruthlessly melted down or spirited away any precious Inca goods they found but also attempted to repress elements of Inca art, even banning such trivial objects as the qeros beakers in an attempt to curb drinking habits. Distinctive Inca textile designs such as those connected to royal power were also discouraged but, in defiance, many of the indigenous peoples continued with their artistic traditions. Thanks to this perseverance and continuity, and despite an evolution where designs were blended with elements of colonial art, many traditional Inca designs and motifs survive to this day and are celebrated as such in the ceramics, metalwork, and textiles of modern Peru.
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[ 3 ]

Coricancha

Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

The religious complex of Coricancha (Qorikancha) in the Inca capital at Cuzco contained the Temple of the Sun which was not only the most sacred site or huaca in the Inca religion but was considered the very centre of the Inca world. The site was also known as the Golden Enclosure and was dedicated to the highest gods in the Inca pantheon such as the Creator god Viracocha, the moon goddess Quilla and especially to Inti, the god of the sun. Little remains today except some sections of its fine stone walls which hint at the site's once massive size and the legendary stories which tell of the enormous quantity of gold used to decorate the temples and its golden garden.

Layout & Architecture

The construction of the complex is commonly attributed to Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, the 9th Inca ruler (1438-1471 CE) who also embarked on a general rebuilding programme in the capital. Despite excavations, though, the exact chronology of the site is not clear. In Inca mythology the first Inca leader Manco Capac (Manqo Qhapaq) built a temple at the site in the early 12th century CE and archaeology does show evidence of pre-empire structures.
The lay-out of the site, as seen from above, actually resembled a sun with rays shining out in all directions. These were the sacred ceque (zeq'e) lines - physical and cosmic roads - of which there were 41 which led to an impressive 328 sacred sites. Cuzco itself was deliberately laid out to represent a jaguar and Coricancha was located at the tail. In typical Inca symmetry the second most important sacred site in the city - Sacsahuaman - was located at the head. Coricancha was also built where the city's two great rivers of Huantanay and Tullamayo met.
The doors were covered in gold sheets, as were the interiors and exteriors of the various temples and the inner side of the perimeter wall was even said to have been studded with emeralds.
Built using the fine masonry skills for which the Inca have rightly become famous, the massive walls of the complex were built from large stone blocks finely cut and fitted together without mortar. The large curved western wall was particularly noted for its form and elegant, regular masonry. Most walls also leaned slightly inwards as they rose in height, a typical feature of Inca architecture. Many trapezoid doorways and windows allowed access and light to enter the interior spaces and a broad band of gold was added mid-way height around the walls. The interior buildings were of one storey and had thatched roofs. The doors were also covered in gold sheets, as were the interiors and exteriors of the various temples and the inner side of the perimeter wall was even said to have been studded with emeralds.

Temple of the Sun

The most important temple in the precinct was the Temple of the Sun, dedicated to the sun god Inti. The interior and exterior walls of the temple, situated in the northern corner of the complex, were covered in gold - considered the sweat of the sun - which was beaten into sheet plates. There were, reportedly, 700 of these half-metre square sheets, each weighing 2 kg.
Inside the temple, besides golden artefacts relevant to the god's worship, was a gold statue of Inti encrusted with jewels. The statue represented Inti as a small seated boy called Punchao (Day or Midday Sun). From his head and shoulders the sun's rays shone, he wore a royal headband and had snakes and lions coming out of his body. The stomach of the statue was hollow and used to store the ashes of the vital organs of previous Inca rulers. Everyday this statue was brought out into the open air and returned to the shrine each night. Another important representation of the god - a giant mask with zig-zag rays bursting from the head - was hung from the wall of a specially dedicated chamber within the temple.
The garden of the temple was a wonderfully conceived homage to Inti. Just as land - sometimes even entire regions - were dedicated to the god, so too, this garden was constructed in honour of the great sun god Inti. Everything in it was made of gold and silver. A large field of corn and life-size models of shepherds, llamas, jaguars, guinea pigs, monkeys, birds and even butterflies and insects were all crafted in precious metal. And if that wasn't enough to please Inti there were also a large number of gold and silver jars all encrusted with precious stones. All that survives of these wonders are a few golden corn stalks, a convincing, if silent, testimony to the lost treasures of Coricancha.

Other Temples

Five other temples or wasi were placed around the main square courtyard of Coricancha. In order of hierarchy, one temple was dedicated to the creator god Viracocha (more or less equal to Inti), one to Quilla the goddess of the moon, one to Venus or Chaska-Qoylor, one to the god of thunder Illapa, and finally one for Cuichu the rainbow god. Just as Inti's temple was covered in gold, Quilla's temple was covered in silver, a metal thought to be the tears of the moon. Each wasi contained a cult statue of that particular god and precious art and religious objects connected to them.
There was also a dedicated space for the mummified remains of former Inca emperors and their wives, known as mallquis. These were brought out of storage during special ceremonies such as those celebrating the solstices. Offerings were made to these mummies dressed in fine clothes, and the great achievements they had made during their reigns were read out for all to hear. There were also living quarters for priests and priestesses and still other rooms of the complex were used as art and religious treasuries stuffed with artefacts taken from conquered peoples. These may well have been kept in order to guarantee compliance to Inca rule, just as conquered rulers were sometimes held hostage at Cuzco for periods of the year. Yet another interesting feature of the site was an underground channel through which sacred water flowed to the surrounding squares outside the complex.
Other important functions of Coricancha included the taking of astronomical observations, especially of the Milky Way (Mayu). There was, for example, a pair of towers which marked the Summer solstice and sightings were taken from the sacred ushnu stone against man-made and natural landmarks on the horizon to track the sun. Sacrificial victims (capacochas) were also made ready for their great moment in the precinct's courtyard and then marched along the ceque lines to be sacrificed in the various provinces in honour of Inti and his living incarnation, the Inca emperor.

Later History

The rather plain entrance doorway of the complex survives today with its typical double jamb, as do sections of the outer walls and some interior walls. The Christian monastery of Santo Domingo was built on top of the complex, no doubt, in a deliberate attempt to signify that one religion had been replaced by another. Most of the gold from the site was, of course, melted into ingots and taken for the Spanish Crown. The star piece, the golden statue of Inti, was taken to a place of safety when the Spanish arrived but it seems that they did eventually find it thirty years later in 1572 CE but it disappeared without trace, probably melted down like so many other Inca artefacts.
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[ 4 ]

Cusco

Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

Cuzco (also Cusco or Qosqo) was the religious and administrative capital of the Inca Empire which flourished in ancient Peru between c. 1400 and 1534 CE. The Incas controlled territory from Quito to Santiago, making theirs the largest empire ever seen in the Americas and the largest in the world at that time. Cuzco, which had a population of up to 150,000 at its peak, was laid out in the form of a puma and was dominated by fine buildings and palaces, the richest of all being the sacred gold-covered and emerald-studded Coricancha complex which included a temple to the Inca sun god Inti.

Cuzco in Mythology

In mythology the Inca race was created by the great god Viracocha who caused them to be born from the sun god Inti. The first eight Incas were thus born at Tiwanaku or, in an alternative version, they emerged from the sacred Pacaritambo cave, and then they migrated down to the Cuzco valley. Led by Manco Capac (or Manko Qhapaq) and Mama Ocllo, the group fulfilled the earlier prophecy whereby they should settle where their golden staff could be easily driven into the ground. Before the Incas could prosper, though, they first had to defeat their local rivals, the Chanca, a feat they achieved with the help of stone giants, the pururaucas. This event did have a basis in reality, as the Incas did indeed defeat the Chanca in 1438 CE. Thus the Inca capital was established. The name Cuzco may derive from either qosqo, meaning 'dried-up lake bed' or cozco, a particular stone marker in the city.

Geography, Layout & Architecture

The geographical location of the site, on an ancient glacier lake bed and at a central point between natural routes leading off to diverse surrounding regions, was advantageous. The basin lies at an altitude of 3,450 metres and is surrounded by mountain peaks. Crops could be grown in the valley, and the hills provided good pasture. Cuzco is also the meeting point of three rivers - the Huatanay, Tullumayo, and Chunchul - making it especially significant and auspicious in the Inca mind. In typical Inca fashion, where nature was adapted but never abused, the rivers were canalized and diverted to create the space necessary for a large city.
Cuzco saw a great period of re-building in the mid-15th century CE during the reign of Pachacuti, known as 'Reverser of the World'.
First habitation of settled populations was actually as early as 500 BCE or earlier, and the main pre-Inca settlement was Chanapata. Decorated pottery survives from this period, but there is no evidence of large buildings, artworks, or metal. Similarly, there are no remains from the Tiwanaku period at the Cuzco site itself. Cuzco really began to take shape from around 1200 CE but only took on the grandeur of a capital during the reign of Inca Roca in the 14th century CE. From that point on each Inca ruler built his own palace, a great walled residential complex. In addition, from 1400 CE the Incas embarked on ambitious campaigns to conquer neighbouring territory, eventually building a huge empire with Cuzco as the administrative and religious capital.
The city saw a great period of re-building and expansion in the mid-15th century CE during the reign of Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, known as 'Reverser of the World'. The swamp area in the north was drained, and the heart of the city moved there. Large ceremonial plazas were laid out, the Sacsayhuaman (or Saqsawaman) fortress, which protected the north of the city, was built, and the sacred Coricancha complex was rebuilt to more appropriately reflect the wealth and power of the Inca Empire. Other building works over time, which increased the spread of Cuzco to some 40 hectares, seem to have been less deliberately planned, resulting in an irregular shaped urban area.
The whole capital was built around four principal highways which led to the four quarters of the empire. The city was also laid out in the form of a puma (although some scholars dispute this and take the description metaphorically) with the imperial metropolis of Pumachupan forming the tail, the main plaza representing the body, and the temple complex of Sacsayhuaman forming the head. The entire city was also divided into two distinct parts called the hanan and hurin; the former, in the north, was higher in elevation and more prestigious than its lower, southern, counterpart. Five noble families occupied each sector. The centre was dominated by the double plazas of Haucaypata ('Terrace of Repose') and Cusipata ('Fortunate Terrace') which, covered in imported sand, hosted religious and state ceremonies. These would be presided over by the Inca king, seated on his carved stone throne on a raised platform, the usnu, which also had a pillar for taking sightings of celestial bodies. Here there was also a giant stone basin covered in gold into which were poured libations of chicha beer. Dominating the plaza was the Sunturwasi, a spire which was the tallest structure in Cuzco.
Incorporating kanchas (small groups of buildings organised around a courtyard all within a high-walled enclosure), vast plazas, parklands, sacred agricultural fields, shrines, fountains, and canals, yet with the narrow streets of a culture without wheeled vehicles, the city was largely reserved for priests, nobility, and administrators, while the farming and artisan communities were spread out beyond Cuzco's walls where there were also hundreds of qollqa storehouses which had a huge storage capacity. The city proper had a population of around 40,000 with another 200,000 in the surrounding area at the time of the Spanish conquest.
Cuzco was also an important component in the propaganda of Inca rule. It was encouraged to be venerated by Inca subjects as a sacred site. This policy also entailed tributes both in real value objects, such as gold and artworks, but also in people, either rulers and/or their family members kept as hostages, forcibly relocated artists and skilled craftsmen and women, and the provision of sacrificial victims. In addition, radiating out from Cuzco were 41 sacred sight lines (ceques) and well-paved roads which divided both space and time and reminded that Cuzco was the centre of the world. Finally, small models of Cuzco have been discovered across the empire which must have spread the news of the capital's great size and wealth.

Coricancha

Most splendid of Cuzco's buildings was the Coricancha (Qorikancha), with its temples (wasi) built in honour of Inti, the moon goddess Mama Kilya (Quilla), the creator god Viracocha, Venus or Chaska-Qoylor, the god of thunder Illapa, and finally one for Cuichu the rainbow god. Each wasi contained a cult statue of that particular god and precious art and religious objects connected to them. The Coricancha, also known as the Golden Enclosure, was thus the most sacred of all Inca sites and considered the very centre of the world.
Built using the fine masonry skills for which the Inca have rightly become famous, the massive walls of the complex were built from large stone blocks finely cut and fitted together without mortar. The interior buildings were of one storey and had thatched roofs. The doors were also covered in gold sheets, as were the interiors and exteriors of the various temples, and the inner side of the perimeter wall was even said to have been studded with emeralds. The temple to Inti, also known as the Temple of the Sun, was lined with 700 2 kg sheets of beaten gold, symbolizing the sweat of the god, and Mama Kilya's temple was similarly lined with silver, symbolizing the tears of the moon.
Inside the Temple of the Sun, besides golden artefacts relevant to the god's worship, was a gold statue of Inti encrusted with jewels. The statue represented Inti as a small seated boy called Punchao (Day or Midday Sun). Another important representation of the god - a giant mask with zigzag rays bursting from the head - was hung from the wall of an especially dedicated chamber within the temple. The garden of the temple was even more spectacular. Just as land - sometimes even entire regions - were dedicated to the god, so too, this garden was constructed in honour of the great sun god. Everything in it was made of gold and silver. A large field of corn and life-size models of shepherds, llamas, jaguars, guinea pigs, monkeys, birds, and even butterflies and insects were all crafted in precious metal. And if that wasn't enough to please Inti, there was also a large number of gold and silver jars all encrusted with precious stones. All that survives of these wonders are a few golden corn stalks, a convincing, if silent, testimony to the lost treasures of Coricancha.
The Coricancha also had a dedicated space for the mummified remains of former Inca emperors and their wives, known as mallquis. These were brought out of storage during special ceremonies such as those celebrating the solstices. There were also living quarters for priests and priestesses, and still other rooms of the complex were used as art and religious treasuries stuffed with artefacts taken from conquered peoples. These may well have been kept in order to guarantee compliance to Inca rule, just as conquered rulers were sometimes held hostage at Cuzco for periods of the year. Yet another interesting feature of the site was an underground channel through which sacred water flowed to the surrounding squares outside the complex.
Other important functions of the Coricancha included the taking of astronomical observations, especially of the Milky Way (Mayu). Sacrificial victims (capacochas) were also made ready for their great moment in the precinct's courtyard and then marched along the ceque lines to be sacrificed in the various provinces in honour of Inti and his living incarnation, the Inca emperor.

Sacsayhuaman

The fortress of Sacsayhuaman, built by Pachacuti, was likely first constructed using mud and clay, later to be replaced by magnificent stone work which employed huge finely cut blocks, many weighing over 100 tons. Designed by four architects (Huallpa Rimachi, Maricanchi, Acahuana, and Calla Cunchui) and built using 20,000 tribute labourers, the structure has three terraces set in zigzag fashion so that each wall has up to 40 segments which allowed the defenders to catch attackers in a crossfire. Only one small doorway on each terrace gave access to the interior buildings and towers on the hillside behind. The fortress was said to have had a capacity for 1,000 warriors. Following the collapse of the empire, most of the stones were re-used elsewhere, and the ruins were covered in earth to prevent their use by rebel forces.

Destruction

The Incas expanded their territory to such a degree that a mere 40,000 Incas controlled an empire of 10 million subjects. The Inca Empire was founded on, and maintained by, force which made the leaders unpopular with their subjects (especially in the northern territories), a situation that the Spanish Conquistadores, led by Francisco Pizarro, would take full advantage of in the middle decades of the 16th century CE. The Inca Empire also had to face various rebellions including a war in Ecuador where a second Inca capital had been established at Quito. Even more serious, the Incas were hit by an epidemic of European diseases such as smallpox which had spread from Central America even faster than the European invaders themselves, and the wave killed a staggering 65-90% of the population. Such a disease killed Wayna Qhapaq in 1528 CE and two of his sons, Waskar and Atahualpa, battled in a damaging civil war for control of the empire just when the European treasure-hunters arrived. It was this combination of factors - a perfect storm of rebellion, disease, and invasion - which ultimately brought the downfall of Cuzco and the mighty Inca Empire.
Cuzco was sacked, its main buildings either burned and destroyed or taken to pieces for reuse in new construction projects. Thus the once golden splendour of Inca Cuzco now, unfortunately, survives only in the eye-witness accounts of the first Europeans who marvelled at its architecture and riches and the odd stretch of Inca walls, especially the precisely cut supporting walls of the Dominican monastery.
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[ 5 ]

Tiwanaku

Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

Tiwanaku (or Tiahuanaco) was the capital of the Tiwanaku empire between c. 200 - 1000 CE and is situated in the Titicaca basin. At an altitude of 3,850 metres (12,600 ft) it was the highest city in the ancient world and had a peak population of between 30,000 and 70,000 residents. The Tiwanaku empire, at its largest extent, dominated the altiplano plains and stretched from the Peruvian coast to northern Bolivia and included parts of northern Chile. Tiwanaku is located near the southern (Bolivian) shores of the sacred Lake Titicaca and it would become the centre of one of the most important of all Andean cultures. The architecture, sculpture, roads, and empire management of Tiwanaku would exert a significant influence on the later Inca civilization.

Layout

Tiwanaku was founded some time in the Early Intermediate Period (200 BCE - 600 CE). The first examples of monumental architecture date to around 200 CE but it was from 375 CE that the city became grander in its architecture and scope. These new structures included large religious buildings, gateways, and sculptures. The layout of the city centre was constructed on an east-west axis, built in a grid design, and the whole was surrounded by a moat (perhaps only symbolic) on three sides which linked with Lake Titicaca on the fourth side of the city.
In mythology Lake Titicaca was considered the centre of the world, two islands on it were made into the sun and moon, and it was the site where the first race of stone giants was produced and subsequently, the human race. It has been suggested that many of the monuments at the site were placed in alignment with the sunrise and or the midday sun. However, the fact that many of Tiwanaku's monuments have been shifted about over the centuries makes the discovery of their original positions extremely difficult.
Outside of the moat there were residential buildings arranged in compounds and built using mud bricks. Irrigation was also provided for crops via canals, aqueducts and dikes which brought water from the lake. Such measures allowed for a successful and reliable agricultural yield (especially potatoes) and for sustained population growth so that at its peak the city covered up to 10 square kilometres.
Tiwanaku was the capital of one of the most influentional pan-Andean cultures.

The Sacred Centre

One of the striking features of Tiwanaku are the large open spaces for ceremonial and religious activities which employ fine monumental stonework, work which has long been admired including by the Incas. Their are two principal types of walls - those with large irregular blocks and those with fine-fitting and straight-edged blocks. Many blocks at Tiwanaku display grooves cut into them for the placing of ropes which made their transportation and positioning easier. Blocks could be held together using bronze clamps or staples, usually cast directly into T and I-shaped sockets in the stone. The precision of some of the cut blocks suggests the use of relatively sophisticated tools and instruments of measurement. An indication of these skills is that the much later Inca deliberately imported their stonemasons from the Lake Titicaca basin in direct homage to the gifted builders of Tiwanaku.
The focal point of the sacred precinct was the Akapana Temple which was an artificial hill over 15 metres high and shaped into seven tiers. Steps were cut into the east and west sides. The top of the mound was made into a flat area of 50 square metres and used to create a T-shaped sunken court. The court is paved with andesite and sandstone slabs and drainage was provided by stone channels which cascaded water down each of the terraces. The site may have been used in shamanic rituals and a High Priest was buried there with a puma effigy incense burner and puma-headed humans iconography also covers the stonework of the temple.
The Kalasasaya is another sacred structure, this time rectangular and measuring 130 by 120 metres. Its sacred sunken court provided space for public and religious ceremonies and, as a reminder of this, has severed stone heads protruding from the interior of its sandstone perimeter walls which also include regularly placed tall columns. The precinct is accessed via a single staircase which again has stone columns either side. Standing in the precinct is the Ponce Monolith, a 3.5 metre tall stone perhaps depicting a ruler, High Priest, or god of Tiwanaku. The figure holds a kero (qero) or tall beaker in one hand and a staff-like object, perhaps a sceptre or coca snuff tablet, in the other.
In the north-west corner (not its original position) of the Kalasasaya is perhaps the most famous structure of Tiwanaku, the monumental Gateway of the Sun. Carved from a single massive block of andesite stone, the Gateway is 2.8 metres high and 3.8 metres wide. The opening in the gate, with its distinctive double jamb, is 1.4 metre wide. The top portion has relief carvings of 48 winged demons or angels, each with either a human or bird head and wearing a feathered headress. These figures are set in three rows and in the centre is a deity who has been identified as the Staff Deity from the Chavin culture, forerunner of the Andean creator god Viracocha. The god holds a staff with condor heads in each hand (identified by some as a spear-thrower and arrows), has a mask like face, has 19 rays coming from his head which end in either a circle or puma head, and is crying, probably to signify rain. Underneath these figures is a row of geometrical designs. Each side of the gate has a single rectangular niche.
Yet another temple, known as the Semi-Subterranean Temple, also has a sunken court which measures 28.5 metres by 26 metres and was accessed via a single staircase leading down into the court from the south side. The interior wall of this court also has stone heads protruding from it. In the centre of the court stelae or sculptures were found such as the 'Bennett Stela' which is 7.3 metres high and depicts possibly a ruler or High Priest of Tiwanaku. It is the tallest stone sculpture surviving from any ancient Andean culture. The figure is weeping and holds a beaker in one hand and a staff in the other. The figure is also covered in 30 small representations of animals and mythical creatures.
The Pumapunku was another temple mound, once again with a T-shape sunken court but this time the mound has only three tiers and is situated 1 km to the south-west of the main complex. The Pumpapunku is 150 square metres in area and 5 metres high. Unlike the Akapana mound there are stone portals with huge monolith lintels which functioned as a gateway to the whole sacred complex.

Residential Buildings

No storehouses or administrative buildings have been found at the site but there were large residential areas surrounding the sacred centre, these now lie under fields used for agriculture. These more humble structures were made using dried-mud bricks (adobe) and built on cobblestone foundations. There were also finer buildings in this area, elite residences with high adobe walls surrounding a coutyard and buildings constructed from finely-cut stone blocks. One of these buildings, known as the 'Palace of the Multicoloured Rooms', has walls which were painted in many coats over time in colours such as blue, green, red, orange and yellow. There are also canals, drainage channels, hearths, wall niches, and stone paved courtyards. Dedicated burial goods were excavated at the entrance to the building - gold, silver and turquoise jewellery, human remains, a llama foetus, pottery and bone tools.

Sculpture, Pottery & Textiles

Much of the sacred imagry at Tiwanaku can be found in other Andean cultures. The culture at Tiwanaku was influenced by its predecessors in the Titicaca basin, for example, the imagry of the Chavin and the architecture at Chiripa and Pukará. Repeated images at the site include the Staff Deity, severed trophy heads, and winged creatures (usually depicted in profile and running) with bird heads such as the condor and falcon. The Staff Deity appears on the famous Gateway of the Sun and is in typical pose: frontal holding a staff in each hand, rays coming from his head, a mask-like face, and wearing a tunic with kilt and belt. The image also appears on pottery and elsewhere in architecture and was likely the inspiration for the later worshipped Creator god Viracocha.
There are also several examples of large stone sculptures which the people of Tiwanaku may have intended to represent the first race of giants in pan-Andean mythology or former Tiwanaku rulers and priests. Some sculptures still have gold pins embedded in them suggesting fabric was used to dress them. They can also display traces of paint, indicating they were once brightly decorated. Other interesting sculptures from the site include a huge boulder sculpted into a model of a sacred precinct and the chachapumas, sculptures of puma-headed warriors who hold a knife in one hand and a severed human head in the other. These, along with the stone wall heads and finds of polished human skulls, strongly sugest a cult to the pan-Andean decapitator god. Other rituals are suggested by mass burials at the site such as one grave with 40 males, all with signs of being cut to pieces. The fact that the remains are buried in an area of rain-deposited sediment suggests that they were sacrificed after a catastrophic climate event.
Pottery finds include cups, bowls and jars with anthropomorhpic designs all with the distinctive orange base of Tiwanaku pottery. Distinctive shapes are the tall beakers and large storage vessels which were partially buried in pits. Many vessels show evidence of some degree of mass production using moulds. Most are brightly painted and gods, animals and geometric designs were a popular subject. Of particular note are vessels in the form of human heads, some capture precise idiosyncratic features and are, therefore, genuine portraits of a specific person or model. Tiwanaku pottery was exported throughout the empire and beyond via the large llama caravans used to connect Tiwanaku to its empire.
As with other Andean cultures, the residents of Tiwanaku were skilled weavers. Textiles rarely survive in the quantities of other more durable artefacts but enough examples are available to illustrate the skill and innovation of textile producers at the site. For example, a woollen tunic has flower decorations set in hard to achieve diagonal lines. Woollen hats from Tiwanaku have a distinctive box shape and are composed of five separately woven panels stitched together, sometimes with tassles added at the corners. Tiwanaku textiles use bright colours and the decorative motifs familiar from pottery - animals, birds, gods, and human figures - but these can appear in more abstract form and be squashed or stretched to suit the form of the object, especially in wall hangings and clothes. Geometric forms were also widely used in textile patterns, particularly the stepped diamond motif which is also seen in Tiwanaku architectural sculpture.

Collapse

The Tiwanaku empire collapsed around c. 1000 CE when faced with attacks from the Aymara Kingdoms, a collective group of states which included Colla, Lupaka, Cana, Canchi, Umasuyo and Pacaje. Tiwanaku the city was abandoned, possibly as late as c. 1100 CE, probably due to excessive drought brought about by regional climate change, but their monumental stone art and architecture survived to inspire the reverential Incas to similar artistic feats and they continue to impress the modern-day visitor with their timeless appeal.
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[ 6 ]

Quipu

Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

A quipu, or knot-record (also called khipu), was a method used by the Incas and other ancient Andean cultures to keep records and communicate information. In the absence of an alphabetic writing system, this simple and highly portable device achieved a surprising degree of precision and flexibility. Using a wide variety of colours, strings, and sometimes several hundred knots all tied in various ways at various heights, quipu could record dates, statistics, accounts, and even represent, in abstract form, key episodes from traditional folk stories and poetry. In recent years scholars have also challenged the traditional view that quipu were merely a memory aid device and go so far as to suggest that quipu may have been progressing towards narrative records and so becoming a viable alternative to written language just when the Inca Empire collapsed.

Method

A typical quipu consists of a horizontal string or even wooden bar, from which hang any number of knotted and coloured strings made from either cotton or wool. Some of the larger quipu have as many as 1500 strings, and these could also be woven in different ways suggesting this, too, had a meaning. The various colour shades used could also carry a specific meaning. So, too, the type of knot, the position of it on the string, the total number of knots and the sequence of the knots could all combine to create a potentially huge number of meanings. The whole method was based on a decimal positional system, with the largest decimal used being 10,000. The Inca mathematical system was almost exactly the same as our own system in use today. The numbers or units in the system on a particular quipu are indicated by the strings furthest from the primary string, acting as a sort of key.
Different types of knots had different meanings. For example, a knot could indicate a number from one to nine by the turns of string within the knot, a figure-of-eight knot could indicate a fixed value, a 'granny' knot equalled ten, and a string missing a knot signified zero. Secondary strings could also hang from any single string and these could indicate that this string was an exception or of secondary importance to the other strings. Finally, individual quipu could join with others in a specific and meaningful sequence.
Knots and colours could combine to create a potentially huge number of meanings.
Naturally, to maximise the quipu's potential for information storage, it was better to have an accompanying oral record and so there grew a body of experts or masters, the khipu kamayuq (also quipucamayos). These individuals memorized the oral account which fully explained a particular quipu and, as the job was hereditary, the oral part was passed from generation to generation. There was a certain pressure attached to the job, however, as lapses in memory could be severely punished.

Purpose

At Cuzco, the Inca capital, the khipu kamayuq were professionals, and besides keeping official records, they also used quipu as an aide memoire to recount stories, myths and poems from the Inca tradition. Quipu were also used to record imperial conquests and royal blood-lines. They were ideal for recording the census data for provinces, i.e. total numbers, specific numbers of males and females, children, married and unmarried, etc. Other kinds of data that quipu were used to record included accounts, stores, taxes (paid in kind), livestock, land measurements, armies and their equipment, astronomy, and calendars. Quipu were also used, along with a short oral description, by Inca postal messengers (chaski).

Surviving Examples

Many Inca quipu were purposely destroyed when Atawalpa took power and sought to clean the slate of Inca history, and, in particular, destroy the historical record concerning the reign of his bitter rival and half-brother, Waskhar. Then, following the Spanish conquest, even more quipu records were sought out and destroyed, the new rulers being highly suspicious of the information they might contain within their knots. As a result of these actions, only several hundred examples of quipu survive today. However, quipu are still used by Andean people even today, most often by shepherds and herders as a method to record livestock numbers.
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[ 7 ]

Pachacamac

Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

Pachacamac, located on the coast of Peru and 32 km south of Lima, was an important sacred site, oracle, and place of burial, which was visited by pilgrims of many ancient Andean cultures, including the Incas. The site, active for over 2,000 years, was named after the god of the same name (Pacha Kamaq) who was worshipped there and considered the ‘Maker of the Earth’ by coastal peoples.

Sacred Site of Pachacamac

Pachacamac, located in the Lurin Valley, may have been in use as a sacred oracle site from the 1st millennium BCE while its settlement began sometime in the early 1st millennium CE. The god Pachacamac, also known as the ‘Maker of the Earth’, was a creator god who was also associated with earthquakes. In coastal mythology, Pachacamac had defeated the rival creator god Con who had stopped all rainfall as punishment for humanity’s wickedness. Pachacamac then changed the existing human race into animals and created a whole new race of men and women. In some versions of the myths the god sent four stars to earth, the two male stars became the kings and nobility while the two female stars became the commoners.
The god’s sacred wooden statue was worshipped at the site, situated inside a large temple complex built on a stepped earthen platform. This structure is contemporary with the Moche and Nazca civilizations (200 BCE – 600 CE). Built overlooking a colonnaded plaza and sitting on an eight-level platform on a natural hill, the temple buildings must have dominated the site. Each level of the adobe brick platform is around one metre high, and they were painted in bright colours with plant and animal designs. The figures were made more striking by outlining them in black. A set of artist’s brushes (of human hair and reeds) and a bag of pigments were found buried at the site in 1935 CE. The temple was well-maintained as some areas of decoration show as many as 16 re-coats. Buildings on the highest platform were arranged around a courtyard, and some were used as accommodation.
The sacred site & oracle of Pachacamac has been described as the Mecca of ancient Peru.

The Oracle of Pachacamac

The site attracted pilgrims from far and wide to consult its oracle although just how this functioned is not known in detail. We know that a High Priest interpreted the oracle from the privacy of a chamber only he was permitted to enter. Pilgrims had to undergo many weeks of initiation, fasting and cleansing rituals before they could be considered worthy of consulting the oracle. They were also expected to make offerings such as foodstuffs, coca, textiles, and any other precious goods they could afford. Indeed, the priests of Pachacamac established a network of subsidiary shrines throughout the region which extracted tributes from local populations. As at ancient oracles the world over, questions posed would have concerned the weather for agricultural purposes, warfare, health issues, family problems, and so on.
Such was the popularity of the site that the historian Alden Mason described Pachacamac as ‘the Mecca of Peru’. This is attested by the finds in tombs of pottery and textiles coming from many different cultures such as the Lambayeque, Nazca, Wari, Tiwanaku, and Chimu. Eventually, the religious buildings spread with many shrines to lesser deities and a residential area sprang up to cover an area of 4 square miles (c. 10 square km). It thus became the largest centre in central and southern Peru. In the residential zones many of the floors and column bases, which must have supported roofs of matting, survive.

Under Inca Rule

The Incas took over the site during the reign of Thupa Inka Yupanki (1471 - 1493 CE) and, in typical fashion, incorporated it and the deity Pachacamac into the Inca religion. They built a temple dedicated to the Inca Sun god Inti with whom Pachacamac was given, unusually for the gods of conquered peoples, equal status. Constructed on a six-level earthen platform and painted red, the temple was actually two parallel rectangular buildings measuring 52 x 23 metres and reaching a height of 7.3 metres. Used as an accommodation for priests the walls have many niches and are decorated with animal paintings. Other Inca structures include a large colonnaded residence for holy women known as the ‘Painted Building’ (‘Nunnery’), a large raised plaza for pilgrims to congregate in, and the residential section of the site known as Tauri Chumbi.
Excavations at the Sun temple’s entrance and inside it have revealed a burial space made by the Incas containing 20 young sacrificed women. Artefacts buried with them suggest the girls were of coastal origin. We also know that human sacrifices were made to Pachacamac in order to appease him following the presence of this new rival Inti. The people of Pachacamac, no doubt because of the antiquity of the oracle and the importance of the site to many Andean cultures, were given a higher degree of autonomy than most conquered areas by their Inca overlords.

Later History

The site’s oracle continued to be consulted by the Incas but lost royal favour when it wrongly predicted that Washkar would win the civil war against Atahualpa between 1526 and 1532 CE. Accordingly, the latter ruler gave permission for Pizarro to send his brother to destroy the statue of Pachacamac. As with any Inca tombs they could find, the Spanish almost certainly would have looted the site as well.
Pachacamac was damaged by further looting and environmental factors over the centuries so that its original form has been difficult to establish. Although parts have been excavated, indeed, the site was the first in Peru to be investigated by archaeologists, some of the modern reconstructions at the site are not necessarily an accurate replica of the original buildings, notably the ‘Nunnery’ structure. Nevertheless, portions of its well-made walls which used the typical Inca method of neatly fitted stones without mortar, can still be admired. Artefacts excavated from tombs, remarkably well-preserved in the dry desert climate of the region, include richly painted pottery and fine textiles with bold geometrical designs, much like those of the Nazca.
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[ 8 ]

Machu Picchu

Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

Machu Picchu is an Inca settlement located in the High Andes of Peru in the Urubamba Valley, north of Cuzco. The site, perched high above the Urubamba river, has been variously described as a fortress, imperial retreat and ceremonial precinct. It was founded by Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui in c. 1450 CE, had capacity for around 1,000 residents at its peak, and ranked amongst the most sacred of all sites for the Inca. Following the collapse of the Inca empire, Machu Picchu was abandoned and forgotten, only to be rediscovered in 1911 CE by the explorer Hiram Bingham.

Purpose

Machu Picchu (meaning 'old hill') was an imperial estate founded by and belonging to Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, the Inca ruler, in the mid-15th century CE. The ownership of the site was later passed to Pachacuti's successors. On its rediscovery by the explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911 CE (although local residents in the valley had always known of the site's existence) it was claimed as the last capital of the Incas. However, this proved to be untrue when the actual final capital was discovered at Vilcabamba, further downstream in the Urubamba Valley.
Another hypothesis concerning the site posed by early historians was that Machu Picchu was a fortress and the strong walls, large towers, and dry moats were cited in support of this theory. The need for fortification perhaps sprang from a series of severe droughts which made the competition for resources fierce. This would also explain why the site was not occupied for very long as when the water situation improved the necessity for such citadel sites declined. Once again though, further study has revealed that most of the architecture was designed for religious purposes and the fortifications may well have been put in place to ensure only a select few could enter this sacred site. In further support of this interpretation, a road was discovered which linked the site to several residential settlements dotted along the valley. The most likely purpose of Machu Picchu, then, was as a sacred site, probably to the sun god Inti and with the additional purpose of reminding the recently conquered local population of the power and might of Pachacuti and the Inca empire centred at its capital Cuzco. The site was abandoned by the Inca shortly before Pizarro and the Spanish conquistadors arrived. The invaders never reached Machu Picchu, though, and the site would remain unknown to the wider world for 400 years.

Materials & Layout

Machu Picchu is a fine example of the Inca practice of shaping architecture around the natural terrain. Ridges were made into plateaus for building upon and slopes were terraced using stone bulwarks. Further, constructions were made to aesthetically blend with their surroundings. For example, the profile of the Sacred Rock actually mimics one of the mountain peaks behind it. Finally, very often windows and doorways were deliberately positioned to capture the best views of the surrounding mountains.
Rock was a material the Incas had special reverence for. Stone was even thought of as a living substance.
Rock was a material the Incas had special reverence for. Stone was even thought of as a living substance and in the Inca language (Quechua) the word for it translates as 'to begin'. Stone was shaped with great skill and natural rock outcrops were moulded to suit various purposes. For example, below the Torreón (Observatory), a room was carved out of a natural cleft in the rock and used as a temple to the sun god Inti. The Intihuatana Stone ('Hitching Post of the Sun'), also known as the intiwatana, sitting at the highest point of the sacred complex, was carved with great care into a device for astronomical observations and made a tangible link between the earth and sky. The carved stone pillar on top of the polygonal stone base was used like a sundial to record the movements of the sun and, during solstices, priests symbolically tied the sun to the earth using a cord.
The site of Machu Picchu is composed of two distinct areas: a central complex of closely packed buildings arranged around a central square and a series of western terraces. The structures on the east and southern sides were likely residential and follow a pattern of single-roomed dwellings with an enclosed patio. However, the exact function of most of the buildings at the site is not known for certain. Many of the buildings display the great rock carving and masonry skills of the Inca. The buildings use locally quarried granite, one of the hardest stones, which was cut with great precision and then finished when in position to produce walls of blocks so well fitted together that mortar was not necessary. The irregular lines of blocks also create a pleasing aesthetic effect and make the structures highly resistant to earthquakes.

Architecture

Amongst the most impressive structures at the site both for its size and unusual curved masonry is the D-shaped tower known as the Torréon, mentioned above. The single window of the tower was aligned with the Pleiades stars as they appeared in the 15th century CE and the building's astronomical purpose is further evidenced by the presence of a stone protruding from the floor which may have been used to plot the sun on the June solstice. The Temple of the Three Windows is another impressive example of fine stone work and was also used as an astronomical observation post. The many administrative kallanka buildings also employed fine stone blocks made to fit perfectly together. These buildings also had stone pegs protruding from their gables to which a thatched roof would have been attached. Another type of building is the prison-like structures which may have been used to house captured nobles until a ransom was paid. The complex also has a cavern structure and a sacrificial stone block sculpted into the form of a condor.
Water was supplied to the site via 14 natural springs whose waters were collected and re-located via 16 cut-stone channels. Another curious feature is the stone steps which lead from Machu Picchu up to the small retreat Huayna Picchu (meaning 'young hill'), perched on a rock outcrop. Some graves have been excavated at the site but these typically belong to individuals of lower rank such as administrative staff resulting in a paucity of high value grave goods, and there are a peculiarly large proportion of female remains. Pottery finds have offered some clues to daily life at the site and derive from four separate locations, amongst which is the Chuma blackware.
Excavations and reconstruction are ongoing at Machu Picchu, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and despite its remote location it continues to draw tourists from around the world having safely secured its status as one of the most recognisable and photographed ancient sites in the world.
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Coricancha

Origin and history
by Mark Cartwright

The religious complex of Coricancha (Qorikancha) in the Inca capital at Cuzco contained the Temple of the Sun which was not only the most sacred site or huaca in the Inca religion but was considered the very centre of the Inca world. The site was also known as the Golden Enclosure and was dedicated to the highest gods in the Inca pantheon such as the Creator god Viracocha, the moon goddess Quilla and especially to Inti, the god of the sun. Little remains today except some sections of its fine stone walls which hint at the site's once massive size and the legendary stories which tell of the enormous quantity of gold used to decorate the temples and its golden garden.

Layout & Architecture

The construction of the complex is commonly attributed to Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, the 9th Inca ruler (1438-1471 CE) who also embarked on a general rebuilding programme in the capital. Despite excavations, though, the exact chronology of the site is not clear. In Inca mythology the first Inca leader Manco Capac (Manqo Qhapaq) built a temple at the site in the early 12th century CE and archaeology does show evidence of pre-empire structures.
The lay-out of the site, as seen from above, actually resembled a sun with rays shining out in all directions. These were the sacred ceque (zeq'e) lines - physical and cosmic roads - of which there were 41 which led to an impressive 328 sacred sites. Cuzco itself was deliberately laid out to represent a jaguar and Coricancha was located at the tail. In typical Inca symmetry the second most important sacred site in the city - Sacsahuaman - was located at the head. Coricancha was also built where the city's two great rivers of Huantanay and Tullamayo met.
The doors were covered in gold sheets, as were the interiors and exteriors of the various temples and the inner side of the perimeter wall was even said to have been studded with emeralds.
Built using the fine masonry skills for which the Inca have rightly become famous, the massive walls of the complex were built from large stone blocks finely cut and fitted together without mortar. The large curved western wall was particularly noted for its form and elegant, regular masonry. Most walls also leaned slightly inwards as they rose in height, a typical feature of Inca architecture. Many trapezoid doorways and windows allowed access and light to enter the interior spaces and a broad band of gold was added mid-way height around the walls. The interior buildings were of one storey and had thatched roofs. The doors were also covered in gold sheets, as were the interiors and exteriors of the various temples and the inner side of the perimeter wall was even said to have been studded with emeralds.

Temple of the Sun

The most important temple in the precinct was the Temple of the Sun, dedicated to the sun god Inti. The interior and exterior walls of the temple, situated in the northern corner of the complex, were covered in gold - considered the sweat of the sun - which was beaten into sheet plates. There were, reportedly, 700 of these half-metre square sheets, each weighing 2 kg.
Inside the temple, besides golden artefacts relevant to the god's worship, was a gold statue of Inti encrusted with jewels. The statue represented Inti as a small seated boy called Punchao (Day or Midday Sun). From his head and shoulders the sun's rays shone, he wore a royal headband and had snakes and lions coming out of his body. The stomach of the statue was hollow and used to store the ashes of the vital organs of previous Inca rulers. Everyday this statue was brought out into the open air and returned to the shrine each night. Another important representation of the god - a giant mask with zig-zag rays bursting from the head - was hung from the wall of a specially dedicated chamber within the temple.
The garden of the temple was a wonderfully conceived homage to Inti. Just as land - sometimes even entire regions - were dedicated to the god, so too, this garden was constructed in honour of the great sun god Inti. Everything in it was made of gold and silver. A large field of corn and life-size models of shepherds, llamas, jaguars, guinea pigs, monkeys, birds and even butterflies and insects were all crafted in precious metal. And if that wasn't enough to please Inti there were also a large number of gold and silver jars all encrusted with precious stones. All that survives of these wonders are a few golden corn stalks, a convincing, if silent, testimony to the lost treasures of Coricancha.

Other Temples

Five other temples or wasi were placed around the main square courtyard of Coricancha. In order of hierarchy, one temple was dedicated to the creator god Viracocha (more or less equal to Inti), one to Quilla the goddess of the moon, one to Venus or Chaska-Qoylor, one to the god of thunder Illapa, and finally one for Cuichu the rainbow god. Just as Inti's temple was covered in gold, Quilla's temple was covered in silver, a metal thought to be the tears of the moon. Each wasi contained a cult statue of that particular god and precious art and religious objects connected to them.
There was also a dedicated space for the mummified remains of former Inca emperors and their wives, known as mallquis. These were brought out of storage during special ceremonies such as those celebrating the solstices. Offerings were made to these mummies dressed in fine clothes, and the great achievements they had made during their reigns were read out for all to hear. There were also living quarters for priests and priestesses and still other rooms of the complex were used as art and religious treasuries stuffed with artefacts taken from conquered peoples. These may well have been kept in order to guarantee compliance to Inca rule, just as conquered rulers were sometimes held hostage at Cuzco for periods of the year. Yet another interesting feature of the site was an underground channel through which sacred water flowed to the surrounding squares outside the complex.
Other important functions of Coricancha included the taking of astronomical observations, especially of the Milky Way (Mayu). There was, for example, a pair of towers which marked the Summer solstice and sightings were taken from the sacred ushnu stone against man-made and natural landmarks on the horizon to track the sun. Sacrificial victims (capacochas) were also made ready for their great moment in the precinct's courtyard and then marched along the ceque lines to be sacrificed in the various provinces in honour of Inti and his living incarnation, the Inca emperor.

Later History

The rather plain entrance doorway of the complex survives today with its typical double jamb, as do sections of the outer walls and some interior walls. The Christian monastery of Santo Domingo was built on top of the complex, no doubt, in a deliberate attempt to signify that one religion had been replaced by another. Most of the gold from the site was, of course, melted into ingots and taken for the Spanish Crown. The star piece, the golden statue of Inti, was taken to a place of safety when the Spanish arrived but it seems that they did eventually find it thirty years later in 1572 CE but it disappeared without trace, probably melted down like so many other Inca artefacts.
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