Sacsayhuaman: A Wonder of the Incas

In 1571, Polo de Ondegardo saw Sacsayhuaman and then wrote in his book Religión y Gobierno de los Incas “what a wonderful thing…the fortress of Cuzco”.

Sacsayhuaman seen from Suchuna

It Housed Everything:

Like him, the first Spanish conquistadors and most of the 16th and 17th century chronicles regarded that site as a fortress due to its location on a hill in the northern outskirts that overlooks the city of Cusco, the huge stone blocks and the dozens of rooms used for storage of provisions and water (Muyuqmarka could have stored water).

Talking about storage, most chroniclers wrote like this: “it should house everything imaginable, such as gold and silver, precious stone, fine garments, arms of all the types they used, materials of war, sandals, shields, feathers, skins of animals and birds, coca, bags of wool, a thousand kinds of jewels”.

Chroniclers such as Pedro Sancho de la Hoz and Pedro Pizarro only mentioned weapons of war.

The huge stone blocks still remain, though. One of my favorite chroniclers, Cieza de León, was astonished when he first saw the walls and the main door. He wrote:

“la puerta principal era de ver cuán primamente estaba y cuán concertadas las murallas para una no salir del compás de la otra”.

Sacsayhuaman walls

As a fact, the first wall is nearly six meters high. Even if you see it today, it looks like a fortress. Nevertheless, Sacsayhuaman was more than that.

Archaeology and Architecture:

In 1933, the Peruvian historian Luis E. Valcárcel found not only objects such as ceramics, small stone sculptures, silver and cooper utensils but also human bones.

Furthermore, most of the ceramics in this area were ceremonial rather than for household use. Some of these items are shown at the Museo Inka and the Museo de Arte Precolombino.

Sacsayhuaman fortress and temple

Later, the archaeologist Fidel Ramos Condori found on the third wall in front of a door eleven tombs covered with mud and weapons such as a war club with star-shaped head.

In addition, the architecture of Sacsayhuaman tells of the importance of this building. Water channels, underground channels, fountains, food stores (pirwa and qollqa), surveillance towers (pucaras) still remain as well as some buildings that were used as houses and chapels.

Temples in the City:

Now, we know that Sacsayhuaman was a temple where the Incas worshipped not only the sun but also other gods such as the lightning as well as the sacred mountain of Sacsayhuaman.

In addition to Sacsayhuaman, other temples in the city of Cusco are Qoricancha and Phoqenkancha (this is a small site to the west of the city).

Sacsayhuaman: one stone door

Related Posts:

How to get to Sacsayhuaman

Sacsayhuaman: A Fortress?

How Sacsayhuaman was built

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About Peru En RoUte

Natural-born backpack traveller around Peru
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