This post is about how the Incas built Sacsayhuaman (as well as other sites).

There is a legend which says that the mountains, the earth as well as the wind helped carry the boulders in order to build Sacsayhuaman. As a matter of fact, this site seems to have been built by supernatural power.

However, the truth is that the Incas did it with their own hands. This is what I have found so far.

The Quarries:
Archaeology research states some of the boulders of Sacsayhuaman were already there when the site was built. Thus, stone masons used them as foundations in order to continue putting more stones.

Some stone blocks were already there!

However, most of the stones were carried from different quarries, according to chroniclers. For instance, Pedro Gutiérrez de Santa Clara says in this book “Historia de las Guerras Civiles del Perú” that one quarry was located over 20 km from Cusco.

This must have been the same mentioned by Garcilaso de la Vega who states the nearest quarry was Muyna, located about 25 km from Cusco. The nearest?  According to Garcilaso, the furthest quarry was Yucay, which is 75 km from Cusco.

How They Carried the Stones:
To make this part short, I would say man power did it.

In his book “Suma y Narracion de los IncasJuan de Betanzos says that thousands of local people pulled ropes:

“…y mandó Topa Ynga Yupanque que toda la multitud fuese a tirar de las sogas con que venía atada…”

Garcilaso de la Vega states the same opinion:

“Para subir y bajar las piedras no tuvieron ingenio alguno; todo lo hacían a fuerza de brazos”.

In addition to man power, the Incas used ropes made of llama hair and leather, wood logs, round stones as well as levers made of bronze and wood.

Chronicler Guaman Poma depicts how Incas carried stones

Many chroniclers such as Pedro Cieza de LeónJuan de Betanzos, Pedro Gutiérrez de Santa Clara and Garcilaso de la Vega wrote about a huge stone that got tired and all the Indians were never able to move it from there. This stone is well-known as Piedra Cansada or Tired Stone; in Quechua we say sayk´usqas even though there is one chronicler who calls it jayju.

To the north of the so-called fortress of Sacsayhuaman there is one huge block that most guides refer as the Piedra Cansada or Chinkana Grande. However, Ernst Middendorf wrote that the real Piedra Cansada is nearby Ollantaytambo archaeological site (I will find it then).

Piedra Cansada or Chinkana Grande in Sacsayhuaman

Garcilaso de la Vega
is the only chronicler who says something about the tools Incas used in order to carve the stones. He mentions a kind of iron called hihuana:

“Los canteros no tuvieron más instrumentos para labrar las piedras que unos guijarros negros que llamaban hihuana, con que las labran machucando más que no cortando”.

Furthermore, archaeologists have found around the quarries tools such as hammers made of stone, metal bars, chisels and plumbs made of metal and stone:

metal bar. Museo Casa Garcilaso
metal bars. Museo Inka
plumbs. Museo Inka
metal tools. Museo Casa Garcilaso

How the Walls were  Built:
In order to put a stone on another, the Incas built slants and then pulled rocks using ropes and logs. This is according to Bernabé Cobo and Cieza de León.

However, the best explanation I found comes from Gutiérrez de Santa Clara in his book Historia de las Guerras Civiles del Perú (1590) in which states soil was put until the level of the wall and then stones were pulled:

“…cuando estos indios labraban edificios soberbios, para poner una piedra grande sobre otra labrábanla primero, i antes de subir la piedra ponían primero mucha tierra al pie de la primera piedra asentándola hasta que emparejaba con ella. I luego ponían unos morrillos largos i gordos de pino sobre la tierra pisada  i por allí subían la otra a fuerza de brazos. I de esta manera, estando arriba, la encajaban muy bien en la otra de abajo…i después quitaban las vigas i toda la tierra”.

Incredible, isn´t it?

Well, I hope this post gives you a better understanding how the Incas built Sacsayhuaman and other buildings.

wall of the so-called fortress of Sacsayhuaman

Related Posts:

New findings at Sacsayhuaman

Feast of Warachicuy in Cusco

Sacsayhuaman unexpected pics