Q´enqo Stairway to Three Worlds

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After exploring the best and most impressive site nearby city of Cusco, Sacsayhuaman, we continue visiting other archaeological sites.

Q´enqo is an intriguing site. It might have been an Inca shrine where ritual ceremonies were performed in solstice and equinox celebrations and in fertility rites.

The site, whose name means zigzag in Quechua, was carved from a huge limestone formation found at the place.

This ceremonial center, that includes water canals cut into solid rock, is one of the finest examples of Inca stone carving in situ. Ironically, it is not mentioned in the 16th or 17th chronicles.

Andean Trilogy

Q´enqo could represent the Andean trilogy: heaven, underworld and Earth. The Incas used to depict them by the condor, snake, and puma, respectively.

As you enter the site you see a 5-meter 18 ft stone block that is said to represent two pumas:  one looking northeast and the other without head looking west. Other people see a frog.

This rock block, which was probably defaced long ago by spanish extirpators of idolatry, was surrounded by a stone fence which imprints can still be seen on the parallel wall behind.

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The Sacred Plaza

The upright stone was framed by a semi circular amphitheater located to the north with carved Inca-style niches and alcoves.

It is said that the 19 trapezoidal niches, which are partially destroyed, displayed gold and holy items such as mummies and idols in pre-Hispanic times.

There is kind of empty reservoir or pool before reaching the staircase which leads to the open space that many refer to as the plaza. It is said that here Incas performed ceremonies to worship the Mother Earth or Pachamama, the water as well as the stars.

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Underworld

One of the most amazing and intriguing things in Q´enqo is the subterranean cave with a series of tunnels carved with niches or altars where mummies may once have been kept. Some scholars claim that the smooth stone table inside was used for sacrifices too.

I have not spotted any snake figure carved in the stones but this place might have been the stairway to the underworld for the Incas.

In the next post, I will show you the third element of the Andean Trilogy even though entrance to that area is not allowed (except in the Winter solstice).

And Q´enqo is much more than this. Discover it in my next post!!!

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You may want to read this too:

9 Reasons to Visit Cusco

Day 1 in Cusco what to do

Around the Streets of Cusco

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About Peru En RoUte

Natural-born backpack traveller around Peru
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