Wednesday, May 27: Inca legend has it that a very long time ago, the sun god Inti created the first Incan and named him Manco Capac. Then he created another Incan and presented her to Manco as his sister. Then he gave them a golden staff and sent them out into the world to look for a special place called Cuzco where they would then teach the rest of the world about the sun god.
“How will we know when we have found such a place,” they were wondering, and the sun god told them “you will know the place when the earth swallows up the golden staff with which you touch the ground.”
Manco Capac and his sister set off immediately and soon found themselves in the beautiful Andes Mountains which they had known heretofore only as the wilderness. There were many ups and downs on their journey (literally) but eventually they landed in a place they both thought had to be the most beautiful place in the world. Time to try the staff again. Lo and behold, when Manco Capac touched the staff onto the ground that time, the earth indeed swallowed it up. Thus they knew they had arrived at last in Cuzco. They immediately commenced to build their city as the sun god had instructed.
I did not write this legend, I merely re-interpreted it, and while I like it just as I first heard it, I cannot tell you why the sun god made Manco Capac a sister, rather than a companion like Eve as the Christian god made for Adam. I would add this caveat that, as legends go, this one also is open to interpretation. Other sources–including Marta–say the “sister” was really his wife, Mama Oello, but further investigations turns up more mystery in that Inti (yep, that’s the sungod who created Manco Capac) and Quello are the parents of Mama Oello (the Incan fertility goddess) which still suggests sister. The reader may make of it what he/she will. Isn’t one of the great mysteries of Christianity the question of who did the sons of Adam and Eve marry if their parents were the first (therefore only) humans?
This is the tenth day into our Peruvian tour, and after countless literal ups and downs of our own, we finally arrived yesterday in Cuzco at its altitude of 11,000+ feet above sea level. After breakfast, we’re off to tour the city’s main square, or Plaza de Armas, which is the historic center of Cuzco. In the Inca period it was known as Huacaypata, or Warrior Square in quechua, the official Inca language still spoken today in various regional forms across Peru.
Believed to have been designed by Inca’s legendary founder introduced in the opening legend, Manco Cápac, a magnificent Cathedral and the Church of La Compañía flank it on either side. Its beautifully landscaped plaza provides an abundant shade with a mix of beautiful trees and benches in which to relax and take in the lovely setting. Sitting walls and steps also make the Plaza a popular lunchtime destination and a primary meeting place. It’s easy to see why it was the scene of many key events in Cuzco history. Most notable, perhaps, it was here that Pizarro proclaimed his intention of taking Cuzco and all the gold accumulated by the Inca.
During the Inca period, the Santo Domingo Church, sometimes called the Coricancha, was the centerpiece of a vast astronomical observatory an early calendar. Used in conjunction with standing stones called sucancas, positioned on the horizon of nearby nountains, it helped to determine the dates of the solstices and equinoxes, and monitored the passage of precessional time.
The rest of the day will be devoted to exploring the surrounding ruins of Puka Pukara, Kenko, Tampu Machay, and the renowned fortress and religious site of Sacsayhuaman.
About the ruins of Puka Pukara, little is known. It’s a red stoned site seemingly guarding the road to the Sacred Valley. According to Fodors, some archaeologists believe the complex was a fort—its name means “red fort”—but others claim it served as a hunting lodge and storage place used by the Inca nobility. Current theory holds that this center, likely built during the reign of the Inca Pachacutec, served all those functions.
Believed to be the fete places of the Inca Empire, the Kenko and Sakusaiwaman ruins, unlike other ruins that were accumulated and built with stone, have shaved natural rock bases that form a straight line and have rectangular stone steps. Throughout both the ruins are ge0metric shapes in the shapes of many different animals with various religious implications.
Tampumachay was apparently a site dedicated to the worship of water and as a resting place for the Inca monarch. Among its most notable features are its system of aqueducts, canals and cascades carved in stone, that were designed to channel water flowing from a nearby spring. According to experts, Tampumachay was also a kind of royal garden with ornamental vegetation and fed by an intricate network of canals.
The three walls that form the Sacsaiwaman ruins are said to be so spectacular that, when the Spanish conquerors first arrived, they exclaimed they must have been built by demons as a place of such greatness could not have been built by mere Peruvian Indians, whom they thought to be wild and without any ability for logical reasoning. The stones fit so perfectly that no blade of grass or steel can slide between them. There is no mortar and they often join in complex and irregular surfaces that would appear to be a nightmare for even the most talented stonemason. Inevitably many people even today suggest that they had to have been made by extraterrestrial beings with superior technology that made it all possible.
That’s all for today. When I return in June, I hope to have illustrative photographs to share that will bring these ruins to life for all of us.