On Mighty Rocks and Other Dimensions


Member Rating 3 out of 5 by SeenThat on February 25, 2011

So, Cusco was the capital city and Machu Picchu was its attached oligarchs’ resort. Is that the whole of the Inca Empire? Even that no much was left, there are four sites of ruins between Cusco and Pisac, the market described in my Machu Picchu journal. The closest ruins to Cusco are the ones at Sacsayhuaman, from where Cusco can be appreciated from above. Further toward Pisac are Q’enqo, Puca Pucara and Tambomachay, in this order. The last is just eight kilometers from the city; walking the whole distance may seem a tempting idea to spend a day in nature. However, nature here is full of thieves; sticking to the half-day tours arranged by all travel agencies in town is recommended.

Unsurprisingly, all the sites charge entry fees; instead of paying separately, the best is buying a boleto turistico (tourist ticket). It allows entry to sixteen sites (though it doesn’t include Machu Picchu, Corichanca, the Inca Museum, the Iglesia de la Merced and the Museo de Arte Precolombino) and it costs $22. The major sites covered by it sell the ticket, but it can also be found in the downtown area, at the OFEC and Casa Garcilaso offices.

Between these four sites, Sacsayhuaman is by far the most attractive one. Yet, one must understand its function and design before falling pray to the local guides’ rhetoric. The site was a hilltop fortress; the surviving walls at its northern side zigzag for some 300 meters. The largest stones in the wall are 8.5 meters tall and weight around 360 tons. A recurring claim (and a good example of the extraordinary imagination powers of the denizens more than anything else) is that since the tools used for the construction of the site were never found, then this is a clear sign of magical events that occurred here. At this point, several versions may be cited. Magic, extraterrestrials, elves, powerful dwarves, mighty ants and what not; people misunderstanding the mathematical term "dimension" proudly speak of "gates to other dimensions" in a dismal attempt to disguise ignorance. The point to keep in mind is that in no city you’ll find the tools used for construction after the process ends. Was the Golden Bridge built using magical powers? Otherwise, how did they put these massive pillars in the middle of such a treacherous current? That’s the kind of ill-logic applied here.

Reality is duller and sadder. As commented in the previous entry of this journal, the Spanish colonizers replaced a very short lived Inca Empire, which was run by slightly less foreign people. Those reading about Spanish colonial times will find the term "mita;" this institution was created in 1572 by the Spaniard governor. Once every seven years, every male between 18 and 50 worked in the mines for four months. They were not paid and they often died. In 1638, a monk calculated that each "peso" produced in Potosi’s silver mines cost ten dead men. However, regardless how inhuman this system was, it wasn’t new to the denizens. In fact it was an improvement over the system used by the Inca. Every Inca citizen – slave would be a better definition – had to spend a few months of every year working on public works. With enough slaves one can move entire mountains, as it has been proved time and again all around the world. This place is not different.

Yet, the visit is worthy and not only due to the awesome views of Cusco from the site. Sometimes the Inca are seen as a foreign interlude in local history with no clear past, a very short existence and no heritage at all. However, some intriguing details have survived. Visitors in La Paz - which is very close to Tiwanaku, a place which is related to the Inca birth – often notice an inherent irregularity of local constructions. Even short stairs within buildings seldom display steps of the same height. Sidewalks are often slanted due to the steep topography of the city; sometimes steps would be placed at given height differences, sometimes not. Denizens are oblivious to these details; they do not expect regular cuts in the stones surrounding them. Now, looking at the stones at Sacsayhuaman, one can’t help but noticing each one was cut in a unique shape and size. Probably, this isn’t a coincidence.

Back at the site, the place looks unfinished, with only large stones forming the wall’s base. That’s because smaller stones were carried away to the city of Cusco for the construction of newer edifices. If arriving in June, then the Inti Raymi solstice festival. Of course, this isn’t the original event. The Inca Inti Raymi ("inti" means "sun" in Quechua) was banned in 1535. In 1944 the modern event was designed. Is it similar to the original? Nobody knows; maybe the answer could be found using one of the gates to other dimension that abound in the area …
Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park
Located On A Steep Hill That Overlooks Cusco
Cusco, Peru

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