Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cusco, Heart of Inca Culture

I'm photographing the amazing stone
structures of the ruins at Cusco, Peru.
For many tourists, Cusco, Peru is just a stopping point on their way to see Machu Picchu. While ruins of the mysterious mountain city are truly a wondrous sight, visitors shouldn’t miss another amazing complex of Incan ruins. Located just 10 minutes by car from Cusco, Sacsayhuaman (pronounced “sexy woman”), showcases a spectacular fortress built of huge carved rocks joined perfectly without any cement or mechanical aids.
Situated on a hill overlooking the Sacred City of Cusco, center of the ancient Inca Empire, Sacsayhuaman showcases the incredible human skill required to create this historic site. Representing the head of the puma (Cusco was designed to mimic the shape of a reclining puma), Sacsayhuaman is remembered as the place where the Spanish conquered the Incas. After the temple was destroyed, its stones were used to build Catholic churches. Spanish cities were built on top of Inca constructions. Several buildings and three big towers built on terraces were uncovered just 30 years ago.

No clue was used to hold stones in place.
The joints are so tight that even a piece of
paper cannot fit between the rocks.
Now preserved in a national park, the ruins were built over a period of seven decades using labor from 20,000 people. It is believed that the construction was not intended as protection, even though it is practically enclosed by three slopes. Rather, the archeological site is a harmonious blend of human skill with nature and the underground (Mother Earth). Sacsayhuaman was the location for religious festivals and important celebrations until the Incas were overcome by Spanish conquerers in 1531.

Walking the grounds, I marveled at the intricate detailing amid massive stone walls. The zigzag design of one large wall is believed to represent lightening, evolution, and teeth of the puma. Doorways are small, reflecting the slight stature of the Inca people, yet these were built with protruding stones that gave off shadows which made them seem larger. Piecing together the irregular architecture is like fitting puzzle pieces into the proper places.

The massive walls of Sacsayhuaman extend for a long way.
At 11,000 feet, the region offers opportunities for myriad outdoor activities such as hang gliding from a mountain, rafting and kayaking on the Urubamba River, or trekking along the Inca Trail. It’s an awesome place, as large in scope as the culture that dominates Peruvian history.

Photos by Larry Burmeier

1 comment:

Mike said...

Great post! And as a South African living in Cusco I can testify to its wonders. i now promote reponsible travel to the Peruvian Amazon just 30mins flight away.