May 24, 2012

The Incas

The Inca culture is known worldwide for its epic architecture.  Temples, palaces and fortresses were assembled from massive stones cut from nearby quarries and fitted together like a puzzle.  We visited two classic examples:  Sacsayhuaman and Ollantaytambo.

Sacsayhuaman is a huge complex perched on a hill overlooking the city of Cusco, the Inca’s capital.  The main construction is a three-layered wall designed in the shape of a lightning bolt.  Lightning is of mythical importance since it intersects three realms — the heavens (home of the condor), the earth (home of the puma) and the underworld (home of the serpent).

Ollantaytambo is the name of both an ancient city and a fortress that protected its inhabitants.  This is the site of an epic battle between Hernando Pizarro, brother of the famous conquistador Francisco Pizarro, and the indigenous king, Manco Inca.  The Spanish cavalry charged the fortress on horseback but were repelled by amazonian archers, tumbling rocks and clever engineers:  Water channels were diverted to flood the lower part of the fortress and surrounding plain and the Spaniards fled for their lives.

 

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