Machu Picchu (or Patallacta, depending who you ask)

I mentioned some time ago that we were volunteering at the SAE Clubhouse in Cusco, and that there was a semi-controversial Machu Picchu expert in residence here.  We went to his lecture before heading to the site, and managed to take away a few interesting facts (believe me, it was hard; he is one of those intellectuals who assumes you have a pretty good working knowledge of the subject and players involved, so wastes no time on background).

The main entrance to Machu Picchu. Note the huge stone lintel over the doorway (typical construction), and the stone ring above that, which was used as part of the door mechanism.

Paolo’s main point was that Hiram Bingham was almost certainly not the first westerner to set foot at Machu Picchu.  Many maps seem to confirm that people knew about the site as far back as 1867 (Bingham is credited with “discovery” in 1912).  However, because of some dubious deals with the Peruvian government concerning looting, most people around here are sticking with the Bingham story.  In addition to this new history, Paolo provided photos demonstrating the extent that Machu Picchu has been rebuilt by the Peruvian government.  We learned that the Intiwatana (a famous stone carving) was not, in fact, used as a sundial and that the name “Intiwatana” was only as old as the 19th century.  We also learned several theories that Paolo had about certain aspects of the Temple of the Sun.  More explanation accompanies the photos below.

The Temple of the Sun.

The Temple of the Sun was most likely named as such as the curved wall is reminiscent of construction at Qoricancha in Cusco, the Incan Temple of the Sun.  Popular belief is that the temple was a solar observatory and some believe that the light on winter solstice matches up with lines carved in the huge stone located inside.  Paolo believes the large stone was a base for a gold-plated statue, and that the carved markings were made in order to fit the statue.

The Enigmatic Window (below) was named as such because no one knows it’s exact purpose.  Paolo hypothesizes that a decorative cover was placed over the windows, the holes located below being points of attachment for the covering.

Looking into the Temple of the Sun, through the famous Enigmatic Window.

Steep terraces and enormous stonework (right side) near the Principle Temple.

The Intiwatana (incorrectly named, meaning “the place where the sun is tied”) is located at the top of the Principle Temple.  It was named as such for it’s slight resemblance to a mountain top near Pisac, which bears the same name and was hypothesized as a solar observation site.  Instead, the Intiwatana is most likely an abstract representation of Huayna Picchu mountain, oriented in such a way that the corners of the carving match up with the cardinal directions.

The Incan’s certainly liked abstract representation; here are two “image stones” representing Mount Yanantin and Putucusi behind.

Obligatory Machu Picchu llama photo.

This post is definitely just the tip of the iceberg.  If you’ve been to Machu Picchu and this is intriguing, I have some articles that I could pass your way.


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