Sun Temple at Pisac
Pisaq: Today P'isaq
constitutes one of the most important Archaeological Parks in the
region. It is located about 30 Kms. (18.6 miles) toward the
northwest of Qosqo City. Possibly its name comes from a type of
partridge very common in the area known as "p'isaqa". Some scholars
suggest that the pre-Hispanic City had the shape of a "p'isaqa"
(-ornate tinamou- Nothoprocta ornata); a tinamidae that represented
the local fauna.
Today, there is also a colonial
town named P'isaq in the lower part of the valley, established as
consequence of the famous "Indians Reductions" by which the Quechuas
were joined in small towns. The Inkan City is on the upper side of
the mountain, over the well preserved terracing. It was classical
among the Inkas that the most fertile zones must have been reserved
for agriculture without being wasted for building towns or cities.
Therefore, the city was built taking advantage of the dry and rocky
mountain; even more, its location enabled its protection because
this was a fortified city on the way to the Antisuyo (Amazonian
Jungle). Historians suggest that it was established over there in
order to protect the great capital from possible attacks of the
Antis nations (the name of the "Andes" Mountains derives from
"Anti") that were their worst and never "submitted to" enemy. Today
it is still possible to observe the surrounding wall that protected
the most important zone of the city. More over, inside the protected
area are the vast farming terraces that supplied enough food for its
inhabitants in case of sieges or prolonged wars; and there are also
aqueducts that supplied water for agricultural development. It seems
that water for consumption of the inhabitants was harnessed on the
mountain's upper side and transported through underground channels.
There are two possibilities in order to get to the
archaeological site from the colonial town: Hike, taking the street
on the western side of the present-day church and go up through the
terracing and the mountain, it is a hard hike because of the
mountain's altitude and inclination that requires one to be in good
physical condition. Otherwise, take a car that must follow the 8 Km.
(5 mile) road toward the northeast of the town as far as the parking
lot from which it will be necessary to follow the 1.5 Km. (1 mile).
Path in order to get the "Intiwatana" sector.
Nowadays, the second possibility is the easiest and most popular;
the most interesting variant is to get by car to the "Qanchisraqay"
sector in order to start the hike, for which it is commendable not
to suffer from vertigo as the mountain is somewhat steep.
Almost all the original names of the different
sectors in P'isaq are lost; the names that are known today were
established by tradition, historians and archaeologists. Therefore,
in many cases the names do not represent their real nature or duty;
the reason for this is that there is no precise information, or old
documents serving as authentic testimony for interpretation. But,
the "P'isaq" name is genuine because it is consigned in some
chronicles. Today, archaeology and history are trying to decode the
site's mysteries through archaeological diggings, logical deductions
and comparative studies stating analogies with some other known
elements. As there is an Inkan architectonic type classification,
today, it is possible to establish the roles of almost all the
buildings, but, there are many other aspects that will remain as an
"Qanchisraqay" (qanchis = seven, raqay =
inclosure) is one of the districts in P'isaq remaining outside the
fortified city, about ½ Km. (0.3 mile) away from the surrounding
wall. That sector is also known as "Kanturaqay", the name being
related to our national flower "kantu". It is constituted by many
buildings with "pirka" type walls, that is, made with non-carved mud
bonded stones that originally had a clay stucco. Over here there are
some "kanchas" (apartments) for non-noble people that must have
cultivated the lower terracing; around here there are also some
remains of aqueducts and fountains supplying water for people
dwelling in the area. From this spot there is a panoramic view of
the terracing that seen from the valley's bottom look narrow but
staying up here one discovers that they are broad. Its location on
the edge of a precipice is also exceptional for watching over and
controlling the movement of people or travelers who used the road
toward the Paucartambo region and the Antisuyo.
Following the trail toward the west of
Qanchisraqay one reaches the crossroads known as " Antachaka" (anta
= cooper, chaka = bridge), where there are some water fountains and
a surface aqueduct for the terracing. Towards the west, on the
irregular almost vertical surface of the mountain there is a large
amount of something like hollows: they are looted tombs of the
biggest pre-Hispanic cemetery in the region. Today. the cemetery is
known as " Tankanamarka" (tankay = to push, marka = spot; it may be
translated as "hurling spot"), and according to some estimates it
must have contained about 10,000 tombs that were mostly looted. In
the Inkan belief it was stated that once persons died they began a
newer life; therefore, their mummies were kept along with all their
goods and necessary food.
When the conquerors arrived they soon knew that inside the Inkan
tombs they could also find jewels of precious stones and metals,
thus they began with their diabolical profanation and pillaging of
ancient Peruvians' tombs. That is why that cemetery in P'isaq
contains mostly looted tombs, some mummies are still inside the
graves but not their jewels and daily life elements.
Continuing the hike, one crosses
the partially destroyed surrounding wall, in which the trapezoidal
doorway named as Amarupunku (amaru = snake, punku = doorway) still
keeps its lintel. Around there, is the district known as K'alla
Q'asa (k'alla = cut, q'asa = pass) also named as Hanan P'isaq (Upper
P'isaq); it contains many "pirka" type buildings among apartments,
storehouses, towers and so many stairways on the edge of the
Following the trail after the "Amarupunku" there is a small
tunnel drilled taking advantage of a natural fault; it is 16 mt.
(52.5 ft.) long and its height is irregular and low, so people must
bent down to cross it. This was not a principal path but a secondary
one in the city, which can not be compared with the Inka Trail
toward Machupicchu that was a real "Inka Ñan" or "Royal Road" where
there are much more comfortable tunnels. Going on, by the uneven
trail with many stairways is the religious sector in P'isaq. Today
this sector is named as Intiwatana (inti = sun, watana = fastener).
Intihuatana is the most important
district in P'isaq, it corresponds to the ceremonial core or
religious complex of the city that has the best quality
constructions with "sedimentary" type walls; that is, with
polished-joint carved stones that have a rectangular outer surface.
Its location on the mountain's upper section is superb and dominates
visually a great territory of the valley. This sector must have been
constituted by diverse temples such as Qosqo's Qorikancha with
shrines for different deities. The lack of precise information today
makes it difficult to know which were the gods worshipped in every
temple. In the complex's central part is a semicircular building
with one lateral straight wall which main gate is toward the south,
by deduction and analogy with other similar buildings it is
established that this was the Sun Temple in P'isaq. On both side
walls of its ascending entrance there are small hand-boxes carved in
the rock that were surely used as holders, like a handrail. By the
middle of this building is the altar carved in the in-situ rock,
with a central interrupted conical protuberance that is known as
"Intiwatana" ("Sun Fastener"; but its original name must have been
"Saywa" or "Sukhanka") and must have been used for allowing
observation of the solar movements with the help of some other
elements or carved angles that served as "pegs" for calculating the
shadow projections. Today that Intiwatana has many signs of having
been hardly hit; though, it is still possible to notice its original
shape: an interrupted cone. The altar served to carry out different
ceremonies worshipping the Sun God, as well as for sacrificing
animals for divination purposes.
Descending the Sun Temple
stairway, farther to the southwest side is another interrupted
conical carving that was surely used in a close relationship with
the "Intiwatana". Even farther down to the west is a carved stone
altar and a "stepping symbol" sculpted in the natural rock
representing the three stages of the Andean Religious World: the
heaven, the earthly world and the subsoil. That sculpture was
possibly used as a help element for solar observations too.
In this complex there are some
other rectangular temples with very good quality walls. Their
specific duties are unknown; but, today tradition is trying to
impose names for them, of course, without any documented support. A
small room placed by the middle of this sector breaks the
architectonic balance of the spot; it was made with "pirka" type
walls that served perhaps as an inclosure for the "tarpuntay" or
priest in charge of service in these temples. Besides, in this area
there are some very well carved channels and remains of fountains
that because of their quality and location must have had strictly
religious duties as water was a special deity among Andean people
who always had channels, fountains and reservoirs for its cult.
About 20 mts. (65 ft.) in front of the complex's main gate is a very
special fountain of which the bottom is below the floor level and
served as a water receptacle. On both sides of its spillway there
are two carvings that look like handles; because of its layout it
perhaps served as a bathtub to take "ceremonial baths" as a way of
purifying the body. From this zone there is a partial view of the
original channeling of the Urubamba River that flows in a straight
line about 3.3 Kms. (2 miles). It is known that in Inkan times this
river was completely channeled from P'isaq and as far as
Ollantaytambo. The aim of the channel was to gain farmlands and
protect them, covering a length of about 90 Kms. (56 miles) in the
valley; today, in many sectors it is still possible to observe
remains of the channel's lateral walls.
Going down by the stairway
towards the southeast of the "Intiwatana" sector is the P'isaqa
district that has a somewhat semicircular shape following the
mountain's silhouette. It has a few walls with carved stones, some
of the "pirka" type, and some others simply made with sun dried mud
bricks. Over here there are some very well distributed "kanchas"
(apartments). From the southern end of this sector, it is possible
to see on the mountain abrupt surface some circular "pukaras"
(defensive towers) and the adobe "qolqas" (storehouses) of
sustenance goods. All over the complex there are farming terraces
built even as far as the edge of precipices that still keep their
straight sometimes vertical aqueducts (water does not flow any more)
and their projecting ladders made with stones that are fit into the
retaining walls allowing one to pass from one terrace to the other.
From this sector, there is a trail toward the South in order to go
down as far as the P'isaq colonial town; it offers a very
interesting panorama. Otherwise, it will be necessary to take the
northern trail to get the parking lot.