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Sun Temple at Pisac

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 eternal enigma.

"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 precipices.
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.



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