Ancient Cultures & the “Civilization” cycle

Ancient Cultures & the “Civilization” cycle

I have visited Cusco & Machu Picchu twice. There are three the distinct types of stone construction: What appears to be the original is the same as what can be seen at Saqsaywaman (photos above), next is a cruder form with gaps in the joints and some use of mortar (perhaps added by the Inca?) and the last, and crudest, is the current “repair” work construction. South of Cusco where the valley narrows there is a structure that appears to be a “gateway”. Again, the original construction is the very precise architecture, while some amount of less precise stone work has been added on.

I consider the Cusco/Machu Picchu examples more than circumstantial evidence of lost technology. More specifics from the Arcana Factor on this amazing site above Cusco follows:

“Sacsayhuaman: the mysteries of the ancient Peruvian architects
of Historical Sciences In the north-western suburb of the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco, there’s a steep hill floating up above the ancient city. It has the name of Sacsayhuaman. In the language of Quechua – the language that was spoken by the patrials of the Empire in the ancient times – this means “a satiated hawk”.   This language is still widely used by 12 million of the citizens of the South America.

At the top of this hill there is one of the greatest monuments of the ancient Peruvian architecture. In 1983 Sacsayhuaman (as well as the whole city of Cusco) was included into the UNESCO World Heritage List. The central part of this archaeological monument is represented by the three zigzag walls located one after another, fringing the slope of the hill. The length of each of the walls reaches 350 m. Their height varies from 4 to 5 meters (for the bottom wall) and up to 3 meters (for the top wall). Each of them has more than 20 prominent «bastions», which add to the zigzag shape of the walls. Each of the walls has one or two passages to the next level. The walls are compiled of the large, thoroughly processed blocks of the so-called grey Yucay limestone. The lower wall consists of the largest blocks which have the height of 2-3 meters and the weight of hundreds of tons. The weight of the biggest block amounts to 360 tons, while its height is 8.4 meters. The blocks have a different shape, but despite this they are fit together with unbelievable precision. It’s impossible to squeeze even the knife’s blade between them. The walls are made without any mortar, but with the help of a technology which is nowadays called the polygonal masonry. Many of the bulges are sophisticatedly carved so that to match the shape of the adjacent boulders. This way, the blocks are fit together just like the elements of a puzzle. Engineers believe, that this type of masonry provided the maximum stability and safety of the construction in such an earthquake endangered zone as the valley of Cusco.

Remarkable is the fact that the blocks of the prominent bastions are rounded. That means that for the ancient developers it was not a problem to trim the facets of the 3-4 meters’ high monoliths just for rendering them the rounded shape. In addition, the whole surface of the blocks was thoroughly polished yet in the ancient times. Nowadays, of course, the signs of erosion are very much evident at all of the stones.

At the top of the hill there remained the remnants of the Inca buildings, including the foundation of the three towers. The main tower consisted of the 5 levels and had the multiple premises. The towers were made of the smaller hewn blocks which were a pale comparison to the gigantic monoliths of the lower walls.

According to the historic, which survived until our times in the Spanish chronicles, the construction of Sacsayhuaman was started by the great Inca Emperor and conqueror Pachacutec Inca Yupanqui (1438 – 1471), and continued during the reign of his successors all the way until the start of the civil wars in the Empire in 1528. In fiction books Sacsayhuaman is usually referred to as a fortress or a citadel. Indeed, its cycloptic walls evoke the impression of indestructible might. However, Sacsayhuaman was not in fact a fortress. From the Spanish sources there come the information that it was only once that the hill was subjected to assault.

Having conquered Cusco in 1534, the Spanish conquistadors have enthroned Manco Inca Yupanqui, the son of the last great Inca Huayna Capac. However, it is already in 1536 that Manco Inca raised a revolt against the Spanish conquistadors. In May of that year a huge army of Inca (as of the chroniclers’ data, it counted between 100 and 200 thousand people) put Cusco under the siege. The Indians took possession of the Sacsayhuaman hill and from its top began to bombard the city, where the Spaniards have settled, with the fire shells. So that to avoid a disastrous defeat, the conquistadors attempted with a counterattack of the hill and on day they succeeded and seized it. They managed to win due to application of the assault ladder during a night raid. And there’s nothing unexpected or unusual in such a result of the fight, because for the soldiers who have already had an experience of assaulting the European castles, there was no problem with conquering the 5-6 meters walls of Sacsayhuaman.

In other words, this sole episode of the military action in Sacsayhuaman evidently demonstrates that this grandiose construction has never been a fortress in fact. Even more – some of the Spanish chroniclers noted that Sacsayhuaman was in first place a tremendous temple complex, the True House of the Sun (as some chroniclers used to call it) to enter into which was the right enjoyed solely by the Incas. Nowadays it’s impossible to imagine the architecture of the Inca Sacsayhuaman. The chroniclers did not leave enough of the detailed descriptions, while after the suppression of the mutiny of 1536 the Spaniards began proactive disassembling of the complex. The perfectly processed stone blocks of Sacsayhuaman were used for the construction of Cathedrals and residential buildings of the central part of colonial Cusco.

Centuries later the religious tradition transformed into a theater show. Nowadays annually on July 24 in Sacsayhuaman they celebrate the Inti Raymi (the festival of Sun) – the annual celebration of the winter solstice which attracts thousands of tourists.

Still more on this topic in next week’s post