Macchu Picchu, Nazca,
Tiahuanaco… Though the major monuments of Peru are mapped and
known – though the jungle continues to surrender some of its secrets
even today – so far these spell-binding monuments have largely
been looked upon in isolation, without trying to interlock the various
monuments with each other – let alone possible interoperability.
many years, the monuments of Egypt were often interpreted within a narrow
context. To some extent, the possibility of links between Egypt and
Sumer/Babylonia, though geographically close, is still frowned upon
as “unwise” to venture into. The same previously applied
to the megalithic monuments of Western Europe. However, in recent decades,
major inroads have been made to understand those stone monuments within
their landscape, and that global picture within the framework of the
myths – often creation myths – of the people or their ancestors
who built those monuments. However, Peru was largely left outside of
the framework and thus was only quoted by the likes of Erich von Däniken
or Graham Hancock, who included the monuments of Peru as examples of
ancient high engineering precision. However, such isolated attention
also meant that the monuments were not explained, and thus understanding
did not occur.
recent years, several archaeologists and other researchers have focused
their attention on Peru, in an effort to interpret its monuments within
its proper context. The official history of the Incas is extremely sad:
most were wiped out by a relatively small Spanish army who were uninterested
in mapping their civilisation. Though the gold of the Egyptian past
has often been removed from Egypt, at least it has been largely preserved;
the fate of the Inca gold was that it was melted, before being shipped
to Spain, where it was intercepted by English pirates… Though
the Inca civilisation is merely several hundreds years old, we are thus
faced with an equal problem to that of the ancient Egyptian civilisation:
that it is impossible to interrogate directly or have a large database
at our disposal to learn about this culture.
Spanish called the Inca culture “diabolical” and until
recently, it was deemed to be “primitive”. The Western
mind was incapable of understanding why a civilisation would practice
human sacrifice. The Inca civilisation was often not included
in school curriculi in Western Europe. Over the past forty years,
that veil of ignorance is slowly being lifted, specifically because
of the enormous interest created by Erich von Däniken et
al. Though his suggestions as to what the Inca monuments might
be, it is a fact that his “outlandish” suggestions
generated an interest in the monuments and offered scientists
the possibility (if not funding) to analyse the monuments in greater
detail. Performing the function of a catalyst is no mean feat…
Däniken posed the central question as it stood in the 1960s:
if the Inca were primitive or stupid, how had they been able to
create their often complex buildings, such as Sacsayhuaman or
Ollantaytambo. If indeed stupid, who aided them? If no-one can
be identified, do we need to look towards extraterrestrial beings?
Since then, the questions are still posed, but the circumstances
are vastly different then they were. It is now clear that the
Inca were not stupid. It is furthermore clear that the Inca built
upon centuries of knowledge available to their predecessors, present
across the continent they united. They were the last indigenous
group of rulers who had toiled the land for hundreds of generations,
if not thousands of years.
Nevertheless, the question of “what” their civilisation
represented is still largely unanswered. The main part of answering
this question has been carried by Peruvian archaeologists, as
well as a certain amount of visiting scientists. This has resulted
in a radically new approach and interpretation towards what the
backbone of the Inca culture was about.
key people in this quest are Fernando and Edgar Elorrieta Salazar.
The main interest of the Inca civilisation is the “Sacred
Valley”, which stretches from Cuczo, the “navel”
of the Inca world to Macchu Picchu, the best known Inca structure
that was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. Practically, the
valley continues south of Cuczo, towards Lake Titicaca. Situated
at an altitude of 4 kilometres, the lake is the highest navigable
lake in the world. It was on an island in this lake, the Island
of the Sun, that the Inca legends state that the creator god,
Viracocha, appeared on Earth. It is from here that Viracocha’s
voyage began. Amidst spectacular scenery, the valley descends
to 3400 metres in Cuczo and 2800 metres in Macchu Picchu. Though
the rivers will contribute to the Amazon river, it is said that
Viracocha continued on his path, walking SE/NW, until he reached
the Pacific Ocean.
legend of Viracocha and how he “walked” the sacred
valley brings us face to face with the enigmas of the Incan civilisation:
Tiahuanaco, Cuczo and Sacsayhuaman, Ollantaytambo and Macchu Picchu.
Several books about each topic have appeared, but few books have
tried to interpret the various sites as a whole. This latter approach
is important, as rather than a segmented view of the Inca civilisation,
it would present a global view of the exploits of Viracocha –
a view that would be based on Inca mythology, and not just scientific
analysis of the individual site.
The building work of the centres in the Sacred Valley is thus
a transformation in stone of the “Holy Road” travelled
by the Creator Deity. The recent importance of Macchu Picchu has
inverted the importance of this “path”. The Salazar
brothers clearly identify that Ollantaytambo was much more important.
Though at first apparently much less impressive than Macchu Picchu,
its siting within the landscape is nevertheless complex –
and contains more symbolic detail than eg Macchu Picchu.
has identified that the Inca civilisation had specific preferences
of alignments to mountain tops, evidence of which can be found
in Macchu Picchu. At Ollantaytambo, similar evidence can be identified,
but the detail is more specific. Both sites are orientated towards
a mountain, but at Ollantaytambo, the profile of a human being,
identified with Viracocha, can clearly be distinguished. The Salazar
brothers have furthermore identified that the temple at Ollantaytambo
is aligned to certain notches in that hill, the alignment of which
is with important sunrise events in the calendar.
The stone face of Viracocha towering over Ollantaytambo is part
of the Inca legend; his presence shows that the creator god was
still present, “looking”, “watching over”
his people. There are more such alignments: the Salazar brothers
identified that in the valley below Ollantaytambo, the first beam
of the sunrise falls on the so-called Pacaritanpu, the House of
Dawn, where the gods became “God”. This structure
is hardly identifiable, unless it is looked upon with the “right
eyes”. At first, there appears to be nothing but a cultivated
field. Though dating from the Inca time period, it is hardly recognisable
as important. But a second glance will reveal that the entire
field portrays a gigantic pyramid; the position where the sunbeam
hits the ground has been clearly and uniquely marked by a structure.
Such subliminal images in the Inca structures are not unique.
Elsewhere, the Inca’s have incorporated the same technique,
often in city planning. The Salazar brothers have identified various
animal forms in the hills and designs of Macchu Picchu, depending
on the point of view from where the monument is observed. The
design of the capital Cuczo is equally ingeniously created to
form the image of a puma, the “royal animal”. Many
of these constructions were a mixture of natural shapes, augmented
– “stressed” – by human intervention,
often by creating fields.
notion that sacred geography underlines Inca city planning is
not a new observation. The Jesuit Father Bernabe Cobo, in his
book The History of the New World (1653), wrote about
ceques in Cuczo. These were lines on which wak’as –
shrines – were placed and which were venerated by local
people. Ceques had been described as sacred pathways.
Cobo described how ceques radiated outwards from the Temple of
the Sun at the centre of the old Inca capital. These were invisible
lines, being only apparent in the alignments of the wak’as.
The ceques radiated out between two lines at right angles, which
divided the city into four and extended out into the Inca Empire.
Each ceque was in the care of a family. Wak’as mostly took
the form of stones, springs, hills, or stones on hills. Offerings
were made, often in the form of human sacrifice, usually of small
children. These ceremonies began in Cuczo and culminated in a
sacrifice at specially designated sites often located near the
summits of holy mountains.
of Dawn (left) which is difficult to discern, unless one makes
a careful analysis of the organisation of the fields, which form
the shape of a pyramid. One of the rectangular fields on the right
hand side of the pyramid is the location where the first beam
of sunlight on June 21 falls (see above), proving that the entire
structure is a complex engineering feature that expresses the
Inca creation legends.
the “Sacred Path” is an even deeper message. Modern research
suggests that the Sacred Valley of the Vilcamayu and Urubamba rivers
symbolised the Milky Way. Identifying rivers with constellations, specifically
the Milky Way, is nothing new. Other examples are the Nile, as well
as the Po in Italy and the Rhône in France.
John Major Jenkins is one of several researchers – and a growing
number at that – who have analysed the astronomical components
of the Central and Southern American cultures. Jenkins argue that archaeologists
need to do more than merely make high level statements such as the notion
that the Inca civilisation practiced solar worship. Why did they have
a sun cult? What religious message was introduced within this notion?
Jenkins believes that the answer can be found in the belief that the
Galactic Centre, the centre of the Milky Way, is the origin, or goal,
of the soul’s travel, a type of star gate into another dimension
– God. This knowledge was incorporated into the calendar of the
Maya. The same knowledge was depicted on the landscape of Peru.
the capital, the “navel of the world”, is situated between
two rivers. This corresponds with the dark “gate” north
of Sagittarius, the “gate” to this other dimension. But
more intriguing is that within this interpretation, Lake Titicaca is
the location of the Galactic Centre. There is therefore a consistency
between what Jenkins has identified as the core belief of the Maya and
the geographical mapping of the Inca civilisation.
radical interpretations that are being put forward will no doubt require
time before they will be accepted by each and all. Still, they sit within
a worldwide phenomenon, of creator beings walking the land, sculpting
it as they go, turning into rocks, etc. The phenomenon is well-known
with the Aboriginals and their Songlines in Australia.
It will take even longer before their influence and novel approach is
adapted and adopted by archaeologists and researchers trying to identify
other ancient or enigmatic civilisations. Meanwhile, several tourists
continue to walk the Sacred Path of Viracocha: many travel from Tiahuanaco,
to Cuczo, onward to Ollantaytambo and finally Macchu Picchu. The path
is a natural way of moving about the country and has been walked for
hundreds of generations, from the earliest farmers to the Inca kings…
It is an opportunity for every man to walk in the footsteps of Viracocha
originally appeared in Frontier Magazine 10.5 (October/November