Ollantaytambo is located to the north of Cusco at the farthest end of the Sacred Valley, very close to Machu Picchu. Its name comes from two Quechua words: “Ollanta”, the name of a soldier from the local ethnic group who served with the troops of Inca Pachacutec and who became well-known for falling in love with an Inca princess; and “tambo”, which means a place of rest.
The town of Ollantaytambo
Ollantaytambo was a very important complex for the Inca state, for as well as forming part of the Sacred Valley, it is located close to the tropical forest regions of the empire of Tahuantinsuyo, which was dominated by the ethnic group known as the Antis. The Incas always feared the tropical forests and never fully conquered the area. Many important products used in Cusco came from the forests, including fruits and agricultural products, as well as the exotic feathers which were used in the clothing of the Inca elite.
Because of its importance, a large garrison was stationed at Ollantaytambo, and it also served as a royal palace where Inca leaders could negotiate and even entertain the chiefs from the Amazon region. These interpretations of the purpose of the site are consistent with what can be observed today at the complex. Several rooms would have been used to house troops, the military hierarchy and religious and political leaders. Other chambers were intended for the chosen women (Aclla Wasi), and large storehouses were located in strategically secure sites.
As with other Inca sites, the size of the blocks used in the construction of this complex is remarkable. The stones came from a quarry located on the other side of the valley, on the opposite bank of the river several kilometers from Ollantaytambo. How were the blocks transported to the top of the hill? A satisfactory answer to this question remains elusive.
The Inca Ruins
This Inca settlement was divided into religious and urban sectors. The religious sector is composed of a series of terraces that rise to the crest of the hill dominating this part of the valley. The impressive nature of its walls led to it being described as a fortress. However, careful analysis of the site and the objects found there (keros, aquillas, etc.) has shown that it was in fact a temple.
The sun temple was located in the upper part of the complex, where an enormous wall composed of six great blocks of pink granite stands. These blocks were quarried at Kachiqata, some 7 kilometers away on the opposite bank of the Urubamba River.
The urban sector was located on the current site of the village of Ollantaytambo, which respects to this day the original Inca urban layout. As they did in Cusco, here the Spanish established their own settlement on the site of an important Inca population centre. The streets are arranged to accommodate houses laid out in the kancha style, and water channels flow through the middle of the streets and past each threshold.
People in Ollantaytambo
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