An ever-present reminder of Cusco’s Inca past looms over the city in the form of Sacsayhuaman. The walls of this formidable monolithic structure were built using granite blocks up to nine meters high and weighing as much as one hundred tons.
These walls were arranged in three parallel rows, in a zig-zag pattern. Sacsayhuaman, a Quechua word meaning – where the hawk sates itself – occupies the top of a hill overlooking Cusco, and forms the head of the feline which the city as a whole was conceived to represent, under the orders of Pachacutec when he rebuilt imperial Cusco.
According to the chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega, Sacsayhuaman had three main doorways: Tio-puncu, Aqawana-puncu and Wiraqocha-puncu.
Three other fascinating Inca sites are included in the Sacsayhuaman tourist circuit. The first of these is Qenko, the name of which means labyrinth, after the small but intricate network of subterranean passages beneath the rock outcrop, with its altar carved into a natural cavity. The next site is Pucapucara or red fortress, a structure built from red granite. Its three perimeter walls are arranged concentrically. It is believed to have served as a guard post, controlling access to Cusco from Antisuyo.
The third site on the circuit is Tambomachay, a fine example of Inca hydraulic engineering. Here a complex system of channels carries water across a group of terraces to a series of fountains, where the flow is divided into two cascades that fall gently and harmoniously into a ritual bath. It is believed that this site was associated with the worship of water, although some researchers believe it may have been built to control access to Cusco from Antisuyo, to the east.
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