Sacred Valley of the Incas: Saksaywaman

Saksaywaman is a citadel and a huge site, on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco, Peru. Sections were first built by the Killke culture about 1100, though they had occupied the area since 900. The complex was expanded and added to by the Inca from the 13th century, mostly dry stone walls constructed of huge stones. The workers carefully cut the boulders to fit them together tightly without mortar. The site is at an altitude of 3,701 m (12,142 ft).

Since the language of the Incas was Quechuan, the spellings for Incan sites are varous: Saksaywaman, Saqsaywaman, Sasawaman, Saksawaman, Sacsahuayman, Sasaywaman or Saksaq Waman. In Quechua waman means falcon or hawk.

In 1983, Cusco and Saksaywaman together were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List for recognition and protection.

Today, Peruvians celebrate Inti Raymi, the annual Inca festival of the winter solstice and new year. It is held near Sacsayhuamán on 24 June. Another important festival is Warachikuy, held annually on the third Sunday of September. Some people from Cusco use the large field within the walls of the complex for jogging and other athletic activities.

From Wikipedia: “Because of its location high above Cusco and its immense terrace walls, this area of Saksaywaman is frequently referred to as a fortress. The importance of its military functions was highlighted in 1536 when Manco Inca lay siege to Cusco. Much of the fighting occurred in and around Saksaywaman, as it was critical to maintaining control over the city. Descriptions of the siege, as well as excavations at the site, had recorded towers on the summit of the site, as well as a series of other buildings. For example Pedro Sancho, who visited the complex before the siege, mentions the labyrinth-like quality of the complex and its many storage rooms filled with a wide variety of items. He also notes that there were buildings with large windows that looked over the city. These structures, like so much of the site, have long since been destroyed.

The large plaza area, capable of holding thousands of people, is well designed for ceremonial activities. Several of the large structures at the site may also have been used during rituals. A similar relationship to that between Cuzco and Saksaywaman was replicated by the Inca in their distant colony where Santiago, Chile has developed. The Inca fortress, known as Chena, predated the Spanish colonial city; it was a ceremonial ritual site of Huaca de Chena.

The best-known zone of Saksaywaman includes its great plaza and its adjacent three massive terrace walls. The stones used in the construction of these terraces are among the largest used in any building in pre-hispanic America. They display a precision of fitting that is unmatched in the Americas The stones are so closely spaced that a single piece of paper will not fit between many of the stones. This precision, combined with the rounded corners of the blocks, the variety of their interlocking shapes, and the way the walls lean inward, is thought to have helped the ruins survive devastating earthquakes in Cuzco. The longest of three walls is about 400 meters. They are about 6 meters tall. The estimated volume of stone is over 6,000 cubic meters. Estimates for the weight of the largest Andesite block vary from 128 tons to almost 200 tons.

Following the siege of Cusco, the Spaniards began to use Saksaywaman as a source of stones for building Spanish Cuzco; within a few years, they had taken apart and demolished much of the complex. The site was destroyed block-by-block to build the new Spanish governmental and religious buildings of the colonial city, as well as the houses of the wealthiest Spaniards. In the words of Garcilaso de la Vega: “to save themselves the expense, effort and delay with which the Indians worked the stone, they pulled down all the smooth masonry in the walls. There is indeed not a house in the city that has not been made of this stone, or at least the houses built by the Spaniards.” Today, only the stones that were too large to be easily moved remain at the site.”

NOTE: Much of this information is from Wikipedia

The views of Cusco in the valley are spectacular.