Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sachsayhuaman, Cusco Peru

Arial View of  the Huge Complex of Sachsayhuaman above Cusco Peru

Saksaywaman, Sasawaman, Saksawaman, Sasaywaman, Saqsaywaman or Saksaq Waman is a walled complex on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco, Peru, the former capital of the Inca Empire. Like other Pre-Inca constructions, the complex is made of large polished dry stone walls with boulders carefully cut to fit together tightly without mortar.

Sachsayhuaman sits at an altitude of 3,701 meters above sealevel and is part of the city of Cusco in Peru.

Megalithic Cuzco; Sachsayhuaman and the 120 Ton Stones

Video Source: Brien Foerster

Located on a steep hill that overlooks the city, Sachsayhuaman contains an impressive view of the valley to the southeast. Surface collections of pottery at Saksaywaman indicate that occupation of the hill top dates back at least a millennium. However recent theories point to the construction being thousands of years older due to their similar construction of megalithic stone building’s found around the World.


Because of its location high above Cusco and its immense terrace walls, this area of Saksaywaman is frequently referred to as a fortress.

Inca: The Largest Stone Wall: Sachsayhuaman

Video Source: Brien Foerster

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 for maintaining control over the city. It is clear from descriptions of the siege, as well as from excavations at the site, that there were towers on its summit 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 the fact that it held a great number of 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 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 prehispanic America and 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. It is believed by many that they were built precisely to survive earthquakes.

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 tonnes to almost 200 tonnes.

Video Source: Brien Foerster

Following the siege of Cuzco, the Spaniards began to use Saksaywaman as a source of stones for building Spanish Cuzco and within a few years much of the complex was demolished. The site was destroyed block-by-block to build the new governmental and religious buildings of the city, as well as the houses of the wealthiest Spaniards. In the words of Garcilaso de la Vega (1966:471 [1609: Part 1, Book. Bk. 7, Ch. 29]): "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.

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Sideways view of the walls of Saksaywaman showing the details of the stonework and the angle of the walls.


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