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Notes on the Geography of Peru: Cusco: Photo 94

world pictures Peru: Cusco

Here's the view looking back from the Rodadero to Sacsayhwaman proper, a fantastic blend of fortress and symbol--in this case the serrated teeth of a puma--the Inca equivalent of the bald eagle for Americans.

Juan Pizarro, Francisco's brother, fought and died here in 1556. He didn't have much time to think about symbols. Instead, he wrote of "a very strong fort surrounded with masonry walls of stone... and in the lower part of this wall there were stones so large and thick that it seemed impossible that human hands could have set them in place." (Quoted in Brian S. Bauer, Ancient Cuzco, p. 102.)

The symbolic importance of the place has been clear to others, however, for a long time. Here's Hiram Bingham, writing in 1911: "It seems to me possible that Sacsahuaman was built in accordance with their desires to please their gods.... This seems to me a more likely object for the gigantic labor involved in the construction of Sacsahuaman than its possible usefulness as a fortress. Equally strong defenses against an enemy attempting to attack the hilltop back of Cuzco might have been constructed of smaller stones in an infinitely shorter time, with far less labor and pains" (p. 106).

And here's John Hemming, a leading historian today: Sacsayhuaman "was far more than a fortress. It was primarily a shrine... to rival Coricancha" (Monuments of the Inca, p. xxx).

Even some of the early Spaniards probably understood that this was more than a fortress. Garcilaso de la Vega, born in 1539 to a Conquistador father and an Inca noblewoman, wrote that this place "was built more to be admired than for any other reason" (Gasparini, p. 285).

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