Peru - Machu Picchu Ruins - VIII


  Andrys Basten, photos taken 5/23-24 , 1997   (Click on photos to get large versions.)



(106k) Going towards the Sacred Plaza
Directly to the front of the pink-bloused walker, headed north, is the Sacred Plaza, a perfect square, which holds
1) the Main, or Principal, Temple (facing us);
2) The Temple of the Three Windows (facing east and shown in the Index to these pages); and
3) the less-imposing (Bingham felt) home of the High Priest, facing the Main Temple (considered 'Main' because the stonework is the highest quality in that plaza).

    Towards the center of the photo on the right is the Central, or Main, Plaza which divides the Sacred Sector (which is part of the "High Urban Sector" - 'Hanan') on the western side from the Lower Urban Sector ('Hurin') on the eastern side).
    It may have been used as a marketplace or for ceremonies or even sports.

    (86k) Going towards the Sacred Plaza
Here, we've reached the Main Temple.   Like the Temple of the Three Windows , it has only 3 sides. I have no idea why. Maybe it was a very open society.   ;-)

    The ground is settling below the right corner and has caused serious damage to the structure, which is basically strong and, like its 3-window'd sibling, built and fitted without using mortar.

    Behind the Main Temple is Intiwatana Hill, with its elegant rock pillar "Hitching Post of the Sun" or "Sundial" - the latter name incorrect, as it's actually used to tell the time of year rather than time of day, aiding in predicting the solstices using the angles of the pillar, though how this was done remains unclear to this day.

(105k) The City as Maze
The Lower Urban Sector, Hurin (which contains the more mundane and less well-constructed residential, industrial and even prison sectors), is a bit of a maze and walking it is not unlike navigating the computer game "Doom" with its endless passageways that turn every which way.

    While there are no monsters, to those who were put in what is believed to be the Jail or Prison Group -- a depressing section which I didn't photograph -- some may have seemed so.

    Across the way is the Temple of the Three Windows as seen from this eastern viewpoint. Part of Intiwatana Hill can be seen over it.


Temple of the Condor (114k)
At the foot of the area in the southeastern section designated "The Jails" by Hiram Bingham (subterranean passageways that lead to what appear to have been niches used as cells-- with holes to hold a person's arms), and reached via a descending spiral passageway, is "The Temple of the Condor."

    Carved in the granite floor is what really does look (in better photos) like the head of a condor that is lying down, with white ruff at the neck, and the impressive part is the appearance of the huge stones behind it. They're natural rocks placed in the configuration of a condor's outstretched wings which house niches and an altar. For the Incas, the condor was the symbol of strength.

    The enlargement gives considerably more detail on the 'wings' so it's worth a click on the photo.   Here's a good closeup of what seems the condor's head, from Mary Dodge's shots , with thie condor shot by their daughter Lesli Harrer.  There are also some unique shots by Shari and Mary there.  Also very interesting to me is a shot from the side and above, outside the enclosure, by Michael Way, which leaves little doubt the side-structures were meant to be wings.

    A huge photo, but only 87k , by Clive Ruggles of the University of Leicester (and distributed here instead of from the UK for access-speed reasons) has a balletic feel, the left wing looking as if twisted in motion.  You can see how much my 30mm-equivalent lens left out.   Here's yet one more, a shot displayed by Vincente Goyzueta of the condor from a front-view which shows quite clearly the right 'wing' in relation to the 'head' -- almost as if the bird had fallen to the ground.

    Goyzueta also displays photos of Machu Picchu with many of the main structures or areas labelled.  These photos should help clarify the spatial relationships of areas shown in the last 8 pages. I found two of these photo layouts displayed in English (he also shows them in Spanish elsewhere): here are the ones for the agricultural sector and the royal/urban sectors.   Also, Goyzueta provides extended text and various photos for a book he's done.  His text (in both English and Spanish) is one of the better reads I've seen online for Cusco and Machu Picchu. His Spanish section includes an additional table of photos.  Bookmark my page if you ever want to find your way back here though!

    Back to the condor temple: slightly more sinister is what Lonely Planet's Rob Rachowiecki describes as a newly excavated (1995) well-like hole behind the condor carving, at the bottom of which there is a door to "a tiny underground cell that can only be entered by bending double."


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Next . . .More Walking the City - IX. . .



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