Mystery of Machu Picchu

It was in July, 1911, that we first entered that marvelous canyon of the Urubamba, where the river escapes from the cold regions near Cuzco by tearing its way through gigantic mountains of granite. From Torontoy to Colpani the road runs through a land of matchless charm. It has the majestic grandeur of the Canadian Rockies, as well as the startling beauty of the Nuuanu Pali near Honolulu, and the enchanting vistas of the Koolau Ditch Trail on Maul. In the variety of its charms and the power of its spell, I know of no place in the world which can compare with it.
Not only has it great snow peaks looming above the clouds more than two miles overhead; gigantic precipices of many-colored granite rising sheer for thousands of feet above the foaming, glistening, roaring rapids; it has also, in striking contrast, orchids and tree ferns, the delectable beauty of luxurious vegetation, and the mysterious witchery of the jungle. One is drawn irresistibly onward by ever-recurring surprises through a deep, winding gorge, turning and twisting past overhanging cliffs of incredible height. Above all, there is the fascination of finding here and there under the swaying vines, or perched on top of a beetling crag, the rugged masonry of a bygone race; and of trying to understand the bewildering romance of the ancient builders who ages ago sought refuge in a region which appears to have been expressly designed by Nature as a sanctuary for the oppressed, a place where they might fearlessly and patiently give expression to their passion for walls of enduring beauty. Space forbids any attempt to describe in detail the constantly changing panorama, the rank tropical foliage, the countless terraces, the towering cliffs, the glaciers peeping out between the clouds.

We had camped at a place near the river, called Mandor Pampa. Melchor Arteaga, proprietor of the neighboring farm, had told us of ruins at Machu Picchu.

The morning of July 24th dawned in a cold drizzle. Arteaga shivered and seemed inclined to stay in his hut. I offered to pay him well if he would show me the ruins. He demurred and said it was too hard a climb for such a wet day. When he found that we were willing to pay him a sol, three or four times the ordinary daily wage in this vicinity, he finally agreed to guide us to the ruins. No one supposed that they would be particularly interesting. Accompanied by Sergeant Carrasco I left camp at ten o'clock and went some distance upstream. On the road we passed a venomous snake which recently had been killed. This region has an unpleasant notoriety for being the favorite haunt of “vipers.” The lance-headed or yellow viper, commonly known as the fer-de-lance, a very venomous serpent capable of making considerable springs when in pursuit of its prey, is common hereabouts. Later two of our mules died from snake-bite.
After a walk of three quarters of an hour the guide left the main road and plunged down through the jungle to the bank of the river. Here there was a primitive “bridge” which crossed the roaring rapids at its narrowest part, where the stream was forced to flow between two great boulders. The bridge was made of half a dozen very slender logs, some of which were not long enough to span the distance between the boulders. They had been spliced and lashed together with vines. Arteaga and Carrasco took off their shoes and crept gingerly across, using their somewhat prehensile toes to keep from slipping. It was obvious that no one could have lived for an instant in the rapids, but would immediately have been dashed to pieces against granite boulders. I am frank to confess that I got down on hands and knees and crawled across, six inches at a time. Even after we reached the other side I could not help wondering what would happen to the “bridge” if a particularly heavy shower should fall in the valley above. A light rain had fallen during the night. The river had risen so that the bridge was already threatened by the foaming rapids. It would not take much more rain to wash away the bridge entirely. If this should happen during the day it might be very awkward. As a matter of fact, it did happen a few days later and the next explorers to attempt to cross the river at this point found only one slender log remaining.

Leaving the stream, we struggled up the bank through a dense jungle, and in a few minutes reached the bottom of a precipitous slope. For an hour and twenty minutes we had a hard climb. A good part of the distance we went on all fours, sometimes hanging on by the tips of our fingers. Here and there, a primitive ladder made from the roughly hewn trunk of a small tree was placed in such a way as to help one over what might otherwise have proved to be an impassable cliff. In another place the slope was covered with slippery grass where it was hard to find either handholds or footholds. The guide said that there were lots of snakes here. The humidity was great, the heat was excessive, and we were not in training.

Shortly after noon we reached a little grass-covered hut where several good-natured Indians, pleasantly surprised at our unexpected arrival, welcomed us with dripping gourds full of cool, delicious water. Then they set before us a few cooked sweet potatoes, called here cumara, a Quichua word identical with the Polynesian kumala, as has been pointed out by Mr. Cook.

Apart from the wonderful view of the canyon, all we could see from our cool shelter was a couple of small grass huts and a few ancient stone-faced terraces. Two pleasant Indian farmers, Richarte and Alvarez, had chosen this eagle's nest for their home. They said they had found plenty of terraces here on which to grow their crops and they were usually free from undesirable visitors. They did not speak Spanish, but through Sergeant Carrasco I learned that there were more ruins “a little farther along.” In this country one never can tell whether such a report is worthy of credence. “He may have been lying” is a good footnote to affix to all hearsay evidence. Accordingly, I was not unduly excited, nor in a great hurry to move. The heat was still great, the water from the Indian's spring was cool and delicious, and the rustic wooden bench, hospitably covered immediately after my arrival with a soft, woolen poncho, seemed most comfortable. Furthermore, the view was simply enchanting. Tremendous green precipices fell away to the white rapids of the Urubamba below. Immediately in front, on the north side of the valley, was a great granite cliff rising 2000 feet sheer. To the left was the solitary peak of Huayna Picchu, surrounded by seemingly inaccessible precipices. On all sides were rocky cliffs. Beyond them cloud-capped mountains rose thousands of feet above us.

The Indians said there were two paths to the outside world. Of one we had already had a taste; the other, they said, was more difficult—a perilous path down the face of a rocky precipice on the other side of the ridge. It was their only means of egress in the wet season, when the bridge over which we had come could not be maintained. I was not surprised to learn that they went away from home only “about once a month.”

Richarte told us that they had been living here four years. It seems probable that, owing to its inaccessibility, the canyon had been unoccupied for several centuries, but with the completion of the new government road settlers began once more to occupy this region. In time somebody clambered up the precipices and found on the slopes of Machu Picchu, at an elevation of 9000 feet above the sea, an abundance of rich soil conveniently situated on artificial terraces, in a fine climate. Here the Indians had finally cleared off some ruins, burned over a few terraces, and planted crops of maize, sweet and white potatoes, sugar cane, beans, peppers, tree tomatoes, and gooseberries. At first they appropriated some of the ancient houses and replaced the roofs of wood and thatch. They found, however, that there were neither springs nor wells near the ancient buildings. An ancient aqueduct which had once brought a tiny stream to the citadel had long since disappeared beneath the forest, filled with earth washed from the upper terraces. So, abandoning the shelter of the ruins, the Indians were now enjoying the convenience of living near some springs in roughly built thatched huts of their own design.

Without the slightest expectation of finding anything more interesting than the stone-faced terraces of which I already had a glimpse, and the ruins of two or three stone houses such as we had encountered at various places on the road between Ollantaytambo and Torontoy, I finally left the cool shade of the pleasant little hut and climbed farther up the ridge and around a slight promontory. Arteaga had “been here once before,” and decided to rest and gossip with Richarte and Alvarez in the hut. They sent a small boy with me as a guide.

Hardly had we rounded the promontory when the character of the stonework began to improve. A flight of beautifully constructed terraces, each two hundred yards long and ten feet high, had then recently rescued from the jungle by the Indians. A forest of large trees had been chopped down and burned over to make a clearing for agricultural purposes. Crossing these terraces, I entered the untouched forest beyond, and suddenly found myself in a maze of beautiful granite houses! They were covered with trees and moss and the growth of centuries, but in the dense shadow, hiding in bamboo thickets and tangled vines, could be seen, here and there, walls of white granite ashlars most carefully cut and exquisitely fitted together. Buildings with windows were frequent. Here at least was a “place far from town and conspicuous for its windows.”

Under a carved rock the little boy showed me a cave beautifully lined with the finest cut stone. It was evidently intended to be a Royal Mausoleum. On top of this particular boulder a semicircular building had been constructed. The wall followed the natural curvature of the rock and was keyed to it by one of the finest examples of masonry I have ever seen. This beautiful wall, made of carefully matched ashlars of pure white granite, especially selected for its fine grain, was the work of a master artist. The interior surface of the wall was broken by niches and square stone-pegs. The exterior surface was perfectly simple and unadorned. The lower courses, of particularly large ashlars, gave it a look of solidity. The upper courses, diminishing in size toward the top, lent grace and delicacy to the structure. The flowing lines, the symmetrical arrangement of the ashlars, and the gradual gradation of the courses, combined to produce a wonderful effect, softer and more pleasing than that of the marble temples of the Old World. Owing to the absence of mortar, there are no ugly spaces between the rocks. They might have grown together.

The elusive beauty of this chaste, undecorated surface seems to me to be due to the fact that the wall was built under the eye of a master mason who knew not the straight edge, the plumb rule, or the square. He had no instruments of precision, so he had to depend on his eye. He had a good eye, an artistic eye, an eye for symmetry and beauty of form. His product received none of the harshness of mechanical and mathematical accuracy. The apparently rectangular blocks are not really rectangular. The apparently straight lines of the courses are not actually straight in the exact sense of that term.

To my astonishment I saw that this wall and its adjoining semicircular temple over the cave were as fine as the finest stonework in the far-famed Temple of the Sun in Cuzco. Surprise followed surprise in bewildering succession. I climbed a marvelous great stairway of large granite blocks, walked along a pampa where the Indians had a small vegetable garden, and came into a little clearing. Here were the ruins of two of the finest structures I have ever seen in Peru. Not only were they made of selected blocks of beautifully grained white granite; their walls contained ashlars of Cyclopean size, ten feet in length, and higher than a man. The sight held me spellbound.

Each building had only three walls and was entirely open on the side toward the clearing. The principal temple was lined with exquisitely made niches, five high up at each end, and seven on the back wall. There were seven courses of ashlars in the end walls. Under the seven rear niches was a rectangular block fourteen feet long, probably a sacrificial altar. The building did not look as though it had ever had a roof. The top course of beautifully smooth ashlars was not intended to be covered.

The other temple is on the east side of the pampa. I called it the Temple of the Three Windows. Like its neighbor, it is unique among Inca ruins. Its eastern wall, overlooking the citadel, is a massive stone framework for three conspicuously large windows, obviously too large to serve any useful purpose, yet most beautifully made with the greatest care and solidity. This was clearly a ceremonial edifice of peculiar significance. Nowhere else in Peru, so far as I know, is there a similar structure conspicuous as “a masonry wall with three windows.”

These ruins have no other name than that of the mountain on the slopes of which they are located. Had this place been occupied uninterruptedly, like Cuzco and Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu would have retained its ancient name, but during the centuries when it was abandoned, its name was lost. Examination showed that it was essentially a fortified place, a remote fastness protected by natural bulwarks, of which man took advantage to create the most impregnable stronghold in the Andes. Our subsequent excavations and the clearing made in 1912, to be described in a subsequent volume, has shown that this was the chief place in Uilcapampa.
It did not take an expert to realize, from the glimpse of Machu Picchu on that rainy day in July, 1911, when Sergeant Carrasco and I first saw it, that here were most extraordinary and interesting ruins. Although the ridge had been partly cleared by the Indians for their fields of maize, so much of it was still underneath a thick jungle growth—some walls were actually supporting trees ten and twelve inches in diameter—that it was impossible to determine just what would be found here. As soon as I could get hold of Mr. Tucker, who was assisting Mr. Hendriksen, and Mr. Lanius, who had gone down the Urubamba with Dr. Bowman, I asked them to make a map of the ruins. I knew it would be a difficult undertaking and that it was essential for Mr. Tucker to join me in Arequipa not later than the first of October for the ascent of Coropuna. With the hearty aid of Richarte and Alvarez, the surveyors did better than I expected. In the ten days while they were at the ruins they were able to secure data from which Mr. Tucker afterwards prepared a map which told better than could any words of mine the importance of this site and the necessity for further investigation.

With the possible exception of one mining prospector, no one in Cuzco had seen the ruins of Machu Picchu or appreciated their importance. No one had any realization of what an extraordinary place lay on top of the ridge. It had never been visited by any of the planters of the lower Urubamba Valley who annually passed over the road which winds through the canyon two thousand feet below.

It seems incredible that this citadel, less than three days' journey from Cuzco, should have remained so long undescribed by travelers and comparatively unknown even to the Peruvians themselves. If the conquistadores ever saw this wonderful place, some reference to it surely would have been made; yet nothing can be found which clearly refers to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Just when it was first seen by a Spanish-speaking person is uncertain. When the Count de Sartiges was at Huadquiña in 1834 he was looking for ruins; yet, although so near, he heard of none here. From a crude scrawl on the walls of one of the finest buildings, we learned that the ruins were visited in 1902 by Lizarraga, lessee of the lands immediately below the bridge of San Miguel. This is the earliest local record. Yet some one must have visited Machu Picchu long before that; because in 1875, as has been said, the French explorer Charles Wiener heard in Ollantaytambo of there being ruins at “Huaina-Picchu or Matcho-Picchu.” He tried to find them. That he failed was due to there being no road through the canyon of Torontoy and the necessity of making a wide detour through the pass of Panticalla and the Lucumayo Valley, a route which brought him to the Urubamba River at the bridge of Chuquichaca, twenty-five miles below Machu Picchu.
It was not until 1890 that the Peruvian Government, recognizing the needs of the enterprising planters who were opening up the lower valley of the Urubamba, decided to construct a mule trail along the banks of the river through the grand canyon to enable the much-desired coca and aguardiente to be shipped from Huadquiña, Maranura, and Santa Ann to Cuzco more quickly and cheaply than formerly. This road avoids the necessity of carrying the precious cargoes over the dangerous snowy passes of Mt. Veronica and Mt. Salcantay, so vividly described by Raimondi, de Sartiges, and others. The road, however, was very expensive, took years to build, and still requires frequent repair. In fact, even to-day travel over it is often suspended for several days or weeks at a time, following some tremendous avalanche. Yet it was this new road which had led Melchor Arteaga to build his hut near the arable land at Mandor Pampa, where he could raise food for his family and offer rough shelter to passing travelers. It was this new road which brought Richarte, Alvarez, and their enterprising friends into this little-known region, gave them the opportunity of occupying the ancient terraces of Machu Picchu, which had lain fallow for centuries, encouraged them to keep open a passable trail over the precipices, and made it feasible for us to reach the ruins. It was this new road which offered us in 1911 a virgin field between Ollantaytambo and Huadquiña and enabled us to learn that the Incas, or their predecessors, had once lived here in the remote fastnesses of the Andes, and had left stone witnesses of the magnificence and beauty of their ancient civilization, more interesting and extensive than any which have been found since the days of the Spanish Conquest of Peru.
The Origin of Machu Picchu

Some other day I hope to tell of the work of clearing and excavating Machu Picchu, of the life lived by its citizens, and of the ancient towns of which it was the most important. At present I must rest content with a discussion of its probable identity. Here was a powerful citadel tenable against all odds, a stronghold where a mere handful of defenders could prevent a great army from taking the place by assault. Why should any one have desired to be so secure from capture as to have built a fortress in such an inaccessible place?

The builders were not in search of fields. There is so little arable land here that every square yard of earth had to be terraced in order to provide food for the inhabitants. They were not looking for comfort or convenience. Safety was their primary consideration. They were sufficiently civilized to practice intensive agriculture, sufficiently skillful to equal the best masonry the world has ever seen, sufficiently ingenious to make delicate bronzes, and sufficiently advanced in art to realize the beauty of simplicity. What could have induced such a people to select this remote fastness of the Andes, with all its disadvantages, as the site for their capital, unless they were fleeing from powerful enemies.

The thought will already have occurred to the reader that the Temple of the Three Windows at Machu Picchu fits the words of that native writer who had “heard from a child the most ancient traditions and histories,” including the story already quoted from Sir Clements Markham's translation that Manco Ccapac, the first Inca, “ordered works to be executed at the place of his birth; consisting of a masonry wall with three windows, which were emblems of the house of his fathers whence he descended. The first window was called ‘Tampu-tocco.’ ” Although none of the other chroniclers gives the story of the first Inca ordering a memorial wall to be built at the place of his birth, they nearly all tell of his having come from a place called Tampu-tocco, “an inn or country place remarkable for its windows.” Sir Clements Markham, in his “Incas of Peru,” refers to Tampu-tocco as “the hill with the three openings or windows.”

The place assigned by all the chroniclers as the location of the traditional Tampu-tocco, as has been said, is Paccaritampu, about nine miles southwest of Cuzco. Paccaritampu has some interesting ruins and caves, but careful examination shows that while there are more than three openings to its caves, there are no windows in its buildings. The buildings of Machu Picchu, on the other hand, have far more windows than any other important ruin in Peru. The climate of Paccaritampu, like that of most places in the highlands, is too severe to invite or encourage the use of windows. The climate of Machu Picchu is mild, consequently the use of windows was natural and agreeable.
So far as I know, there is no place in Peru where the ruins consist of anything like a “masonry wall with three windows” of such a ceremonial character as is here referred to, except at Machu Picchu. It would certainly seem as though the Temple of the Three Windows, the most significant structure within the citadel, is the building referred to by Pachacuti Yamqui Saleamayhua.
The principal difficulty with this theory is that while the first meaning of tocco in Holguin's standard Quichua dictionary is “ventana” or “window,” and while “window” is the only meaning given this important word in Markham's revised Quichua dictionary (1908), a dictionary compiled from many sources, the second meaning of tocco given by Holguin is “alacena,” “a cupboard set in a wall.” Undoubtedly this means what we call, in the ruins of the houses of the Incas, a niche. Now the drawings, crude as they are, in Sir Clements Markham's translation of the Salcamayhua manuscript, do give the impression of niches rather than of windows. Does Tampu-tocco mean a tampu remarkable for its niches? At Paccaritampu there do not appear to be any particularly fine niches; while at Machu Picchu, on the other hand, there are many very beautiful niches, especially in the cave which has been referred to as a “Royal Mausoleum.” As a matter of fact, nearly all the finest ruins of the Incas have excellent niches. Since niches were so common a feature of Inca architecture, the chances are that Sir Clements is right in translating Salcamayhua as he did and in calling Tampu-tocco “the hill with the three openings or windows.” In any case Machu Picchu fits the story far better than does Paccaritampu. However, in view of the fact that the early writers all repeat the story that Tampu-tocco was at Paccaritampu, it would be absurd to say that they did not know what they were talking about, even though the actual remains at or near Paccaritampu do not fit the requirements.

It would be easier to adopt Paccaritampu as the site of Tampu-tocco were it not for the legal records of an inquiry made by Toledo at the time when he put the last Inca to death. Fifteen Indians, descended from those who used to live near Las Salinas, the important salt works near Cuzco, on being questioned, agreed that they had heard their fathers and grandfathers repeat the tradition that when the first Inca, Manco Ccapac, captured their lands, he came from Tampu-tocco. They did not say that the first Inca came from Paccaritampu, which, it seems to me, would have been a most natural thing for them to have said if this were the general belief of the natives. In addition there is the still older testimony of some Indians born before the arrival of the first Spaniards, who were examined at a legal investigation in 1570. A chief, aged ninety-two, testified that Manco Ccapac came out of a cave called Tocco, and that he was lord of the town near that cave. Not one of the witnesses stated that Manco Ccapac came from Paccaritampu, although it is difficult to imagine why they should not have done so if, as the contemporary historians believed, this was really the original Tampu-tocco. The chroniclers were willing enough to accept the interesting cave near Paccaritampu as the place where Manco Ccapac was born, and from which he came to conquer Cuzco. Why were the sworn witnesses so reticent? It seems hardly possible that they should have forgotten where Tampu-tocco was supposed to have been. Was their reticence due to the fact that its actual whereabouts had been successfully kept secret? Manco Ccapac's home was that Tampu-tocco to which the followers of Pachacuti VI fled with his body after the overthrow of the old régime, a very secluded and holy place. Did they know it was in the same fastnesses of the Andes to which in the days of Pizarro the young Inca Manco had fled from Cuzco? Was this the cause of their reticence?

Certainly the requirements of Tampu-tocco are met at Machu Picchu. The splendid natural defenses of the Grand Canyon of the Urubamba made it an ideal refuge for the descendants of the Amautas during the centuries of lawlessness and confusion which succeeded the barbarian invasions from the plains to the east and south. The scarcity of violent earthquakes and also its healthfulness, both marked characteristics of Tampu-tocco, are met at Machu Picchu. It is worth noting that the existence of Machu Picchu might easily have been concealed from the common people. At the time of the Spanish Conquest its location might have been known only to the Inca and his priests.

So, notwithstanding the belief of the historians, I feel it is reasonable to conclude that the first name of the ruins at Machu Picchu was Tampu-tocco. Here Pachacuti VI was buried; here was the capital of the little kingdom where during the centuries between the Amautas and the Incas there was kept alive the wisdom, skill, and best traditions of the ancient folk who had developed the civilization of Peru.

It is well to remember that the defenses of Cuzco were of little avail before the onslaught of the warlike invaders. The great organization of farmers and masons, so successful in its ability to perform mighty feats of engineering with primitive tools of wood, stone, and bronze, had crumbled away before the attacks of savage hordes who knew little of the arts of peace. The defeated leaders had to choose a region where they might live in safety from their fierce enemies. Furthermore, in the environs of Machu Picchu they found every variety of climate—valleys so low as to produce the precious coca, yucca, and plantain, the fruits and vegetables of the tropics; slopes high enough to be suitable for many varieties of maize, quinoa, and other cereals, as well as their favorite root crops, including both sweet and white potatoes, oca, añu, and ullucu. Here, within a few hours' journey, they could find days warm enough to dry and cure the coca leaves; nights cold enough to freeze potatoes in the approved aboriginal fashion.

Although the amount of arable land which could be made available with the most careful terracing was not large enough to support a very great population, Machu Picchu offered an impregnable citadel to the chiefs and priests and their handful of followers who were obliged to flee from the rich plains near Cuzco and the broad, pleasant valley of Yucay. Only dire necessity and terror could have forced a people which had reached such a stage in engineering, architecture, and agriculture, to leave hospitable valleys and tablelands for rugged canyons. Certainly there is no part of the Andes less fitted by nature to meet the requirements of an agricultural folk, unless their chief need was a safe refuge and retreat.

Here the wise remnant of the Amautas ultimately developed great ability. In the face of tremendous natural obstacles they utilized their ancient craft to wrest a living from the soil. Hemmed in between the savages of the Amazon jungles below and their enemies on the plateau above, they must have carried on border warfare for generations. Aided by the temperate climate in which they lived, and the ability to secure a wide variety of food within a few hours' climb up or down from their towns and cities, they became a hardy, vigorous tribe which in the course of time burst its boundaries, fought its way back to the rich Cuzco Valley, overthrew the descendants of the ancient invaders and established, with Cuzco as a capital, the Empire of the Incas.

After the first Inca, Manco Ccapac, had established himself in Cuzco, what more natural than that he should have built a fine temple in honor of his ancestors. Ancestor worship was common to the Incas, and nothing would have been more reasonable than the construction of the Temple of the Three Windows. As the Incas grew in power and extended their rule over the ancient empire of the Cuzco Amautas from whom they traced their descent, superstitious regard would have led them to establish their chief temples and palaces in the city of Cuzco itself. There was no longer any necessity to maintain the citadel of Tampu-tocco. It was probably deserted, while Cuzco grew and the Inca Empire flourished.

As the Incas increased in power they invented various myths to account for their origin. One of these traced their ancestry to the islands of Lake Titicaca. Finally the very location of Manco Ccapac's birthplace was forgotten by the common people—although undoubtedly known to the priests and those who preserved the most sacred secrets of the Incas.

Then came Pizarro and the bigoted conquistadores. The native chiefs faced the necessity of saving whatever was possible of the ancient religion. The Spaniards coveted gold and silver. The most precious possessions of the Incas, however, were not images and utensils, but the sacred Virgins of the Sun, who, like the Vestal Virgins of Rome, were from their earliest childhood trained to the service of the great Sun God. Looked at from the standpoint of an agricultural people who needed the sun to bring their food crops to fruition and keep them from hunger, it was of the utmost importance to placate him with sacrifices and secure the good effects of his smiling face. If he delayed his coming or kept himself hidden behind the clouds, the maize would mildew and the ears would not properly ripen. If he did not shine with his accustomed brightness after the harvest, the ears of corn could not be properly dried and kept over to the next year. In short, any unusual behavior on the part of the sun meant hunger and famine. Consequently their most beautiful daughters were consecrated to his service, as “Virgins” who lived in the temple and ministered to the wants of priests and rulers. Human sacrifice had long since been given up in Peru and its place taken by the consecration of these damsels. Some of the Virgins of the Sun in Cuzco were captured. Others escaped and accompanied Manco into the inaccessible canyons of Uilcapampa.

It will be remembered that Father Calancha relates the trials of the first two missionaries in this region, who at the peril of their lives urged the Inca to let them visit the “University of Idolatry,” at “Vilcabamba Viejo,” “the largest city” in the province. Machu Picchu admirably answers its requirements. Here it would have been very easy for the Inca Titu Cusi to have kept the monks in the vicinity of the Sacred City for three weeks without their catching a single glimpse of its unique temples and remarkable palaces. It would have been possible for Titu Cusi to bring Friar Marcos and Friar Diego to the village of Intihuatana near San Miguel, at the foot of the Machu Picchu cliffs. The sugar planters of the lower Urubamba Valley crossed the bridge of San Miguel annually for twenty years in blissful ignorance of what lay on top of the ridge above them. So the friars might easily have been lodged in huts at the foot of the mountain without their being aware of the extent and importance of the Inca “university.” Apparently they returned to Puquiura with so little knowledge of the architectural character of “Vilcabamba Viejo” that no description of it could be given their friends, eventually to be reported by Calancha. Furthermore, the difficult journey across country from Puquiura might easily have taken “three days.”

Finally, it appears from Dr. Eaton's studies that the last residents of Machu Picchu itself were mostly women. In the burial caves which we have found in the region roundabout Machu Picchu the proportion of skulls belonging to men is very large. There are many so-called “trepanned” skulls. Some of them seem to belong to soldiers injured in war by having their skulls crushed in, either with clubs or the favorite sling-stones of the Incas. In no case have we found more than twenty-five skulls without encountering some “trepanned” specimens among them. In striking contrast is the result of the excavations at Machu Picchu, where one hundred sixty-four skulls were found in the burial caves, yet not one had been “trepanned.” Of the one hundred thirty-five skeletons whose sex could be accurately determined by Dr. Eaton, one hundred nine were females. Furthermore, it was in the graves of the females that the finest artifacts were found, showing that they were persons of no little importance. Not a single representative of the robust male of the warrior type was found in the burial caves of Machu Picchu.

Another striking fact brought out by Dr. Eaton is that some of the female skeletons represent individuals from the seacoast. This fits in with Calancha's statement that Titu Cusi tempted the monks not only with beautiful women of the highlands, but also with those who came from the tribes of the Yungas, or “warm valleys.” The “warm valleys” may be those of the rubber country, but Sir Clements Markham thought the oases of the coast were meant.

Furthermore, as Mr. Safford has pointed out, among the artifacts discovered at Machu Picchu was a “snuffing tube” intended for use with the narcotic snuff which was employed by the priests and necromancers to induce a hypnotic state. This powder was made from the seeds of the tree which the Incas called huilca or uilca,, grows near these ruins. This seems to me to furnish additional evidence of the identity of Machu Picchu with Calancha's “Vilcabamba.”
It cannot be denied that the ruins of Machu Picchu satisfy the requirements of “the largest city, in which was the University of Idolatry.” Until some one can find the ruins of another important place within three days' journey of Pucyura which was an important religious center and whose skeletal remains are chiefly those of women, I am inclined to believe that this was the “Vilcabamba Viejo” of Calancha, just as Espiritu Pampa was the “Vilcabamba Viejo” of Ocampo.

In the interesting account of the last Incas purporting to be by Titu Cusi, but actually written in excellent Spanish by Friar Marcos, he says that his father, Manco, fleeing from Cuzco went first “to Vilcabamba, the head of all that province.”

In the “Anales del Peru” Montesinos says that Francisco Pizarro, thinking that the Inca Manco wished to make peace with him, tried to please the Inca by sending him a present of a very fine pony and a mulatto to take care of it. In place of rewarding the messenger, the Inca killed both man and beast. When Pizarro was informed of this, he took revenge on Manco by cruelly abusing the Inca's favorite wife, and putting her to death. She begged of her attendants that “when she should be dead they would put her remains in a basket and let it float down the Yucay [or Urubamba] River, that the current might take it to her husband, the Inca.” She must have believed that at that time Manco was near this river. Machu Picchu is on its banks. Espiritu Pampa is not.

We have already seen how Manco finally established himself at Uiticos, where he restored in some degree the fortunes of his house. Surrounded by fertile valleys, not too far removed from the great highway which the Spaniards were obliged to use in passing from Lima to Cuzco, he could readily attack them. At Machu Picchu he would not have been so conveniently located for robbing the Spanish caravans nor for supplying his followers with arable lands.

There is abundant archeological evidence that the citadel of Machu Picchu was at one time occupied by the Incas and partly built by them on the ruins of a far older city. Much of the pottery is unquestionably of the so-called Cuzco style, used by the last Incas. The more recent buildings resemble those structures on the island of Titicaca said to have been built by the later Incas. They also resemble the fortress of Uiticos, at Rosaspata, built by Manco about 1537. Furthermore, they are by far the largest and finest ruins in the mountains of the old province of Uilcapampa and represent the place which would naturally be spoken of by Titu Cusi as the “head of the province.” Espiritu Pampa does not satisfy the demands of a place which was so important as to give its name to the entire province, to be referred to as “the largest city.”

It seems quite possible that the inaccessible, forgotten citadel of Machu Picchu was the place chosen by Manco as the safest refuge for those Virgins of the Sun who had successfully escaped from Cuzco in the days of Pizarro. For them and their attendants Manco probably built many of the newer buildings and repaired some of the older ones. Here they lived out their days, secure in the knowledge that no Indians would ever breathe to the conquistadores the secret of their sacred refuge.
When the worship of the sun actually ceased on the heights of Machu Picchu no one can tell. That the secret of its existence was so well kept is one of the marvels of Andean history. Unless one accepts the theories of its identity with “Tampu-tocco” and “Vilcabamba Viejo,” there is no clear reference to Machu Picchu until 1875, when Charles Wiener heard about it.
Some day we may be able to find a reference in one of the documents of the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries which will indicate that the energetic Viceroy Toledo, or a contemporary of his, knew of this marvelous citadel and visited it. Writers like Cieza de Leon and Polo de Ondegardo, who were assiduous in collecting information about all the holy places of the Incas, give the names of many places which as yet we have not been able to identify. Among them we may finally recognize the temples of Machu Picchu. On the other hand, it seems likely that if any of the Spanish soldiers, priests, or other chroniclers had seen this citadel, they would have described its chief edifices in unmistakable terms.

Until further light can be thrown on this fascinating problem it seems reasonable to conclude that at Machu Picchu we have the ruins of Tampu-tocco, the birthplace of the first Inca, Manco Ccapac, and also the ruins of a sacred city of the last Incas. Surely this granite citadel, which has made such a strong appeal to us on account of its striking beauty and the indescribable charm of its surroundings, appears to have had a most interesting history. Selected about 800 A.D. as the safest place of refuge for the last remnants of the old régime fleeing from southern invaders, it became the site of the capital of a new kingdom, and gave birth to the most remarkable family which South America has ever seen. Abandoned, about 1300, when Cuzco once more flashed into glory as the capital of the Peruvian Empire, it seems to have been again sought out in time of trouble, when in 1534 another foreign invader arrived—this time from Europe—with a burning desire to extinguish all vestiges of the ancient religion. In its last state it became the home and refuge of the Virgins of the Sun, priestesses of the most humane cult of aboriginal America. Here, concealed in a canyon of remarkable grandeur, protected by art and nature, these consecrated women gradually passed away, leaving no known descendants, nor any records other than the masonry walls and artifacts to be described in another volume. Whoever they were, whatever name be finally assigned to this site by future historians, of this I feel sure—that few romances can ever surpass that of the granite citadel on top of the beetling precipices of Machu Picchu, the crown of Inca Land.


viagra online said...

I lo9ve this place because I've heard it enclose different mysteries, that's the reason I'd like to going there and enjoying of those perfect views and landscapes.

Post a Comment