Thursday, 25 October 2012

Machu Picchu - one last look

One of the most striking temples at Machu Picchu was the Temple of the Condor.  Condor, puma, serpent are the animal parallels for heaven, earth and the underworld in Inca myth.  The condor as the symbol for heaven fitted right in with the interpretation of Machu Picchu as a sacred centre for the worship of the Inca gods.   Below you see the condor head carved into the ground rock and its wings represented by the two wing-shaped rock formations behind it.  Awesome!

The stonework at Machu Picchu was so amazing it took most of our attention.  It was easy to overlook the fountains at the site when in fact, these are mind-boggling in their complexity and were also essential for the inhabitants.  Scientists have worked out that the Incas fed these 16 fountains from a spring source some distance from the site.  The engineering was complex.   Jeff Brown's article "Water supply and drainage at Machu Picchu" is fascinating and explained the work behind the fountains and the system of terraces that solved the drainage issues at the site.

Double fountains
The terraces were everywhere, even up the steep sides of the Huayna Picchu - and all for drainage?
They were also used for agriculture but the amazing thing was, each of them were layered with stones at the bottom, then gravel, sand and topsoil.   The drainage enabled the rainwater to go through and therefore stopped erosion.  The Incas were incredible engineers!

All these mortarless stone masonry here were also earthquake proof because mortar would crack when the earth moved.  Without mortar and with the stones fitted neatly into each other, when there was an earthquake, all the stones shook in their spots but would settle back down.  Machu Picchu is in an earthquake zone, sitting on two faults, yet it survived centuries of earth movements.  Astounding!

These terraces led up to the Intihuatana, the ritual stone high above the Sacred Plaza  

One last look at the ever present mountain view.  

Great spot to watch the weather change and the clouds roll in on the mountains as we lingered before our departure.  What an awe-inspiring place!
Next post:  Road to Cusco

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