Mar 132014

Mausoleum“Suddenly, without any warning, under a huge overhanging ledge the boy showed me a cave beautifully lined with the finest cut stone.  It had evidently been a royal mausoleum.  On top of this particular ledge was a semicircular building whose outer wall, gently sloping and slightly curved, bore a striking resemblance to the famous Temple of the Sun in Cuzco.”  Hiram Bingham’s first encounter with Machu Picchu in 1911, was the mausoleum cave and the Temple of the Sun or Torreon built above it. 

Ken Tayler, in “Celestial Geometry”, described the significance of this cave, “The entrance toMachu Picchu intihuatana Temple of the Sun the royal mausoleum, a natural cave with internal masonry and carvings that indicate high-status burial, was aligned to face the sunrise on the winter (June) solstice.”

Tayler went on to mention, “The Intimachay, another natural cave, was modified to block out sunlight except on 20 days around the summer solstice, when the rays of the rising sun would enter and illuminate its depths.  Boulders at the entrance resemble a condor with wings open as if about to land.  To the Inca the condor symbolized the realm of the gods, and the sun god Inti was their chief deity from whom their leader was descended.  This design of the portal may have commemorated, and perhaps even assisted, visits by the supreme deity.”

Condor head with wingsI find the Temple of the Condor particularly interesting because it is composed of multiple parts that were part of the natural landscape.  One wing of the condor is a vertical pillar of multicolored granite.  The other wing, also of multi-colored granite, flows diagonally to the right.  The head is fashioned out of stone protruding from the ground in between the wings.  The Intimachay cave window can be seen behind and between the wings.

The Intimachay cave was specifically designed for the Royal Feast of the Sun in the month of Condors headCapac Raymi, which is linked to the December (summer) solstice.  The “Condor Stone” mentioned by Tayler is just south of the cave.  In an article for the Society for American Archaeology, David Dearborn, Katharina Schreiber, and Raymond White wrote, “The month of Capac Raymi, containing the Royal Feast of the Sun, was associated with the December solstice.  Unlike Inti Raymi, which was a festival celebrated by all and was a cause of pilgrimages to Cuzco, this festival was celebrated principally by the high nobility (Zuidema and Urton 1976).  The month of Capac Raymi is special in being the only Inka month whose name did not contain the word Quilla (moon) and that ended on the day of the solstice.  Although the ritual associated with the feast began earlier in the month, it culminated on the solstice with the initiation of the boys of noble birth, Capac Churi, to manhood.”

There are multiple entrances into the cave, but it is likely the only time the cave was used was during the Royal Feast of the Sun since it wasFrom inside cave pitch dark inside any other time.

In 1653, Father Bernabe Cobo completed his “Histoy of the New World” an important source of information on pre-conquest and colonial Spanish America.  Chapter 25 described in detail the “festival called Capac Raymi”.  Here are a few excerpts:

“The festival is celebrated in the first month of the year which is called Raymi, and on this occasion the Inca boys were initiated and knighted.  These boys were relatives and direct descendents of the Inca Kings.  This even included the prince who was to succeed to the throne and his brothers, if he had any.”

Young girls, chosen to participate in the festival, made clothing and provided drink for the boys for various parts of the 20-day ceremony.  Throughout the ceremony,” the boy’s older male relatives beat them with slings, telling the boys not to be lazy in serving the Inca, warning them that they would be punished for it, and reminding them of the reason that solemnity was performed and of the victories that had been achieved by the Incas through the efforts of their fathers.

 “This status of Knighthood was conferred on boys between twelve and fifteen years of age … after all of the ceremonies, the knights would go to a spring … .  After they returned to the square, their relatives offered them gifts … therefore, the boy … would always end up rewarded and rich.”

Macha Picchu Temple of the MoonThere is another cave at Machu Picchu that hints a relationship with the celestial calendar, Temple of the Moon which consists of three structural components: an overhanging cave with superb stonework, a very tall double-jamb doorway beyond, and farther beyond, several structures including one that again uses a cave.  In the center of the cave is a throne carved out of rock. Beside the throne are steps that lead deeper into the cave. It is thought that the caves were used to hold mummies. The three planes of the Incan religion are depicted: the Hanan Pacha (the heavens, or world of above), the Kay Pacha (the earth, or physical life), and the Ukju Pacha (the underworld, or world of below), represented respectively by the condor, the puma, and the snake. The temple also boasts niches and fake doors inserted in the stones, with an enormous 8 meter high by 6 meter wide entrance.  Like so many of the structures in Machu Picchu, it name is arbitrary and there is very little evidence that it had any connection to the moon.

Watch this superb Youtube video by Brien Foerster with great shots of Machu Picchu and Temple of the Moon

Machu Picchu was clearly a palatial retreat for the Inka, his royal family and the upper crust of Incan culture during its heyday.  I agree that it should be listed as one of today’s seven wonders of the world. 

— Courtney Miller

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