Cuzco Was Once a Large City in the

Cuzco Was Once a Large City in the

Cuzco (also Cusco or Qosqo) was the religious and administrative uppercase of the Inca Empire which flourished in aboriginal Peru between c. 1400 and 1534 CE. The Incas controlled territory from Quito to Santiago, making theirs the largest empire ever seen in the Americas and the largest in the world at that time. Cuzco, which had a population of up to 150,000 at its peak, was laid out in the form of a puma and was dominated by fine buildings and palaces, the richest of all existence the sacred aureate-covered and emerald-studded Coricancha complex which included a temple to the Inca sunday god Inti. Cuzco is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Cuzco in Mythology

In mythology the Inca race was created by the cracking god Viracocha who caused them to be built-in from the sunday god Inti. The first eight Incas were thus born at Tiwanaku or, in an alternative version, they emerged from the sacred Pacaritambo cave, and then they migrated downwards to the Cuzco valley. Led by Manco Capac (or Manko Qhapaq) and Mama Ocllo, the grouping fulfilled the earlier prophecy whereby they should settle where their gilded staff could be hands driven into the ground. Before the Incas could prosper, though, they beginning had to defeat their local rivals, the Chanca, a feat they achieved with the help of rock giants, the
pururaucas. This event did have a ground in reality, equally the Incas did indeed defeat the Chanca in 1438 CE. Thus the Inca capital was established. The proper noun Cuzco may derive from either
qosqo, meaning ‘stale-up lake bed’ or
cozco, a detail stone marker in the city.

Geography, Layout & Architecture

The geographical location of the site, on an aboriginal glacier lake bed and at a central point betwixt natural routes leading off to diverse surrounding regions, was advantageous. The basin lies at an distance of iii,450 metres and is surrounded by mountain peaks. Crops could be grown in the valley, and the hills provided skillful pasture. Cuzco is also the meeting point of 3 rivers – the Huatanay, Tullumayo, and Chunchul – making it especially significant and auspicious in the Inca listen. In typical Inca fashion, where nature was adjusted but never abused, the rivers were canalized and diverted to create the space necessary for a large city.

Cuzco saw a great flow of re-building in the mid-15th century CE during the reign of Pachacuti, known as ‘Reverser of the World’.

First habitation of settled populations was really as early as 500 BCE or earlier, and the chief pre-Inca settlement was Chanapata. Decorated pottery survives from this menses, just there is no prove of large buildings, artworks, or metal. Similarly, there are no remains from the Tiwanaku menses at the Cuzco site itself. Cuzco really began to have shape from around 1200 CE but only took on the grandeur of a capital during the reign of Inca Roca in the 14th century CE. From that point on each Inca ruler built his own palace, a nifty walled residential circuitous. In addition, from 1400 CE the Incas embarked on aggressive campaigns to conquer neighbouring territory, eventually building a huge empire with Cuzco as the authoritative and religious capital.

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The urban center saw a peachy menstruum of re-building and expansion in the mid-15th century CE during the reign of Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, known as ‘Reverser of the Earth’. The swamp area in the north was drained, and the center of the urban center moved there. Large ceremonial plazas were laid out, the Sacsayhuaman (or Saqsawaman) fortress, which protected the north of the city, was congenital, and the sacred Coricancha complex was rebuilt to more than appropriately reverberate the wealth and power of the Inca Empire. Other edifice works over time, which increased the spread of Cuzco to some twoscore hectares, seem to have been less deliberately planned, resulting in an irregular shaped urban area.

The whole capital letter was congenital around iv principal highways which led to the 4 quarters of the empire. The metropolis was likewise laid out in the course of a puma (although some scholars dispute this and take the description metaphorically) with the majestic metropolis of Pumachupan forming the tail, the main plaza representing the trunk, and the temple complex of Sacsayhuaman forming the head. The unabridged city was also divided into two singled-out parts called the
the former, in the north, was college in height and more prestigious than its lower, southern, counterpart. V noble families occupied each sector. The centre was dominated by the double plazas of Haucaypata (‘Terrace of Repose’) and Cusipata (‘Fortunate Terrace’) which, covered in imported sand, hosted religious and state ceremonies. These would be presided over past the Inca rex, seated on his carved rock throne on a raised platform, the
usnu, which likewise had a colonnade for taking sightings of celestial bodies. Here in that location was also a giant stone basin covered in gilt into which were poured libations of chicha beer. Dominating the plaza was the Sunturwasi, a spire which was the tallest structure in Cuzco.

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Inca 12 Bending Stone

Flickr User: Canopic (CC By-NC-ND)


(pocket-size groups of buildings organised around a courtyard all within a high-walled enclosure), vast plazas, parklands, sacred agricultural fields, shrines, fountains, and canals, still with the narrow streets of a civilization without wheeled vehicles, the city was largely reserved for priests, nobility, and administrators, while the farming and artisan communities were spread out beyond Cuzco’southward walls where there were also hundreds of
storehouses which had a huge storage capacity. The city proper had a population of around 40,000 with another 200,000 in the surrounding expanse at the fourth dimension of the Castilian conquest.

Cuzco was likewise an important component in the propaganda of Inca rule. It was encouraged to be venerated past Inca subjects as a sacred site. This policy besides entailed tributes both in real value objects, such every bit golden and artworks, but also in people, either rulers and/or their family members kept as hostages, forcibly relocated artists and skilled craftsmen and women, and the provision of sacrificial victims. In addition, radiating out from Cuzco were 41 sacred sight lines (ceques) and well-paved roads which divided both space and time and reminded that Cuzco was the centre of the world. Finally, small models of Cuzco have been discovered across the empire which must accept spread the news of the capital letter’southward great size and wealth.

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Virtually splendid of Cuzco’due south buildings was the Coricancha (Qorikancha), with its temples (wasi) congenital in honour of Inti, the moon goddess Mama Kilya (Quilla), the creator god Viracocha, Venus or Chaska-Qoylor, the god of thunder Illapa, and finally one for Cuichu the rainbow god. Each wasi contained a cult statue of that particular god and precious art and religious objects continued to them. The Coricancha, also known as the Golden Enclosure, was thus the almost sacred of all Inca sites and considered the very middle of the world.

Coricancha Circuit Wall

Coricancha Circuit Wall

Angela Rutherford (CC By-NC-ND)

Built using the fine masonry skills for which the Inca have rightly become famous, the massive walls of the circuitous were congenital from large stone blocks finely cutting and fitted together without mortar. The interior buildings were of ane storey and had thatched roofs. The doors were also covered in gilt sheets, as were the interiors and exteriors of the various temples, and the inner side of the perimeter wall was even said to accept been studded with emeralds. The temple to Inti, also known equally the Temple of the Sun, was lined with 700 ii kg sheets of beaten gilded, symbolizing the sweat of the god, and Mama Kilya’due south temple was similarly lined with silver, symbolizing the tears of the moon.

Inside the Temple of the Sun, besides golden artefacts relevant to the god’south worship, was a gold statue of Inti encrusted with jewels. The statue represented Inti as a small-scale seated male child called Punchao (Day or Midday Sunday). Another important representation of the god – a giant mask with zigzag rays bursting from the caput – was hung from the wall of an especially dedicated chamber within the temple. The garden of the temple was fifty-fifty more than spectacular. Just every bit state – sometimes even unabridged regions – were dedicated to the god, then besides, this garden was constructed in accolade of the dandy sun god. Everything in it was made of gold and argent. A big field of corn and life-size models of shepherds, llamas, jaguars, guinea pigs, monkeys, birds, and even butterflies and insects were all crafted in precious metal. And if that wasn’t enough to please Inti, there was too a large number of aureate and argent jars all encrusted with precious stones. All that survives of these wonders are a few golden corn stalks, a convincing, if silent, testimony to the lost treasures of Coricancha.

The Coricancha also had a dedicated space for the mummified remains of one-time Inca emperors and their wives, known equally
mallquis. These were brought out of storage during special ceremonies such every bit those celebrating the solstices. There were likewise living quarters for priests and priestesses, and notwithstanding other rooms of the complex were used every bit art and religious treasuries stuffed with artefacts taken from conquered peoples. These may well have been kept in order to guarantee compliance to Inca rule, merely as conquered rulers were sometimes held hostage at Cuzco for periods of the yr. Yet another interesting feature of the site was an hush-hush channel through which sacred water flowed to the surrounding squares outside the complex.

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Coricancha, Cuzco

Coricancha, Cuzco

Canopic (CC Past-NC-ND)

Other of import functions of the Coricancha included the taking of astronomical observations, especially of the Galaxy (Mayu). Sacrificial victims (capacochas) were also fabricated ready for their great moment in the precinct’s courtyard and and so marched along the ceque lines to exist sacrificed in the various provinces in honour of Inti and his living incarnation, the Inca emperor.


The fortress of Sacsayhuaman, built by Pachacuti, was likely outset constructed using mud and dirt, later to exist replaced by magnificent stone work which employed huge finely cut blocks, many weighing over 100 tons. Designed by four architects (Huallpa Rimachi, Maricanchi, Acahuana, and Calla Cunchui) and built using 20,000 tribute labourers, the structure has three terraces set in zigzag fashion then that each wall has upward to 40 segments which allowed the defenders to catch attackers in a crossfire. Only one small doorway on each terrace gave access to the interior buildings and towers on the hillside behind. The fortress was said to have had a capacity for i,000 warriors. Following the collapse of the empire, most of the stones were re-used elsewhere, and the ruins were covered in earth to prevent their use by rebel forces.


The Incas expanded their territory to such a caste that a mere 40,000 Incas controlled an empire of 10 meg subjects. The Inca Empire was founded on, and maintained by, strength which made the leaders unpopular with their subjects (especially in the northern territories), a situation that the Spanish Conquistadores, led by Francisco Pizarro, would take total reward of in the middle decades of the 16th century CE. The Inca Empire also had to face various rebellions including a war in Ecuador where a 2nd Inca capital had been established at Quito. Fifty-fifty more serious, the Incas were hit by an epidemic of European diseases such equally smallpox which had spread from Central America even faster than the European invaders themselves, and the wave killed a staggering 65-90% of the population. Such a disease killed Wayna Qhapaq in 1528 CE and two of his sons, Waskar and Atahualpa, battled in a damaging ceremonious war for control of the empire simply when the European treasure-hunters arrived. It was this combination of factors – a perfect tempest of rebellion, disease, and invasion – which ultimately brought the downfall of Cuzco and the mighty Inca Empire.

Cuzco was sacked, its principal buildings either burned and destroyed or taken to pieces for reuse in new construction projects. Thus the once golden splendour of Inca Cuzco now, unfortunately, survives simply in the eye-witness accounts of the first Europeans who marvelled at its architecture and riches and the odd stretch of Inca walls, especially the precisely cut supporting walls of the Dominican monastery.

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Cuzco Was Once a Large City in the