Sacsayhuamán, Sacred Valley

Sacsayhuamán, alternatively called Saksaq Waman, is an ancient Inca ruin at an altitude of 3,701 meters. It is a walled complex laden with mystery near the old city of Cusco, Peru. The immense fortress was built by huge stone blocks weighing upto 300 tons, but nobody knows how these stones were cut, moved and put into place. The construction method of the builders of these megalithic walls is still a mystery, as you cannot fit a single piece of paper between most of the stones. The precise construction work, along with artistically bent corners of the limestone blocks and varied shapes of the walls are the chief factors behind the relic’s continued presence till date.

Cusco City View

The longest of the three Sacsayhuamán walls is about 400 meters long and 6 meters tall. About 6,000 cubic meters volume of stone had gone into the construction work. The limestone blocks that went into the construction of the wall weighed up to 300 tons. The transportation of the stone blocks at that age is really interesting. Some of the bigger ones had to be transported more than 50 miles across rugged mountainous terrains. The Incas did not use wheeled vehicles like chariots at that time. There is difference of opinion among chroniclers about the identity of the chief architect behind Sacsayhuaman.

Inca walls

“A good example of Inca stonework at Sacsayhuamán, Peru. They cut and hauled huge stones to make walls like this, and fit them together — without mortar! — so tightly that you coudn’t get a knife-tip or a piece of paper between them. Solid enough to have survived tremendous earthquakes.”

Another interesting construction is the Muyuqmarca or Muyucmarka, which is a small Inca ruin consisting of 3 concentric circular walls, all connected with radial walls located within the Sacsayhuamán archaeological site.

Cusco Sacsayaman Round Tower

Sacsayhuamán. Peru

The Spanish, who invaded the region, extracted a large quantity of rock from the walls of Sacsayhuamán walls to build churches in Cuzco region. For this reason, the walls are perfect up to a certain height and then suddenly missing beyond that point. The relic is famous for extensive underground crisscrossing passages called Chincanas. These Chincanas also connect the fortress with other parts of the Inca remnants. Mystery continues to be unfolded at Sacsayhuamán. In 2008, a temple was discovered in the premises. The temple dates back to sometime between 900 and 1200 AD.

The mysteries around the construction of Sacsayhuamán have boosted its claim to fame. The fortress, which could contain about 5000 people, still has an impressive size and can raise the eyebrows of some of the most renowned architects of today’s age. Some of the stone blocks are really huge and as large as a medium-sized truck! Most importantly, they are still in their designated place even today! Some of the bigger blocks weigh over 50 tons and are still tightly stuck together like bits of puzzles. At times, you cannot but remain wonderstruck at how the biggest block, weighing over 120 tons, was moved to the site with precision at that age? What tools did the Incas had in their possession for cutting these gigantic blocks that precisely fitted together?

The Spanish invaders considered themselves superior in military technology than the Incas. They were shocked at the Incas’ achievement. Some Spanish chroniclers have degraded the Incas in their chronicles and have written that the fortress had been built by evil spirits and demons. Some people even today believe that the structure was not constructed by the Incas. They believe that extraterrestrials could have arrived in our planet and built the Sacsayhuaman fortress. Alternatively, they might have taught the Incas how to build it.

Ruins of Sacsayhuamán, a grand ceremonial and shaman burial site near Cusco. This entrance is double walled, which in Inca architecture always leads to a temple / Photo from ramtyns

Stones in Saqsaywaman

However, the specialists after a simple analysis of the structure and style of construction have come to the conclusion that the Sacsayhuamán fortress was indeed a construction work of the Incas. The estimated workforce behind the fortress was around 20,000 – 30,000 men and the approximate time of construction was about 60 years.

Inca festival

Inca ruins at Saqsaywaman, Cuzco, Peru