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The Mighty Fortress of Sacsayhuamán


This archaeological park is located just outside of Cuzco at a height of 3.555 m (11,663 ft). Strangely to many visitors, this is actually higher than Machu Picchu.


The ruins of the massive fortress are located where the San Cristobál and Cuzco districts meet (both districts are part of the Cuzco Province).


The site of Sacsayhuamán consists of a fortress that has layered walls. Multiple walls located behind each other, the rear ones higher than the frontal ones. The more one advances inwards, one has to climb higher, meeting more walls.

The Incas had built it on the side of a hill, taking advantage of the altitude changes.


Sacsayhuamán has seen major battles, including the siege in which Juán Pizarro, the smaller brother of Francisco Pizarro was fatally wounded and died the next day


The meaning of Sacsayhuamán is "House of the Sun".




The Construction of Sacsayhuamán


The immense fortress was put together with the usage of huge stone blocks. Nobody knows exactly who had built Sacsayhuamán, when and most importantly, how?


Machu Picchu can be admired for its great location and splendid views, rather than its construction.

Sacsayhuamán can be admired mostly for the remarkable architectural engineering skills that were needed for its creation.


The Incas told the Spaniards that they weren't the ones who built Sacsayhuamán, but "the giants". In their mythology there were huge people living in the Cuzco area and they carried the huge stone blocks and put them together.


The city of Cuzco was built in the shape of a puma, a holy animal in the Inca beliefs. The head of the puma was actually Sacsayhuamán.


Sacsayhuamán was a massive fortress of the Incas capable of accommodating 5.000 fighters.

Today the complex is in ruins, but we know from chronicles and the words-of-mouth from local Quechuans that it was bigger, higher and it even had towers.


During a siege, the fortress had suffered tremendously due to Spanish attack, led by Francisco Pizarro.

It is believed that the upper parts of the fort contained smaller stones, which were easily demolished and taller moved away and used for the construction of colonial buildings.

The large stones were too heavy and the Spaniards simply left them in their original shape...

Specialists affirm that originally, the walls of the fort were approximately 3 m (9.84 ft) higher than today.


Shockingly, any traveler can notice that some stone blocks used in constructing the complex are gigantic, the size of small trucks even!

Nobody knows how these huge stones were cut and moved into place.


Many stones weigh over 50 tons and the biggest one has over 120 tons. For comparison, a US Army Abrams Tank weights just over 50 tons. Imagine lifting a tank... Even with modern cranes, it would be a very difficult task! Now, imagine lifting twice that weight (about 120 tons) in the middle ages, when it is believed that the fortress was constructed... Hard to imagine how the Incas would have done this...

We can also add the fact that the Incas did not know the wheel, they did not write either.


The cutting of the hard rocks is another mystery that so far no-one has given any plausible answer to.


With understanding the construction of Sacsayhuamán we are no further than with understanding the construction of the Egyptian Pyramids!


Famous Quechuan-Spanish chronicle writer, Garcilaso de la Vega once wrote about Sacsayhuamán:


This fortress surpasses the constructions known as the seven wonders of the world. For in the case of a long broad wall like that of Babylon, or the colossus of Rhodes, or the pyramids of Egypt, or the other monuments, one can see clearly how they were executed. They did it by summoning an immense body of workers and accumulating more and more material day by day and year by year. They overcame all difficulties by employing human effort over a long period. But it is indeed beyond the power of imagination to understand now these Indians, unacquainted with devices, engines, and implements, could have cut, dressed, raised, and lowered great rocks, more like lumps of hills than building stones, and set them so exactly in their places. For this reason, and because the Indians were so familiar with demons, the work is attributed to enchantment.


Some Spanish priests and chronicle-writers, among whom Cieza de León, Garcilaso de la Vega, Bernabe Cobo, Sarmiento de Gamboa, Pedro Pizarro have fantasized about Sacsayhuamán having been built by demons, evil spirits...


Most people today, consider the fortress an Inca construction. Though, they themselves told the Spaniards that Sacsayhuamán was built by "giants".


Writers like Erich von Däniken bring the theories further, as far as talking about alien activity in this area, when they speak about the Nazca Lines and Tiahuanaco (this latter site being in Bolivia).


Indeed, many of us doubt the fact that the Incas could have constructed Sacsayhuamán.

A simple analysis of the construction style and material will lead us to the conclusion that indeed, Sacsayhuamán resembles other Inca constructions, but in many ways it differs. The immense blocks are just as large as some used in the building of Ollantaytambo.

The specialists who doubt that Sacsayhuamán was built by Incas, believe that the lower, larger rocks were placed there by some other culture, some have even pointed out to the Chachapoyas culture, those who built Kuelap.


Estimates tell us that approximately 20.000 to 30.000 people were needed for the construction of Sacsayhuamán. The works would have went on for about 60 years.

The probable end date of the construction works was in 1508. This means, it was finished just a few years before the arrival of the Spaniards led by Pizarro (which happened in 1526).




Muyuc Marca, the Remains of an Ancient Tower at Sacsayhuamán


Often it is mentioned as Muyuqmarka or Muyuq Marka (in Quechuan language), but sometimes it is written as Muyucmarka and even Moyoc Marca.


This is a small Inca ruin consisting of 3 concentric circular wall ruins.

This used to be a tower and it is located inside Sacsayhuamán. Though, Muyucmarca is the name of the place, not the tower.


3 water channels were constructed, which were probably used for filling a reservoir in the center of the sites.


Otherwise, not much is known about Muyucmarca...


The exact purpose of it is still not known and might never be determined.


Chronicle writer Garcilaso de la Vega wrote that there were 3 towers at Muyucmarca, at the top of the walls. These towers were built at equal distance from each other, forming a triangle. The main tower was erected in the center and it was a cylindrical-shaped one. This tower was called Muyuc Marca or Muyucmarca, the other 2 towers were Paucar Marca and Sallac Marca (or Sallaqmarca, sometimes Sallaq Marka). The latter 2 both had rectangular-shaped bases.

It is not known why the main tower was round and the other 2 rectangular.

Round towers are less stable, for sure and they allow lower altitudes than rectangular ones. If someone wants to build a solid, high tower, then it is most likely to be rectangular. Let's think about skyscrapers: how many of them are round? Very few, indeed.


Sacsayhuamán: the Remains of a Tower

Sacsayhuamán: the remains of a tower



Getting There


For visiting Savsayhuaman it is enough if you just walk out of Cuzco.

There are 2 roads leading to the site: one starts in the San Cristobál neighbourhood and is 1,5 km (0.93 mi) long, the other one from the Avenida Collasuyo and is (2.48 mi) long.


There are less frequented paths that can also get you there. One of these is the Sapantiana starting from Choquechaca street with a length of 1 km (0.62 mi), the other one stretches from the San Blas district and reaches the Kusilluyog temple through an old Inca road that connects with Collasuyo.



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