ONE DAY LONG AGO
The day starts off in Machu Picchu
with the ritual worship of Inti (the Sun), the highest deity, who
created all things and protects the royal house. Ceremonies follow
on one another thick and fast in the Temple of the Sun, a semicircular
building whose portals are inlaid with precious stones and jade.
Only royal dignitaries have access to this temple.
The Three-Windowed Temple, the Sacred Plaza, the Sacred Monolith and the Intiwatana constitute the built-up area at the center of the mountain. This area is used by the priests to offer up sacrifices and prayers, as well as to train the acllas. These were women selected at a very early age for their physical beauty as the future wives of nobles, the direct descendants of the Inca's family.
A priest climbs the 78 steps up to the Intiwatana, the granite mass that "holds the Sun" with its apexes pointing towards the four points of the compass. Thanks to the shadows it casts, the Huillacomo determines the equinoxes and solstices for the year. These are key dates in the native cosmogony, enabling the activities of sowing and harvesting.
Craftsmen and agricultural workers live and work further down, in the area around the cliffs next to the industrial area. Experienced agronomists sow along wide terraces held in place by stone blocks. Their precise knowledge of the weather and flora enables multiple harvests throughout the year, especially of corn and coca.
In the workshops, workers gifted with extraordinary technical skill work stone, precious metals, clay and the exquisite knitwear and ornamentation that will be worn by the Sons of the Sun. For the simple citizens, a plain dress and thick-soled sandals are enough.
Next to the Old Summit stands the New Summit or Huayna Picchu, a pyramid-shaped mountain used for lunar rituals and as a watching post and a communications center. A dizzying stairway carved in the bare rock climbs to the top. There, an attentive lookout sends out stentorian blasts with a conch horn called a pututu, every time someone approaches the fortress.
Once in a while, a boy with a small bag slung across his shoulder
arrives running at the entrance of Machu Picchu.
This emissary, known as a chasqui is a member of the complex communications
system devised by the Inca state. These boys were said to be so
efficient that they could convey news from one end of the territory
to the other in only a few days. They could even make the journey
up from the sea to the distant mountains so quickly that the fish
they were carrying remained fresh.