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URBAN SECTOR

THE DRY MOAT AND
THE PRISON

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MACHU PICCHU MACHU PICCHU MACHU PICCHU
South of the Temple of the Three Windows, there is a small group of very interesting buildings. Two of them are wayranas, with only three walls, but sharing a central wall that acts as a divider. Instead of a front wall, there was a column supporting the roof beams. In this complex there are also some other rooms that have the same careful finish, with carved stones that seem to be altars.

One of the most fascinating and puzzling sectors of Machu Picchu is that of the Cˇndor, located southwest of the Mortar Stones. The Temple of the Condor is labyrinthine, and at its lowest point there is a granite outcrop carved to represent an Andean Condor. Around this carving, there are two large rocks shaped like wings. This was obviously a sacred place, built with the purpose of worshipping the Apu Kuntur (the Condor-god).

It should be pointed out that the Condor was one of the three sacred animals in Inca society, together with the Puma (cougar or mountain lion) and the Snake. Therefore, the presence of this sculpture is strictly religious in nature. The Condor was, and still is, a special divinity in the Andean mountain regions, so these carvings had a purpose of worship.

However, today's inhabitants of the small Andean villages in Peruvian mountain regions where ancestral customs are still kept annually hold a festivity called Yawar Fiesta or the Festivity of the Blood (see the chapter on the Andean Condor).

On this occasion, the Condor was worshipped. On the other hand, some other authors say that this place was the prison of Machu Picchu, because this place housed pumas and possibly snakes also, so that those sentenced to death would be killed by the wild animals and, finally, eaten by birds of prey and carrion-eaters, among them the Condor.

Two kinds of extreme punishment are thought to have existed. That is why the niches with small cavities in their doors over the Condor's left wing could have been used to tie the hands of the victims. Moreover, the higher niches in the back wall could have been used for another cruel punishment. The victims could have been closed into them, facing upward and breathing and having food and water through the small openings at the top. In Inca times, this sector was an adjunct to the Temple of the Condor, and due to its features must have been used for ritual purposes, and not as a "prison", although that is what it is called today.

CLUSTER OF MORTARS or "INDUSTRIAL" SECTOR

Southeast of the Prison, we find the Cluster of Mortars, that some authors name the "Industrial Sector". The architectural features of its walls indicate it was considered important for the city. Bingham called it the "Ingeniosity Cluster". This was, seemingly, a very special place, since it had a double wooden door, with an inner locking system consisting of carved stone mortises and stone rods.

The two-meter high walls were built of well-carved stone, although the higher walls were of rougher stones. This difference indicates that perhaps the construction took place in tow stages. In this group, there is a room with two round mortars in it. Both of these are of the same diameter and type of carving.

Some historians say that they were used for milling different products, or for weaving or making pottery as an "industrial" activity. However, the mortars do not seem to have been much used. Others indicate that they were the supports for aryballus (small, pointed amphorae) that contained chicha (corn beer). It has also been suggested that the "mortars" were filled with water to act as mirrors for observation of the stars on clear nights.

Modern astronomers, however, say no one can seriously make this claim, since it is far more practical to observe the sky directly, without the use of mirrors. Again, we know so little about the Incas, despite a generalized perception that they were intellectually advanced, that possibly an explanation rejected by modern science could have meanings which are hidden from us.

THE DISTRICT OF THE THREE IDENTICAL DOORWAYS

Northeast of Machu Picchu's Main Square there are other constructions of the pirka wall type. The reason for their distribution is not clearly known. Only speculation on this exists. There are different sectors, known as the "Higher Group", the "Three Doors or Doorways", etc. These constructions were apparently only used as living quarters, storerooms or for some other utilitarian purpose.

THE SACRED MONOLITH

This may be found in a quadrangular area with two adjacent rooms. The sacred rock measures 3 meters high by 7 meters at the base, and has a pedestal 30 centimeters high.
It is shaped like a feline, and apparently had a ritual purpose. Going down the stairway to the northeast of the most northerly Intiwatana of Machu Picchu, may be found the Sacred Complex. This is a small complex with two very similar wayranas , one in front of the other, with walls of the pirka type. They served as temples or altars for worship. The Sacred Monolith stands on a stone pedestal, with a relatively smooth surface, which may have originally been polished as smoothly as the boulders of Ollantaytambo, although time and weatherbeating could account for the loss of its original shape and polish.

In the Inca religion, there was a belief that the mountains were, or contained, apus (higher spirits), considered to be protectors, to the extent that even today there are some local ceremonies to worship the mountains. Many scholars think that the Sacred Complex simply formed a symbolic representation of the mountains, to the point that even in the stone representing the feline "Puma god" can be seen the profile of the mountains around Machu Picchu.
To the north of this complex is the track leading to Huayna Picchu and to the southeast is the Main Plaza of the city.

UPPER AND LOWER CEMETERIES

These were the cemeteries where, as we have mentioned, the deceased inhabitants of Machu Picchu were buried as mummies. The fact that there are two well-differentiated cemeteries shows that there were at least two social classes: the inhabitants of the empire in general, that is the farmers, warriors and serfs on one side, and the higher class of priests and nobles. This last cemetery contains the sacred vaulted niches for worshipping the dead.





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