Peru 2008: Pisaq to Yucay

June 26, 2008 (Continuation of journal)

The highlight of the afternoon was the very impressive ruins of Pisaq, our first Inca ruins! While we were climbing and exploring, we could hear the ethereal sound of a quena being played. It added a grandeur and spirituality to the place. Just about anywhere we went in the ruins, we could hear the solo sound of the flute floating over the mountaintops. Afterwards, we met the musician, but he had already sold out his CD, which the first of our group to reach him managed to buy the last of. I was too late!

Ruins of Pisaq: area where people lived. These are characterized by functionally built homes & pirka stonework (non-carved stones & mortar).
Ruins of Pisaq: area where people lived. These are characterized by functionally built homes & pirka stonework (non-carved stones & mortar).

Part of the walled city, probably where the agricultural workers lived. Towns were built on rocky hillsides so as not to waste good farmland.
Part of the walled city, probably where the agricultural workers lived. Towns were built on rocky hillsides so as not to waste good farmland.
Part of the walled city, probably where the agricultural workers lived. Towns were built on rocky hillsides so as not to waste good farmland.
Part of the walled city, probably where the agricultural workers lived. Towns were built on rocky hillsides so as not to waste good farmland.
I think this is the kantu flower but I'm not sure.
I think this is the kantu flower but I’m not sure.

 

Aqueducts and fountains carried water to the crops. Note use of rectangular stonework in this area.
Aqueducts and fountains carried water to the crops. Note use of rectangular stonework in this area.
The Incas used natural rock as well as carved stonework. Note the polygonal style in this part of the wall.
The Incas used natural rock as well as carved stonework. Note the polygonal style in this part of the wall.
Trapezoid doorway with overhead lintel in classic Inca style.
Trapezoid doorway with overhead lintel in classic Inca style.

trapezoidal niches in pirka stonework (possibly for idols in people's houses) with roof supports
trapezoidal niches in pirka stonework (possibly for idols in people’s houses) with roof supports
Ruins of homes perched on the edge of the mountainside.
Ruins of homes perched on the edge of the mountainside.

Pisaq was a walled town centered on agriculture. Impressive terraces encircle the town, practically dwarfing the rest of the ruins. Across the valley, more Inca terraces that are still in use today can be seen high on the mountainsides. Through the use of terracing for planting crops on steep hillsides and an irrigation system using aqueducts and fountains to channel the streams coming down the mountain, the Inca people were well adapted to using the rough terrain to their best advantage. Also, they didn’t believe in wasting good farmland by building dwellings on it, so the living quarters were mainly confined to the top of the hill, while the terraces spread out widely across the hillsides below.

The other distinguishing feature of the Pisaq ruins is the hundreds of holes in the adjacent rock face, which look like small caves and where birds now nest.

From this view can be seen burial holes, overgrown terraces, and the aqueduct system (lower right)
From this view can be seen burial holes, overgrown terraces, and the aqueduct system (lower right)

In fact, these holes were created as a burial site. The rocky mountainside we were facing was actually Pisaq’s cemetery. The dead were placed in fetal position in the holes, and possessions that they would need in the afterworld placed around them, such as pots and vessels, gold and silver utensils and jewelry. Sometime after the Spanish conquest, these graves were looted, so none of the possessions remained except broken fragments and a few bones for archeologists to find.

After dinner at our hotel, Casona de Yucay, that night, Boris told us we could wander down the long main street of the town. Rita, Dale, Jayme and I started out, and we bought huge water bottles to fill our smaller, now empty, ones. Dale, always on the lookout for camera batteries, bought a few of those too. Rita and I bought all the pencils the little store had for sale and some pens too, to bring to our school visit next day. (If I had known about this, I would have brought some of my plentiful supplies of notebooks, pencil sharpeners, brain-shaped erasers, etc.)

Finally we stopped at an Internet café. Jayme and Rita found others to go back or do more exploring with, while Dale and I checked our email. Dale was frustrated because he couldn’t get on Comcast, or as soon as it would come up, he’d get bumped off again. Meanwhile, I got onto Yahoo just fine, looked at the responses to my last email and posted another one.

Casona de Yucay Hotel (downloaded from Google).

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