Glossary of Terminology
The center of the imperial universe was intimately connected to a marvelously complex cosmos that has long defied western decipherment. The organizing principles of Cusco were largely misunderstood by the conquistadores who left but five short, eye-witness records of the capital before it was consumed by flames during the native rebellion of 1535. These accounts are often contradictory and scholars differ in their interpretations of them. The Spanish thought native rule was similar to the Castilian monarchy, and that the Inca crown passed from father to son in dynastic manner. They recorded a list of ten Inca emperors and considered it a ten-generation succession of rulers. In a monarchy, the great hero Pachacuti would have been crowned in 1438 before retiring in 1471, when son Topa Inca inherited the reins of state. Yet, with its Hanan and Hurin divisions, Cusco was clearly structured by principles of dual organization. Rather than monarchy, diarchy or dual rule prevailed: Hanan Cusco was no doubt headed by a lord similar to a curaca principale while a counterpart or segunda persona led the Hurin moiety. Therefore the Spanish list of emperors is subject to several very different interpretations. One is that figures such as Pachacuti and Topa Inca were not father and son, but senior and junior co-regents. If this was the case, the king list spanned but five generations, and dynastic history is truncated and compressed. Another interpretation holds that the list is not of individuals, but of imperial offices that operated concurrently and were held by the heads of royal kin groups. Split between the Hanan and Hurin moieties, ten royal clans, or panacas, resided at Cusco. Therefore, what the Spanish construed as dynastic history is likely to have been little more than a fictional kinship charter, which allowed ten ayllus to form a ruling alliance.
As the Rios Huantanay and Tullamayo converge, they frame the triangle occupied by Cusco. The narrowest section of the city, between the elongated confluence of the two rivers, was known as the Pumaq Chupen, or puma's tail. Some scholars argue that the imperial metropolis was designed and laid out in plan as a vast puma. Others deny this. What the Inca had in mind is not clear, but the outline of a great cat seen from the side can be imposed over the architectural tracery of the Inca city. The main plaza creates an open space between the uphill front quarters of the cat, and its rear legs and down-hill tail. Forming entire city blocks, vast cancha-wasi compounds of the royal panaca occupied the upper hanan and lower hurin sectors. Each sector apparently contained a palace compound appropriate for dual rule.
The head of the cat was formed by the largest and highest edifices, called Sacsahuaman. Perched atop a high hill, one side of the complex ran along a cliff with a commanding view of the city. The opposite side of the hill was relatively low and encased by three successively higher zigzag terraces. Each wall employed the finest and most impressive of Inca polygonal masonry, including individual stone blocks weighing 90 metric tons and more. In plan, Sacsahuaman is suggestive of an elongated animal head topped by the great terraces. A marvelous complex of fine ashlar buildings crowned a flattened hill, including tall towers, and circular and rectangular structures. Excavations have revealed a complex system of finely cut stone channels and drains suggesting ritual manipulation of water. Cieza de Leon says that Pachacuti intended Sacsahuaman to be a temple that would surpass all other edifices in splendor. Garcilaso de la Vega relates that only royalty could enter the sacrosanct complex because it was a house of the sun, of arms and war, and a temple of prayer and sacrifice. Construction supposedly employed 30,000 workers who labored for several generations.
Cusco's most extraordinary temple, the Qoricancha, was located in the puma's tail. It was a grand cancha with a single entry, enclosing six wasi-like chambers arranged around a square courtyard. One chamber, richly bedecked with gold, was dedicated to the sun and held Inti's image; a second, clad in silver, belonged to the moon and held her image. Other structures contained images or symbols of Wiracocha, Illapa, the lord of thunder, K'uyichi, the rainbow, and various celestial bodies. In addition to the Inca pantheon, the Qoricancha also housed sacred objects from conquered provinces. In an attempt to integrate their heterogeneous empire and to promote symbolic integration, the Lords of Tawantinsuyu required kings and karakas of subject populations to spend several months a year in the Cusco area. A hallowed huaca from each population was also required to be in perpetual residence, although the objects in it could be changed annually.
The Inca and other Andean societies employed a radial organization of space. Thus the boundary lines of the four quarters of Tawantinsuyu radiated out of the main plaza of Cusco and four grand highways departed along intercardinal routes approximating the intercardinal axes of Mayu (see map on page 2). Within the plaza the pillar of the usnu (the navel of the universe) and the towering Sunturwasi were used to sight outward to distant horizons where mountains and shrines provided points for tracking heavenly movements. The Inca also erected distant masonry pillars and stone pylons to sight upon the sun and to predict planting times at different elevations.
The Qoricancha was the sighting center for a remarkable system of radial organization. A sun dial is perhaps the nearest analogy, but the grand temple was more akin to the hub of a cosmic dial for tracking multitudes of celestial phenomena and correlating them with terrestrial phenomena. Radiating out of the Qoricancha, many sighting lines, called cekes, stretched to the horizon or beyond. Along these rays, or adjacent to them some 328 huacas, pillars, and survey points were arranged in an hierarchical manner. The 328 stations represent the days in 12 sidereal lunar months. Given the importance of irrigation, it is not coincidental that one-third of the ceke points comprised the major springs and water sources of the region.
The ethnohistorian Tom Zuidema of the University of Illinois suggests that the cekes were grouped into upper and lower sets and into four quarters. The upper set was associated with Hanan Cusco, Chinchisuyu and Antisuyu, the lower set with Hurin Cusco, Kollasuyu and Kontisuyu. Significantly, at least one dividing line separating the four quarters was related to the intercardinal Milky Way, and to the southernmost point of Mayu's movement. Each quarter was in turn subdivided into three parts by ceke lines, and each third was again divided by three more lines. Owing to terrestrial and celestial realities, the angles of arc between lines varied. Particular ceke lines and their huacas were associated with and administered by particular panaca. In part the rays and huacas distinguished panaca holdings, established responsibilities and defined daily through to annual activity schedules. Thus, various spatial and temporal reference points along the lines helped to organize land, water, labor, and the ritual activities and festive ceremonies that initiated and closed work cycles. ITA
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