The ruin of Sacsayhuaman (pronounced “sexy woman” by the locals so that they remember how to say it) is located a short walk into the hills surrounding Cusco city. In fact, some of the best possible views overlooking Cusco are seen from inside the walls of Sacsayhuaman.
To this day, scientists debate about what the Sacsayhuaman ruin was. One side argues that it was an Inca fortress designed to protect the city of Cusco below, while others say that it was a temple used to worship thunder and lightning. From afar, the outer walls of Sacsayhuaman almost look straight, yet when you get in close (as depicted below) it is easy to see the jagged shape of the wall as the stone moves inward and then back outward. One scientific theory for this design is that the jagged wall helped to disperse the enemy attacking force, while the other theory is that it was simply built to resemble the shape of a lightning bolt. Today, the general consensus amongst the local people is that it was an Inca temple to worship thunder and lightning, but when the Spanish came and invaded the temple, they turned it into a fortress.
Despite the arguments about its use, scientists do agree on one thing: Sacsayhuaman’s construction is breathtaking. Many of the stones used to build the outer wall weight up to 128 tons and would have had to have been cut from the mountainside, dragged by ropes, or rolled over logs, in order to be shaped to fit like a puzzle (as depicted below) with the other rocks used to construct the wall. Back then, no mortar was used to hold these walls together. Yet they are carved so perfectly together that, in most places not even a single piece of paper can fit inside the crack between them. Furthermore, the Incas were smart enough to figure out that if they rounded the corners of the stone, and used the least amount of right angles as possible when fitting the stones together, their walls would become earthquake-proof, which are apparently quite abundant in Peru.
It’s hard to believe that a civilization as ancient as the Incas were able to build such a place out of such massive and seemingly immovable stone; which is why some people even carry the theory that they had extraterrestrial help… but that’s a story for another day.
For now, let me leave you with one last image of myself, as a way to show how massive these stones really are. Keep in mind, I’m 6ft 4in tall, and these rocks are limestone.
All information gathered in this article sourced from local Sacsayhuaman tour guides.
Coming next: Inca Trail Day 1: “Training Day”