Preface and General Information
Qosqo in History
The Tawantinsuyo
The Inka
Inkan Religion
General and City Planning
Materials and Lithic Technology
Inkan Architecture
Coca Leaves
Andean Camelids
Andean Condor
Inkan City of Qosqo
Present-day Festivities
The Cathedral
Saint Blaise Church
Convent of Our Lady of Mercy
La Compania de Jesus Church
Saint Francis Convent
Monastery of Saint Catherine
Maras, Moray, Pichingoto
Tipon, Pikillaqta, Andahuaylillas
Inka Trail
Manu National Reserve


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Today P'isaq constitutes one of the most important Archaeological Parks in the region. It is located about 30 Kms. (18.6 miles) toward the northwest of Qosqo City. Possibly its name comes from a type of partridge very common in the area known as "p'isaqa". Some scholars suggest that the pre-Hispanic City had the shape of a "p'isaqa" (-ornate tinamou- Nothoprocta ornata); a tinamidae that represented the local fauna. Today, there is also a colonial town named P'isaq in the lower part of the valley, established as consequence of the famous "Indians Reductions" by which the Quechuas were joined in small towns. The Inkan City is on the upper side of the mountain, over the well preserved terracing. It was classical among the Inkas that the most fertile zones must have been reserved for agriculture without being wasted for building towns or cities. Therefore, the city was built taking advantage of the dry and rocky mountain; even more, its location enabled its protection because this was a fortified city on the way to the Antisuyo (Amazonian Jungle). Historians suggest that it was established over there in order to protect the great capital from possible attacks of the Antis nations (the name of the "Andes" Mountains derives from "Anti") that were their worst and never "submitted to" enemy. Today it is still possible to observe the surrounding wall that protected the most important zone of the city. More over, inside the protected area are the vast farming terraces that supplied enough food for its inhabitants in case of sieges or prolonged wars; and there are also aqueducts that supplied water for agricultural development. It seems that water for consumption of the inhabitants was harnessed on the mountain's upper side and transported through underground channels.

There are two possibilities in order to get to the archaeological site from the colonial town: Hike, taking the street on the western side of the present-day church and go up through the terracing and the mountain, it is a hard hike because of the mountain's altitude and inclination that requires one to be in good physical condition. Otherwise, take a car that must follow the 8 Km. (5 mile) road toward the northeast of the town as far as the parking lot from which it will be necessary to follow the 1.5 Km. (1 mile) path in order to get the "Intiwatana" sector. Nowadays, the second possibility is the easiest and most popular; the most interesting variant is to get by car to the "Qanchisraqay" sector in order to start the hike, for which it is commendable not to suffer from vertigo as the mountain is somewhat steep.

Almost all the original names of the different sectors in P'isaq are lost; the names that are known today were established by tradition, historians and archaeologists. Therefore, in many cases the names do not represent their real nature or duty; the reason for this is that there is no precise information, or old documents serving as authentic testimony for interpretation. But, the "P'isaq" name is genuine because it is consigned in some chronicles. Today, archaeology and history are trying to decode the site's mysteries through archaeological diggings, logical deductions and comparative studies stating analogies with some other known elements. As there is an Inkan architectonic type classification, today, it is possible to establish the roles of almost all the buildings, but, there are many other aspects that will remain as an eternal enigma.

"Qanchisraqay" (qanchis = seven, raqay = inclosure) is one of the districts in P'isaq remaining outside the fortified city, about ½ Km. (0.3 mile) away from the surrounding wall. That sector is also known as "Kanturaqay", the name being related to our national flower "kantu". It is constituted by many buildings with "pirka" type walls, that is, made with non-carved mud bonded stones that originally had a clay stucco. Over here there are some "kanchas" (apartments) for non-noble people that must have cultivated the lower terracing; around here there are also some remains of aqueducts and fountains supplying water for people dwelling in the area. From this spot there is a panoramic view of the terracing that seen from the valley's bottom look narrow but staying up here one discovers that they are broad. Its location on the edge of a precipice is also exceptional for watching over and controlling the movement of people or travelers who used the road toward the Paucartambo region and the Antisuyo.

Following the trail toward the west of Qanchisraqay one reaches the crossroads known as " Antachaka" (anta = cooper, chaka = bridge), where there are some water fountains and a surface aqueduct for the terracing. Towards the west, on the irregular almost vertical surface of the mountain there is a large amount of something like hollows: they are looted tombs of the biggest pre-Hispanic cemetery in the region. Today. the cemetery is known as " Tankanamarka" (tankay = to push, marka = spot; it may be translated as "hurling spot"), and according to some estimates it must have contained about 10,000 tombs that were mostly looted. In the Inkan belief it was stated that once persons died they began a newer life; therefore, their mummies were kept along with all their goods and necessary food. When the conquerors arrived they soon knew that inside the Inkan tombs they could also find jewels of precious stones and metals, thus they began with their diabolical profanation and pillaging of ancient Peruvians' tombs. That is why that cemetery in P'isaq contains mostly looted tombs, some mummies are still inside the graves but not their jewels and daily life elements.

Continuing the hike, one crosses the partially destroyed surrounding wall, in which the trapezoidal doorway named as Amarupunku (amaru = snake, punku = doorway) still keeps its lintel. Around there, is the district known as K'alla Q'asa (k'alla = cut, q'asa = pass) also named as Hanan P'isaq (Upper P'isaq); it contains many "pirka" type buildings among apartments, storehouses, towers and so many stairways on the edge of the precipices.

Following the trail after the "Amarupunku" there is a small tunnel drilled taking advantage of a natural fault; it is 16 mt. (52.5 ft.) long and its height is irregular and low, so people must bent down to cross it. This was not a principal path but a secondary one in the city, which can not be compared with the Inka Trail toward Machupicchu that was a real "Inka Ñan" or "Royal Road" where there are much more comfortable tunnels. Going on, by the uneven trail with many stairways is the religious sector in P'isaq. Today this sector is named as Intiwatana (inti = sun, watana = fastener).

Intiwatana is the most important district in P'isaq, it corresponds to the ceremonial core or religious complex of the city that has the best quality constructions with "sedimentary" type walls; that is, with polished-joint carved stones that have a rectangular outer surface. Its location on the mountain's upper section is superb and dominates visually a great territory of the valley. This sector must have been constituted by diverse temples such as Qosqo's Qorikancha with shrines for different deities. The lack of precise information today makes it difficult to know which were the gods worshipped in every temple. In the complex's central part is a semicircular building with one lateral straight wall which main gate is toward the south, by deduction and analogy with other similar buildings it is established that this was the Sun Temple in P'isaq. On both side walls of its ascending entrance there are small hand-boxes carved in the rock that were surely used as holders, like a handrail. By the middle of this building is the altar carved in the in-situ rock, with a central interrupted conical protuberance that is known as "Intiwatana" ("Sun Fastener"; but its original name must have been "Saywa" or "Sukhanka") and must have been used for allowing observation of the solar movements with the help of some other elements or carved angles that served as "pegs" for calculating the shadow projections. Today that Intiwatana has many signs of having been hardly hit; though, it is still possible to notice its original shape: an interrupted cone. The altar served to carry out different ceremonies worshipping the Sun God, as well as for sacrificing animals for divination purposes.

Descending the Sun Temple stairway, farther to the southwest side is another interrupted conical carving that was surely used in a close relationship with the "Intiwatana". Even farther down to the west is a carved stone altar and a "stepping symbol" sculpted in the natural rock representing the three stages of the Andean Religious World: the heaven, the earthly world and the subsoil. That sculpture was possibly used as a help element for solar observations too.

In this complex there are some other rectangular temples with very good quality walls. Their specific duties are unknown; but, today tradition is trying to impose names for them, of course, without any documented support. A small room placed by the middle of this sector breaks the architectonic balance of the spot; it was made with "pirka" type walls that served perhaps as an inclosure for the "tarpuntay" or priest in charge of service in these temples. Besides, in this area there are some very well carved channels and remains of fountains that because of their quality and location must have had strictly religious duties as water was a special deity among Andean people who always had channels, fountains and reservoirs for its cult. About 20 mts. (65 ft.) in front of the complex's main gate is a very special fountain of which the bottom is below the floor level and served as a water receptacle. On both sides of its spillway there are two carvings that look like handles; because of its layout it perhaps served as a bathtub to take "ceremonial baths" as a way of purifying the body. From this zone there is a partial view of the original channeling of the Urubamba River that flows in a straight line about 3.3 Kms. (2 miles). It is known that in Inkan times this river was completely channeled from P'isaq and as far as Ollantaytambo. The aim of the channel was to gain farmlands and protect them, covering a length of about 90 Kms. (56 miles) in the valley; today, in many sectors it is still possible to observe remains of the channel's lateral walls.

Going down by the stairway towards the southeast of the "Intiwatana" sector is the P'isaqa district that has a somewhat semicircular shape following the mountain's silhouette. It has a few walls with carved stones, some of the "pirka" type, and some others simply made with sun dried mud bricks. Over here there are some very well distributed "kanchas" (apartments). From the southern end of this sector, it is possible to see on the mountain abrupt surface some circular "pukaras" (defensive towers) and the adobe "qolqas" (storehouses) of sustenance goods. All over the complex there are farming terraces built even as far as the edge of precipices that still keep their straight sometimes vertical aqueducts (water does not flow any more) and their projecting ladders made with stones that are fit into the retaining walls allowing one to pass from one terrace to the other. From this sector, there is a trail toward the South in order to go down as far as the P'isaq colonial town; it offers a very interesting panorama. Otherwise, it will be necessary to take the northern trail to get the parking lot.


As it was indicated before, the present-day town of P'isaq was formed after 1572 when the "Indians Reductions" were established, by which the Quechua people were forced to live in villages. The small town was made in the Andean way, with narrow and cobbled streets; but a "Plaza de Armas" and a Catholic Church were established in the classical Spanish way. Today, in the plaza there are two old aged "Pisonay" trees (Coral Trees -Erythrina falcata-) that have reddish edible flowers; their fruits and flowers contain nourishing substances and their seeds medicinal alkaloids. According to tradition, when Francisco Pizarro (the conqueror of the Inkas) visited this area, he had hitched his horse to one of those trees; therefore, they must be about 5 centuries old. Also in the Plaza there is a monument sculpted in stone honoring the Quechua Chief Bernardo Tambohuacso Pumayalli, who in 1780 along with some other chiefs and "mestizo" people headed a pro-independence movement against the Spanish crown. That movement failed and subsequently all the leaders were executed in Qosqo's Main Plaza. The church that is found today is relatively modern; it was made with adobes the same way as the colonial one that was demolished almost completely.

It is in the town's Main Plaza where every Sunday is the famous "Indian Market" that attracts hundreds of peasants from the surrounding communities who descend from the mountains in order to perform their commercial transactions. Normally, those peasants bring to the market what they grow, goods that are sold or simply bartered for some other manufactures or goods extraneous to their mountains, such as candles, matches, clothing, salt, coca leaves, tropical fruits, etc. The colorful typical clothing of peasants visiting the market is very showy; those are the clothes of their normal use and not an occasional costume. The native hats are also easy to distinguish; they are almost always black and flat and indicate that their wearers have almost no influence of western culture and speak just Quechua. Besides, there are many women who wear the "European like" high hats of different colors; they are westernized and possibly went to school, so they are bilingual or have some knowledge of the Spanish language.

However, this market was also adapted to the tourists' needs, and a vast sector of it displays handicrafts or "souvenirs" for tourists; in that sector are all the tourist goods existing in any handicraft market in Qosqo. Therefore, nowadays it is possible to find two markets in the same spot: the "Indian" one and that for tourists. Today, a bit scarcer market is also performed on Thursdays. In general, this is a good place to shop for pottery that is made locally and somewhat old weavings (15 or 20 years). On the other hand, on Sunday mornings, by 11:00 am. there is a Catholic Mass in the church for the local populace as well as for the "Varayoq" (whom has a "vara", that is, a staff of office) or mayors of peasant communities of the region. Their staffs of office are made in "chonta" (very hard black palm-tree wood) with beaten silver adornments. The mayors' arrivals to the town are announced by their assistants who blow their "pututos" (trumpets made of big conch shells -Strombus galeatus-); those trumpets were inherited from the Inkan Society. What is peculiar in the mass is that as attendants do not know or have a poor command of the Spanish language, so the sermon will be said in the Quechua language.

In Qosqo City and most Andean towns like P'isaq, there are frequently in some doorways sticks placed with mainly red plastic bags or multicolored flowers on their tips; they indicate that in those spots "aqha" or "chicha" is for sale, that is, the mild maize beer which has a low alcoholic content but is somewhat heavy for western stomachs. That beverage constitutes part of the daily diet of Andean people since immemorial times; it is popular among women who have babies because when drinking it they will get a lot of milk, and also among men because it is believed that drinking it prevents prostatitis. In many places there are some other similar sticks holding small baskets on their ends; they indicate that those are bakeries or bread is for sale within. If some other time you find sticks with some banana leaves on the tip, then that means that inside that house coca leaves are for sale. That is an old signal system; some decades ago it was much more popular because most of our population were illiterate but today it is being extinguished slowly as a consequence of education that people are getting and the influence of radio and television. This same influence is leading to abandon certain "archaic and repressive" habits and traditions deep-rooted during many centuries, such as prearranged weddings and practice of " Sirvinakuy", the trial-marriage inherited from our ancestral culture. According to Alfonsina Barrionuevo in Inkan times that trial marriage must have been called "Warmichakuy" or perhaps "Tinkunakuspa". It consisted in an endogamic temporary joining of a man and a woman; major youngsters of the same social status in order to know each other even in the most intimate and minimum aspects for a lapse of about one year. After the "sirvinakuy" if the couple did not get separated was considered firmly united, with undeniable responsibilities and rights. If the relationship failed during the trial time and there was a child, the woman was sent along with the child to her parents' house. As Barrionuevo states, "... It is not a question of a simple concubine system but an institution that guaranteed children and understanding among the couple, in a frame of respect and equality, that are extraneous to half-breed and white men".

There is some controversy concerning the sexual behavior of Andean young people in Inkan times and subsequent epochs: the most realistic scholars assert that in Inkan times the Quechua youngsters had very puritanical values, thence a conservative moral, exactly as today's peasants in the Andes; some authors suggest that there was squalor and licentiousness. For understanding the first current it would be enough to read what Andean Chief Guaman Poma de Ayala wrote by the second half of XVI century about Inkan laws and statutes: " Women who are immoral, those who allow themselves to be seduced and those who become whores shall suffer a living death by being suspended from a rock by their hair and hands and left there to perish.

A man who deflowers a virgin shall be given 500 strokes of the lash and shall also undergo a torture that consists in dropping a weight from a height of nearly three feet on to the back of the culprit. It is usual for death to ensue, but there are some known cases of survival.

A man who rapes a woman shall suffer the death penalty. If the woman consents to an illicit relationship, both partners shall be suspended by their hair until they die.". Later in the same book he asserts that under Spanish colonial rule that left Quechuas in the worst poverty and misery, economic conditions had pushed people to change their puritanical way of life. On the other hand; by the first half of XVII century, Catholic priest Bernabe Cobo wrote: " Because they never knew the splendor and beauty of chastity, they never appreciated it; indeed, the virginity of their women was very offensive to them. They said that those who were virgins had never been loved by anyone. As a matter of fact, very few remained virgins until the day of their marriage.". Father Cobo also wrote about the trial marriage, and in his holy inquisitorial way said: "... when an Indian chooses a woman to be his wife, he does not try to find out whether she had a virtuous or a licentious life because, among them, this is not a matter which adds to or to detract from her worth. The foremost consideration is how much wealth she possesses. Second to this he considers whether she is a hardworking woman who will delight him and serve him well. But since this second question is difficult to determine unless it is done through direct experience, to gain it, he usually takes her as a concubine first, keeping her on a trial basis for a few months and at times, for years. If she pleases him, he marries her; if she does not, he gets rid of her and selects another one.". Father Cobo has many followers because his arguments are more "exotic" or proper of "barbarous societies"; thus for example, in 1967, B.C. Brundage, using a lot of his good imagination but in a somewhat morbid way wrote: " Chastity among the Incas was a state entered into by the girl only after her marriage. Before marriage, amorous adventures appear to have been easy and numerous for the daughters of the Incas, and it was not uncommon for the most highborn ñustas from early girlhood to accompany the Inca armies in which their fathers were officers. On those extended campaigns the moonlit nights outside the circle of fires witnessed interminable singing, dancing, and copulation."

It is undeniable that the trial marriage, institution of natural right based in a profound respect to its rules and endorsed by the elders control was modified and degenerated in colonial times. A direct consequence of the "Sirvinakuy" abandon is the increase in divorce rates, a phenomenon so rare and criticized before.