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Sacsayhuaman    
 

 

 

Just outside of Cuzco is Sacsayhuaman (pronounced: sox-say-WHO-man), the Inca fortress that guarded the sacred city of Cuzco. 

This military complex has a double wall in a zigzag shape, some say to imitate the teeth of the puma figure whose head the fortress may have formed.  Some of the huge stones weigh over 300 tons, and are positioned with such exact position that their construction  defies modern building techniques.  Their understanding of design was so sophisticated that they could place a 100+ ton stone, with angled cuts, perfectly.  The stones, which fit so tightly without mortar in an interlocking design, have withstood earthquakes for centuries.  The Incas had no draft animals or wheel to move the stones - yet, not even a razor blade can fit between them.  Archeologists estimate that tens of thousands of workers labored on this massive structure for up to seven decades, hauling the immense stone blocks that make up its double outside walls, and erecting the nearly indestructible buildings that transformed the complex into one of the most wondrous in all the empire. 

The fort at one time had at least three fabulous huge towers, and a labyrinth of rooms large enough for a garrison of 5,000 Inca soldiers.  It marks the birthplace of the river that runs under Cuzco, channeled through stone conduits cut to give the city an invisible water supply.

The Incas were extremely efficient and knowledgeable in agriculture with terracing, and huge surpluses of food could be grown.  Staple crops were potatoes - hundreds of varieties, maize (corn) and quinoa (KEEN-wah), something like spinach.  The favorite drink of the Incas, chicha, a type of beer, was brewed from fermented maize, and Inca varieties are still popular today.  Avocados are abundant, coming from the rain forest area.

Land was, and still is, communal - a group of families shared land, crops and animals.  Each year the land was redistributed so newlyweds and those with more mouths to feed could receive an allotment.  Land was harvested as: part to the Incas (the state), part to the Gods (the Priest), part to the families.  In return, the Inca rulers made sure that everyone was fed and clothed, even in times of poor harvest.  Many of the crops dedicated to the Gods were returned to the people during religious feasts and ceremonies.

There was also a "labor tax", known as mit 'a, that was paid by working for the empire for a period of time each year.  This work included serving in the Army, building roads, working on irrigation and drainage projects, constructing terraces, quarrying stone, building and more.

Some stones weigh over 300 tons

 

 

 

Did the ancients know that to build the doors and windows in a trapezoid shape would reduce earthquake damage?

Carla Kramer and Marie Ozanne investigate

 the trapezoidal shape doorway

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