Favorite recent and insightful quote I have read recently:

Favorite quote I have recently read: "The word temple comes from the Latin templum, which signifies an extended open space that has been marked out for the observation of the sky. In what manner is such a space marked out? According to Dr. Hugh Nibley, the word templum, "designates a building specifically designed for interpreting signs in the heavens--a sort of observatory where one gets one's bearings on the universe." The root "tem-" in Greek and Latin denotes a "cutting" or intersection of two lines at right angles, the point where the "cardo" and "decumanus" cross, hence where the four regions come together." Matthew Brown - "The Gate of Heaven"

Monday, January 23, 2012

Machu Picchu for Dummies

Once again the semiannual maintenance closing for the Lima Temple will be happening next week. We are excited that more of our family are coming to visit us. We will spend a week touring in Cusco, Machu Picchu, and this time a new twist, a bus trip to Puno and Lake Titicaca.  Since our last visit in August, seems like only last month, I have read a few more journal articles, and a couple books in collecting additional insights about Machu Picchu.

Tonight we are giving a PowerPoint presentation to the Family Home Evening group. RA has been researching authentic Peruvian/Incan recipes for desert.  She has prepared a quinoa pudding, topped with mango and a touch of lime zest. It was so good that I told her to look no further for any other recipes. Quinoa remains the food I enjoy and eat the most in Peru.  I am happy to know it is available at Costco when we return.
The quinoa mango pudding RA made again this afternoon.
Machu Picchu, according to National Geographic Explorer in Residence and scientist, Johan Reinhard, is “One of the very few places in all of the world where reality can surpass one’s imagination.” Dr. Reinhard's theory for the 'why' of Machu Picchu is the most satisfying of the several I have read. Other questions come to mind about this one of seven current wonders of the world such as, why was it never completed, and why was it built in such an isolated location? 
Our Peruvian friend Miky looking over MP on our first trip there one year ago.
The theories for the "why" of Machu Picchu range from it being an exclusive prison for royal Incan family members to be isolated from the current emperor to prevent any palace coups, to it being a summer residence for the founder and builder, the Emperor Pachacuti. Along the way other theories have been tossed on the table such as it being primarily a religious and ceremonial center. Lastly, it has been proposed as being a regional capital of the empire. During the rapid expansion of the Inca they  were known for establishing outposts of governance. From these centers, soldiers would be barracksed, taxes would be collected, the pantheon of gods worshipped, food and supplies would be stored, and regional commerce controlled.
The Temple of the Sun in Machu Picchu. It might have once held a solid
gold life size statue of the Emeperor Pachacuti.  The windows align for
solar and astronomical alignments and observations such as the heliacal 
rise of the constellation Pleiades or Collca as it is known and still observed
by the Quechua. 
This past July 24th marked the 100th anniversary of the "discovery" of Machu Picchu by a Yale history lecturer Hiram Bingham. George Lucas would neither confirm or deny that his character Indiana Jones was based on that of Hiram Bingham. Machu Picchu was never really "lost" and in need of discovery, though the conquistadores likely never visited it, or it might have been destroyed because of its deeply pagan and troublesome representations. The site was looted in the 1860's by a team of German treasure hunters with Peruvian government permission.  By the time Bingham arrived with his Quechua guides there was little left to loot. What he did find was sent back to Yale for study and "safe keeping." Some but not all of the Yale artifacts have been returned to Peru and a new museum in Cusco is housing them.
Their style of hats were similar though Hiram could not afford the leather jacket
Hiram had his own theories about Machu Picchu, but not being a trained archaeologist, he was wrong on almost every count.  His adventures in the high Andes did bring the site to the attention of the world.  It also propelled him to the governor's mansion and eventually to a US Senate seat. Peru's history has been one of continual foreign exploitation and Bingham was just another in a 500 year succession of foreigners capitalizing on the richness of Peru. He has been characterized as just an upper class grave robber or huaquero, as we know them down here.

The best theory for me and others as to the "why" of Machu Picchu is embodied in the work and research of Johan Reinhard. His book "Machu Picchu -- Exploring and Ancient Sacred Center" seems to offer the best explanation for Machu Picchu and does not detract much from the other predominant theory that it was constructed as an estate for the Emperor Pachacuti. 

Available on Amazon. If you buy a used copy be
certain it is the 4th Revised Edition. 
Dr. Reinhard has proposed Machu Picchu should be understood in the context of the natural geographic features that surround the site.  Its breathtakingly beautiful location must have struck the Inca in the same manner that draws a million tourists to the site annually. Venerating and reverencing mountains, rocks, caves, and rivers as sacred sites, (known as huacas), and even as gods, the location between the two mountain peaks of Machu and Huayna Picchu must have impressed Pachacuti, his priests, royal architects and engineers. Reinhard's explanation for MP is called the "Sacred Landscape" theory. The site's spectacular setting, design and construction are directly related to the significant mountains that surround it. In each of the cardinal directions is a significant mountain peak. Temple and site alignments within Machu Picchu are oriented to many and yet to be determined astronomical phenomenon including solar alignments of the solstices and equinox. The heliacal rising of the constellation Pleiades or Collca, as it was known among the Inca. was preeminent in the annual cycles of planting, weather prediction, and the harvesting of crops. The Inca worshipped and reverenced it as the guardian of seeds and planting. Americans and Japanese of course are very familiar with this constellation as it the logo for Subaru automobiles. (Thanks again Watson for your stellar education on the subject of Pleiades).
Due south from Machu Picchu is the mountain Salcantay which is important to Inca myth and lore. It was also venerated from the Inca capital of Cusco.  At the Summer Solstice of December 22 the Southern Cross is directly above and at its highest above the peak of Salcantay as observed from the Intihuatana Stone, the highest point in Machu Picchu. All of the sites we have visited in Peru from the earliest at the Caral/Supe complex to Machu Picchu have important astronomical and solar alignments. Books have and will continue to be written on the subject or archaeoastronomy and the peoples of Pre-Colombian Peru.  This next trip to MP we will have our GPS attachment for the Ipad and will be taking a few additional photos of alignments. 
We have yet to observe the Southern Cross in the 14th months we have 
here, maybe when we return to Cusco in two weeks. 
Throughout the site and elsewhere in the lands of the Inca and their predecessors is found the symbol known as the Chacana or Inca Cross. From the June 22 Winter Solstice the rising sun illuminates the Temple of Three Windows and casts a shadow of the Chacana on the floor.  I have seen this jewelry for sale and had not been interested, thinking it to possess provenance only from the Colonial or Spanish Period. Understanding the steps of the cross represent the three existences of the Inca, heaven, the current world in which we live, and the underworld of death I am now more interested in acquiring something to add to the wardrobe. The hole in the center represents Cusco, their capital of the empire. A young Peruvian friend also asked me, while walking by the Lima Temple recently, what the three steps signified in the steeple supporting the Angel Moroni? I had no answer for him. Who knows if it was coincidental or deliberate? The steps of three are significant in the iconography of Peru certainly. 
The three tiered step is found throughout Peru though maybe the spiral will 
now be replacing it. 
Because Machu Picchu was abandoned before the Spanish entered Cusco it escaped desecration and destruction, fortunately for the world. The question has to be asked, why was it never completed? Stones are left part way on their path toward installation. Important buildings were left uncompleted as were significant sites in nearby Ollantaytambo as well. The reasons for the abandonment of Machu Picchu also explain why it was possible that 168 conquistadores could defeat an empire of 12 to 25 million people and an army of up to a quarter million men.
Stones left in the quarry showing evidence of recent work and others left
sitting awaiting installation in the Temple of Three Windows. 
Two years before the Pizarro's army of thugs entered the land of the Inca, smallpox arrived there first. The Inca Emperor Huayna Capac, his son and successor, his generals and ministers were fatally infected while on a military campaign in Colombia. The internecine struggles that ensued as rival factions and other sons fought for the ascension to the royal throne created the 'perfect storm' of opportunity and circumstance for Pizarro and his men.  Two sons were named by the pox ridden emperor with the names of Huascar and Atahualpa to divide the empire and succeed him.  The Spanish were shrewd enough to use one against the other thus largely neutralizing the numerical superiority of the empire's forces and capitalizing on the discontent and resentment of subjugated peoples within the empire.
Yes, guns, armor, and horses, carried the day at the Battle of Cajamarca 
between Pizarro's 168 soldiers and six thousand Inca warriors but 
ultimately it was germs that brought about the collapse of the
largest empire in the Americas. 
Within two years of the arrival of smallpox, in what epidemiologists refer to as "virgin soil," roughly one half the population was sick or dead. Within 130 years of the arrival of Columbus estimates run as high as 95% of the indigenous population of the Americas was gone due to the European diseases of smallpox, typhus, measles, diphtheria and influenza. No natural immunity to any of these diseases existed among the peoples of the Americas. The best treatment on this topic and summary of the research is from Charles Mann's: "1491, New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus." The only gift in return to the Europeans was a particularly virulent form of syphilis which returned to Spain along with the stolen gold and treasures of the Inca.

A long period of incubation for smallpox exists allowing for its rapid spread.  At least 12 days from first contact with the virus until the signs or symptoms of the pox appear. During this period the infected host is highly contagious so the disease could spread, as they say, 'like a wildfire.' Some social scientists have pondered and weighed the near extinction of all the indigenous of the Americas as a high price to have paid for Christianity and the alphabet.
Cows, horses, pigs,  and camels did not exist in the Americas
at the time of the coming of the Europeans. Smallpox and
other diseases morphed, jumping from animals to humans. In 
Europe natural immunities developed among the survivors
of smallpox. 
Smallpox strains only exist currently in the germ stockpiles of the US Army and the Russian Republic. In the future it could be a very lethal biological weapon as generations of earth's children are not being immunized since smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980. Certainly one of the great achievements of science in the modern era. Reading about how this hellish disease brings about the sweet mercy of death, I have to agree it is one of the great achievements of medical science.
Existing stocks of smallpox held in the US and Russia should be disposed
of, lest new strains be developed and pose a threat to humanity. Potentially 
as devastating as any nuclear arsenal. 
Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, and other sites were never completed simply because of the European diseases which so quickly killed the inhabitants in advance of the conquistadores. Solutions were not to be found in star gazing and celestial alignments for Inca. Sacrifices to the gods availed nothing.  In areas of the Americas where disease had not preceded the arrival of the conquistadores and other Europeans the indigenous peoples were never conquered. The Zapatista rebellion of Southern Mexico has it roots in the rebellion of the Maya some 500 years ago. Florida was invaded five times by the Spanish but the locals were never defeated by them. In Brazil the Portuguese brought colonists to 14 sites along the Pacific coast. In less than 10 years only two survived.  Pedro Pizarro, a young cousin of Francisco, concluded in his memoirs without the Inca civil war between Huascar and Atahualpa the Spanish would never have been capable of defeating the Inca. Further he said, had the Emperor Huayna Capac been alive and at the head of his army in Colombia the Spanish would have been easily defeated, their horses captured for breeding purposes, and the surviving conquistadores would have been gelded to guard the emperor's wives. That was Atahualpa's plan.

One has to wonder what might have happened and turned in history if the Spanish had not brought disease to the Caribbean. I have also pondered several questions about the conquerors and vanquished. Specifically who was the worst? Were the Spanish any less bloodthirsty or driven less by conquest than the Inca? I am not sure I have an answer, but I do have an opinion. It would be this

In the totality of comparison between the Inca vs. Conquistadores, in terms of brutality, and inhumanity to man, the Inca exceeded the Spanish with very little argument. Pertaining to the larger view of culture and civilization, the Spanish were guilty of cultural genocide and annihilation of the greatest magnitude and scale. Nothing in my study or knowledge of history compares to this so total and complete annihilation. Compounding the systematic and deliberate destruction of the icons of culture and religion of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, such as the temples, ceremonial centers, huacas, and shrines were the unforeseen consequences of biological warfare brought to the Americas by Christopher Columbus and subsequent so called European “explorers.” 

Machu Picchu -- The most beautiful place I have ever visited
Each time we have visited Machu Picchu we discover and learn something new. We continue to be impressed with its beauty. The Inca were far from the characterization of Spanish chronicler and priest, Father Bernabe Cobo, as being "simple minded and ignorant barbarians" under the spell of the devil. On the contrary, their achievements left in stone at Machu Picchu and elsewhere, rival anything this world has ever seen or has been created by man.