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Ollantaytambo at Present


This complex is another national archaeological park located at the traditional district of Ollantaytambo, which belongs to the province of Urubamba, on the western side of the Urubamba Valley at 93 km (50 miles or one and a half hour journey approximately) to the northeast of Cusco through the asphalted road Chinchero - Urubamba.

It is a typical town of Incan origin, and it is located at 76 km of Cusco by road (Chinchero-Urubamba) and at 68 km (42.2 miles) by train.
It is located at a height of 2,700 m.a.s.l. (8,856 feet). Both the design and the foundations of most of its constructions correspond to the Incan times. This set was a strategic military, religious and agricultural center.

Historical data
The origin of the name has several approaches. According to the Aymara language, Ollantaytambo derives from the word ulla-nta-wi, which means place to look downwards; the word tambo, is added subsequently. For Quechua language, the name derives from the word Ollanta (which is the name of an Incan Captain whose story is known through literature) and the word tambo, a Spanish derivation of the Quechua word tampu; which means city that offers lodging, food and comfort to travelers.

Testimonies of Ollantaytambo inhabitants give an account of the conflicts and aversions related to the Incas. The history says that the inhabitants refused to pay the taxes imposed by Inca Pachacútec, and this is why they were murdered with impunity.

With the victory, Pachacútec claimed the territory as his and ordered the construction of the magnificent buildings that, even today, the city flaunts. To this end, he used the manual labor of Collao, an area near the Titicaca Lake and Tiahuanaco, which also was defeated. The children of Chuchi Cápac, defeated Collao general, had to work as the fortress builders, but they did not wait too long to rebel and run away. Finally, after many confrontations and a great bloodshed, the Inca Pachacútec got to control the violent rebellion.

Ollantaytambo got engraved in the world's memory thanks to a written drama of the XVI century, represented on the theatre in 1780. The story narrates the conflictive love between general Ollanta and Cusi Coyllor, Pachacútec's daughter. Ollanta distinguished himself from other generals of the Empire for his braveness and great ability, but he had to run away from the city disappointed because he was not able to love a girl that did not belong to his social class. Once he was far away, Ollanta encouraged his population to rebel against the imperial army, causing a war that lasted an entire decade. Finally, our hero was captured due to the betrayal of captain Rumiñahui and taken to Cusco before Túpac Yupanqui; who, after hearing the story, decided to release him and accept him as the partner of her sister.

Another part of the history of this city was starred in by the indigenous resistance of Manco Inca, who, after keeping Cusco enclosed by months and on seeing that his strengths decreased, retreated to Ollantaytambo. The city offered him the perfect defense since it was covered by eleven graded cultivation terraces that enabled him to attain the victory in front of the Spaniards.

The city was the setting for the worldwide meeting of natives, which denominated it Worldwide Capital of the Indians, a decade ago.

Ollantaytambo is another national archaeological park to which different functions had been ascribed. Just as Sacsayhuamán, it is considered a military construction strategically located to protect the city from possible invasions of forest, religious and agricultural ethnos. It is also said that it was constructed to set up roads towards the Antisuyo.

However, what nobody can deny is that it was a very fortified city, surrounded by a wall with pukaras or fortresses. The main fortress is called Royal House of the Sun; but we can also find the Choqana and Inkapintay Fortress on the left side of Urubamba River.

It is one of the few cities that still maintain the urban-Incan planning. It is divided in two parts by the Patacancha River; the first one (to the east) has an octagonal shape with blocks of different sizes, and the second one (to the west) has a ceremonial character, and is the place in where the square Mañay Racay, also known as Aracma Ayllu, is located.

The first part of the town has a grid-shape design, with narrow streets that open up towards the Urubamba River. Each block or square is composed of a group of houses that share the same door to the middle yard. They are made of edged stones jointed with rubblework clay mortar and adobe covers.

Originally, they used a suspension bridge made of braided ichu or maguey fibers that had to be renewed every year. Nowadays, the bridges that cross the river are built on two huge pebbles and are made of large stones.

The agricultural activity of this area benefited from the brook of Patakancha, a place that had huge cultivation terraces that, currently, are damaged and abandoned.

The ceremonial sector was mainly devoted to the worship of "Unue" or "Yaku" (water deities). For this reason, there were a series of fountains that were used to this end, such as the Baño de la Ñusta (Bath of the Ñusta), which is one of the carved-stone fountains made of a single granite piece of 1.30 meters high and 2.50 meters wide. It is one of the most known fountains and the water still flows inside it.

This place is constituted by a small plain that leads to a huge hill in whose sides there are various archaeological monuments. The main monument is located at the top and is known ad the "Fortress" or "Royal House of the Sun".

The noble class that inhabited this place had at their disposal a wide urban sector that surrounded a square and especially a Kallanka, which was an amazing building with astonishing dimensions. The royal palaces had wooden doors, with many rooms around a central yard. The lowest part of the buildings is original and is made of pirka, covered with clay.

A half kilometer away from the main road, on the wall surrounding the city, we can find the old main door of Ollantaytambo, called "Llaqta-Punku" or Grating of the Town.

To the west of the square we can find the terraces that were used with two purposes: cultivation and to stop the corrosion of the most significant temples of the area.

The cultivation terraces oriented to the square side are located to the right. The upper group of these cultivation terraces stands out due to their finely carved stones as well as their excellent assembly. The last cultivation terrace contains the ten-niche precinct also called the Temple of the Ten Windows, and the Monumental Front, whose function is still unknown.

Another remarkable monument is the Inca Misana, an aqueduct carved on the stones of the mountain, next to a liturgical fountain, small staircases and niches of false openings that constituted the places used by the Inca to address to the people.

The privileged position of Ollantaytambo enabled the existence of other small buildings strategically located at high angles of the mountains so as to control the people movement in the valley.

The Fortress or Royal House of the Sun
The Royal House of the Sun, and the entire Ollantaytambo, still maintains the urban planning design of the Incan times. Its rooms still remind us of the presence of Manco Inca, who confronted Hernando Pizarro in 1537, during the indigenous resistance that lasted many more years.

The function of this precinct is still discussed, just as in the case of Sacsayhuamán. Some believe that it was a fortress destined for the protection of the city of Cusco; but others agree with a less martial function given the features of the place: cultivation terraces and finely carved walls on slopes.

The fortress or Indian temple is composed of seventeen superposed terraces made of large carved stones of red porphyry (pink granite) of over 4 meters high, 2 meters wide and two meters deep.

The walls of the Royal House of the Sun have an internal inclination and the main one is composed of six large-stone blocks with small-stone couplings that are part of the Main Altar.

It is believed that the main hewn stone, to build the place, was Cachicata, located at 6 km on the left side of the Vilcanota River. Rocks were partially carved at the hewn stones and then they were brought down to the valley. However, some of them, known as "tired stones", did not get to their destination.

The way in which the huge stones were transported from long distances is always impressive. In this case, they required an artificial channel parallel to the river so as to transport the immense rocks and take them up through a steep slope. They used instruments such as log rollers, rolling stones, camelidae-leather ropes, lever, pulleys and the strength of thousands of men.

It is believed that one of the backgrounds of this kind of construction is the architecture of Tiawanako, which could have been brought by the Collas from the region of the Titicaca Lake, since in the external surface of the room, to the southern edge, there are three carved symbols that belong to the pre-ceramic culture: the "Hanan Pacha" (The Heaven), the "Kay Pacha" (The Earth Surface) and the "Ukhu Pacha" (The Underground). But the Incan particularities are differentiated due to the use of couplings and finely polished external surfaces that were even used as mirrors.

If you want to know the mysteries and the strength of its walls, you can enter to the fortress through a grand staircase made of stone (journey of 15 to 20 minutes) that will lead you to an esplanade and an arcade facing the Mañay Racay Square.

Although some authors consider that the construction was not finished due to the stones that were left in the middle of the road, others believe that, due to the quality and some features of the work, the temple was finished when the Spaniards arrived and the so-called "tired stones" were destined for other similar edifications.

Inca Huatana
It is located at the upper part of the Temple of the Sun, on an almost vertical slope. The Inca Huatana or Intihuatana is constituted by a wall with high niches, on whose sides there are security holes of up to 80 cm. deep. In front of them, there is a structure suspended over a cliff, which makes us suppose that it was used to torture and execute war prisoners or malefactors. Even though the astronomic observatory functions is the most accepted theory.

The Pincuylluna center
Pincuylluna, which means "where the pincuyllo (wind instrument of Incan origin) is played", is located to the western of the Patucancha River, in front of the Temple of the Sun. It is an architectonic complex composed of buildings with three identical superposed blocks.
The base of the blocks is rectangular; it has six windows on the façade and six more on the wall that faces the hill, providing adequate ventilation and lightning.

They are considered the most interesting colcas (agricultural stockrooms) of the Sacred Valley, because, to the left, it is possible to see a gigantic stone block that represents the face of an Inca for the villagers.

If you want to visit the place you must know that the journey lasts three hours on foot.

Site Museum
The museum is a creation of the Andean Center of Traditional Technology and Culture of the Communities of Ollantaytambo (CATCCO, in Spanish), and we recommend you to visit it because it presents the history of the region in a didactic and modern way.

It has five rooms on the second floor of a big rambling house, on an ancient Incan square, which enables the visitor to know more things about the history, archaeology, architecture, handicrafts and beliefs of Ollantaytambo inhabitants.

Besides, this association organizes long walks through seven ancestral routes: Yanacocha, Pincuylluna, Pumamarca, Huílloc, Páchar, Cachicata and Ollantaytambo. The long walks take from three to seven hours and have tourist guides.

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