Tag Archives: Inca history

Navigate the skies with us – Inca trail

5 Feb

For those of you booked with us on one of our Alternative Treks, we have now added Telescopes to our campsites (one campsite on each trek). See how the Peruvian skies differ from your sky at home. Learn about our constellations and why the Incas relied on them so much for weather and farming conditions.

For those of you coming from the northern hemisphere, this will be especially interesting. With the South Pole facing the galactic center of the Milky Way, the southern skies provide a much brighter white stripe of the Milky Way – and the majestic Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (our Milky Way’s satellite galaxies).A northern observer will see things topsy-turvy when looking at the southern skies – familiar constellations seem upside down – but getting a glimpse of Crux, the Southern Cross, which is the smallest and the most famous constellation in the southern hemisphere (it is displayed on the New Zealand, Australian, and Brazilian flags) is a thrill that reminds you how dependent we used to be on the stars to navigate our way across the world. Equally impressive is the glowing band of our own galaxy – the Milky Way – with its patches of light and dark stretching across the sky. The non-luminous part of the Milky Way is called the Great Rift (or more poetically “the Dark River”); it is made of overlapping dust clouds containing about 1 million solar masses of plasma and dust situated in the Sagittarius Arm of our galaxy Differences For Northern and at a distance of about 300 light years from Earth.
Image of the Milky Way (source)

The Incas’ Constellations:

For the Incas, “Mayu,” (the Milky Way) was a life-giving river in the heavens with its earthly counterpart – the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley, high up in the Andes Mountains. The Incas grouped constellations into two different types – luminous and dark. The first was made up of sparkling stars that depicted geometric forms in the sky. These luminous constellations were seen as inanimate. The other kind – the dark cloud constellations – were contained within the dark blotches of the Milky Way, and were considered living forms, representing animals the Incas knew. These dark patches represented the silhouettes of animals that came to drink from the waters of celestial river, obscuring the heavenly glow of Mayu.

One of the most important dark cloud constellations was Yacana –the llama, which rises above Cuzco, the ancient capital city of the Incas, in November. It consists of two llamas – the Mother Llama, seen between the Southern Cross and Scorpio, and the Baby Llama, suckling at her mother’s breast. Although The Llama is a dark cloud constellation, the eyes of the Mother Llama are the two bright stars from the constellation Centaurus. One is Alpha Centauri, which is the third brightest star in the night sky (to the naked eye it appears as one star, but is in fact a binary star system), and the other – Beta Centauri, is a trinary star system.

Another dark constellation is the Serpent – Mach’acuay –a wavy black ribbon between the star Adhara, in Canis Major, and the Southern Cross. It appears above Cuzco in August and sets in February, when its earthly counterparts become visible and more active in the area. Mach’acuay was in charge of all snakes and vipers on Earth, and offerings were made by the Incas to protect themselves from snake bites.

This painting shows some of the animal shapes that the Incas saw in the dark spots of the Milky Way Photo by Koricancha Sun Temple/CuscoThis painting shows some of the animal shapes that the Incas saw in the dark spots of the Milky Way. Two black spots near the Southern Cross are Hanp’atu, the Toad, and Yutu, the Andean ground Partridge. These two keep a safe distance from the Serpent in the east, and from Atoq, the Fox, in the west. The dark constellation of Yutu (the Partridge) occupies the same area as the dark Coalsack Nebula in the constellation Crux, which in Australian Aboriginal astronomy is the head of their dark constellation “Emu in the Sky.”

The reason why the Incas revered the skies and celestial events was two-fold. First, their observations of stars, of constellations (dark and stellar), and of the movements of the sun and moon, provided them with units of time, and a calendar system which helped them plan agricultural and herding activities.

Second, although the Incas worshipped dark constellations, they thought of themselves as descendents of the sun god – Inti. The Festival of the Sun “Inti Raymi “ is still celebrated in indigenous cultures throughout the Andes. “Inti Raymi” was celebrated by the Incas on the shortest day of the year during the winter solstice, and was the most important event in their lives. Little did they know that the object of their worship was a gigantic ball of hot plasma with an internal temperature of 15 million degrees Celsius, and racing inside their celestial river “Mayu” at the speed of 225km per second.

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Machu Picchu: Interesting Facts

13 Jul

Machu Picchu, a pre-Columbian Inca site, has acquired worldwide fame for its powerful vortex energy and sacredness that are of great appeal to the dedicated pilgrim. As the Mayan calendar is approaching its end, Machu Picchu is becoming the hub of interest because of its profound Mayan history. For the spiritually disposed, it seems to symbolize the end of yet another era in the evolution of mankind. The hypnotizing grandeur of this telluric site is indescribable and its energy is unclouded despite the numerous pilgrims and visitors who negotiate its grounds throughout the year. Seven of the most interesting facts about Machu Picchu are described below.

Machu Picchu Means

The term ‘Machu Picchu’ literally means ‘old mountain’, and the place is also spoken of as ‘The Lost City of the Incas’, after the title of the book written by Hiram Bingham, an American historian, who rediscovered the site in 1911. This book drew international attention to the place, which has become a famous pilgrimage site and vacation spot in Peru. The site was established in the mid-fifteenth century, but was abandoned by its residents, the Incas, after a century, and remained unknown until its rediscovery in 1911.

Unfortunately, most cities built by the Inca civilization were destroyed by the Spanish conquest. Machu Picchu was in a hidden location – invisible from below – and not found, making it one of the most well-preserved Inca cities and an archeological gem.

Original Inca Stone

Trekking on the Inca Trail is the most popular way to approach Machu Picchu through several portions of original Inca stone pathways. It is a four-day journey, but the government restricts the number of trekkers to 500 due to fear of wearing away the trail. Compulsory porters are included in the trekking expedition.

The porters sleep on the trail with a piece of mirror or a gleaming piece of metal under them, in order to prevent being whisked by spirits emerging through the earth. Most of them recount experiences of feeling spirits pulling them out of their tents.

New Seven Wonders of the World

Voting from Internet audience has caused Machu Picchu to acquire a place in the New Seven Wonders of the World which were announced in 2007.

With increasing recognition worldwide, UNESCO has declared Machu Picchu as a World Heritage Site in 1983. The magical city, along with an area of 325 kilometers surrounding it, has gained recognition as a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981.

The Complex

Machu Picchu is made up of more than 150 buildings ranging from baths and houses to temples and sanctuaries.

The compound contains more than 100 separate flights of stairs. Most of the individual staircases were carved from one slab of stone.

Although many of the stones that were used to build the city were more than 50 pounds, it is believed that no wheels were used to transport these rocks up the mountain. Rather, it is thought that hundreds of men pushed the heavy rocks up the steep mountain side.

The Incas were some of the best masons in the world. The structures were so well built with a technique called ashlar (stones that are cut to fit together without mortar) that not even a knife blade can fit in between stones.

Machu Picchu was an astronomical observatory, and its sacred Intihuatana stone accurately indicates the two equinoxes. Twice a year, the sun sits directly over the stone creating no shadow.