As Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire, it is enclosured by different archeological sites, some served as administrative and military centers, whilst others had a more inclined to a religious purpose. Qenqo, however, is recognized as one of the most important sacred locations to the Incas, though most of its structure was destroyed during colonization.
During the pre-Columbian era, the famous civilization had a distinctive cultural and religious expression. They used to worship the sun, the moon, the stars, and even the thunder as their Gods. For that reason, many ceremonial centers were spread around the outskirts of Cusco, a land that they considered virtuous and flourishing.
Unfortunately, as most of the most precious shrines of the civilization, Qenqo was severely damaged by the Spanish invaders due to the importance it had to this ancient culture. Nonetheless, archeologists have deducted a few points about the main purpose of this place, including information of the rituals performed here.
The Incas managed to accommodate this natural rock formation into a temple with a great religious power to their people. Therefore, the Peruvian government declared it a Cultural Heritage of the City of Cusco.
Although not much is known about this ancient temple, historians and archeologists have studied the remaining structure, where they found important information about what Qenqo could have been before the Spanish conquest.
The word Qenqo comes from the Andean native language, Quechua, it is actually spelled as “Q’inqu” which means labyrinth. However, this name was given during the colonization process and its original denomination was lost once the Inca Empire had fallen.
The cave-like shape of this large rock offered an ideal location for the most significant ceremonial center of the Incas. Apparently, the ancient civilization managed to carve stones in a zig-zagging way, which somehow resembles the path of a labyrinth.
According to the monuments found in the Qenqo Temple, the Incas performed some kind of ritual involving liquids, which are believed to be Chicha de Jora (corn beer), holy water, or even, in the most extreme cases, blood.
The Incas were known for their sacrifice rituals, where they performed it using animals such as the famous camelid, Llama, and sometimes, persons. However, some other parts of the Inca precinct may be inclined to a less harsh ritual, as to honoring their dead.
Inside the underground chamber, some huge carved stones were found, and archeologists believe this was the place intended for mummification and sacrifices.
In addition, the interior is decorated with three representative figures of the Andean cosmology: The condor, the cougar, and the snake. These animals represent the Andean trilogy: Kay Pacha (World of the Livings), Uqu Pacha (World of the Dead), and Hanaq Pacha (World of the Spirits and Gods).
Although the archeological site was almost completely destroyed by the Spaniards, some of its structure has remained, which gives us a hint of what this place could have been and the purposes it had during the Inca Empire.
- Sacrifices Chamber: It was a spacious underground cavern where the Inca priests used to sacrifice animals and persons. Likewise, some historians also explain that this sacred section was also used for mummification procedures.
- The Zigzagging Gutter: It is a small pool or hole that is drained by two zigzagging channels carved on a stone, located on the upper side of the temple. According to historians, the Incas used to perform a ritual where they involved Chicha de Jora (corn beer), holy water, or even animal blood.
- Intihuatana: It is a famous astronomical feature implemented in several archeological sites like Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo. Intihuatana is a Quechua word that means “place where the sun is tied.” It was used as an astronomical observatory which helped the Incas to keep track of the seasons and to worship the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars.
- The Amphitheater: Qenqo was a public ceremonial center, and the Incas managed to conditionate the structure for this purpose. According to archeologists, it was an enclosured esplanade that extends to 55 meters.
- Temple of Monkeys: Located 500 meters away from Qenqo is another structure that presents carvings of figures of monkeys, snakes, and even a frog. However, due to time deterioration and the damage caused by the Spaniars, it is uncertain to know its real purpose.
The Inca Sanctuary is located a few kilometers away from the city of Cusco. It is easily accessible from Plaza de Armas since it is located at a 50-minute walking distance.
To visit the famous temple, you could trek all the way up to this attraction or easily take a government certified taxi which can cost from 10 to 15 soles. However, we encourage you to book a guided tour through this and many other archeological sites.
There are many details to be uncovered in Qenqo and you certainly wouldn’t like to miss it. Luckily for you, Viagens Machu Picchu includes an Archeological City Tour that takes you through the different historical monuments and Inca remains of the city of Cusco.
Our exclusive city tour is characterized for immersing our passengers in a back-in-time journey through the Inca and Colonial era of the so-called Imperial City. Don’t miss this opportunity and get to know all the mysteries and history of the ancient Inca civilization.
- Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday from 07:00h to 18:00h.
- Entrance: The Touristic Ticket is needed to enter the archeological site, it includes all the sights within the Cusco City Tour. (Already included in all our packages).
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