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Cusco the city of the Incas

Cusco is a city located at an altitude of 3,400masl. In the southeast of Peru; here the main language is the Spanish and Quechua (Inca language); however since it is a touristic city many people speak other languages.

According to an Inca myth current at the time of the conquest, the founding Incas, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo emerged from Lake Titicaca at the islands of the Sun and the Moon, sent to earth by the solar and lunar deities to bring culture to a barbarous world. From there they began a lengthy quest (about 500 km. if they took the shortest route over the La Raya pass) which ended in a valley far to the north, at the spot where Manco probed with his golden staff, and it disappeared into the ground. Here they founded their civilization, and the Inca city of Cusco.

An alternative and contradictory myth of the Inca origins, also current at the time of the conquest, concerns a more complicated farnily-Manco Capac, the three Ayar brothers, and their wives. They emerged from caves at the mythical origin place of Pacarictambo (Lodging-house of the Dawn), south of Cusco. One of the brothers, Ayar Cachi, was so violent and wild that he destroyed entire mountains with his sling-shots. For safety’s sake the rest of the family lured him back into his cave and entombed him there. There he remains to this day, causing occasional earthquakes with his struggles. God forbid he should ever get loose. (Some would argue that he has got loose, but that is another story). His wife, Mama Waco, an early feminist, remained free and later more or less single-handedly conquered a town in the Cusco valley, terrifying its inhabitants by ripping the lungs out of one warrior’s body and blowing them up like balloons. Of the remaining brothers, one grew wings and flew off into the sun, another turned into a stone on the mountain of Wanacauri. Which became one of the mostsacred Inca wacas, and the last, Manco Capac, inherited all the wives and reached Cusco to found the Inca Empire.

Modern archaeology indicates that the Titicaca myth may be closer in spirit to the truth, since the evidence suggests that the Incas established their hegemony in the region by peaceful means. Cusco began to dominate its neighbors as early as 1100 AD, and these proto-Incas eventually established political influence and a pattern of peaceful regional exchange, sparing this area the centuries of brutal rivalry and constant warfare that characterized the rest of the Andean region after the fall of the Tiwanaku and Wari civilizations.

The previous great periods of «horizon» civilization in ancient Peru-the ones that spread their influence over a wide area of the Andes-were the early Chavín of northern Peru (c. 800-200 BC), and the later Tiwanaku who spread out from Lake Titicaca (c. 600-1000 AD). Both of these civilizations first rose as centers of religious influence, pilgrimage sites which were also favorably located for trade and agriculture. Later on, in the case of Tiwanaku at least, they developed military and imperial characteristics. Cusco’s rise to dominance in the Andes may well have followed this same pattern.

Cusco city the archaeological capital of America

The peaceful era of Cusco’s dominion carne to an abrupt end around 1438, after Cusco was attacked from the north by a tribe called the Chankas. Rallied from near-defeat by the son of the reigning chief, the militarily unprepared inhabitants of Cusco triumphed. The very stones of the mountainsides were said to have sprung to life and fought on the Inca side. The son seized power and took the title Pachacuteq, meaning «Shaker (or Transformer) of the Earth» Thereafter. Pachacuteq is credited with an astonishing series of accomplishments: the complete rebuilding of Cusco in the distinct and ingressive masonry style whose remains are so admired today; the building of Sacsaywaman. Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, Pisac and other sites; the form of worship: the system of movement and land tenure.

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