Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Inkas

Monday 14th April

Been to lots of museums today:
  • Museo del Inka
  • Museo de Historia Natural
  • Museo de Arte Contemporania
  • Qorikancha

Museo del Inka had quite a bit of information about the 3 tribes the Inka are thought to have come from. There are of course various theories about how the Inkas arrived, one of which includes being the sons of the Sun God Inti. Some of the more interesting bits of info I found were mentally noted and now I spew forth:

Llamas were key to the Inka empire expansion as they were used to carry stuff, their wool for clothes and for food. There was a certain way to slaying a llama, which included removing its still beating heart.

The Inkas also engaged in head binding / skull reshaping. This was used as a way to show their superiority over the peasents.

The Inkas were allowed to co-exist along the spanish invaders although without any real power and a few uprisings against them. They also mixed racially with the spaniards, and artwork in this museum show the remaining Inkas wearing more spanish style clothing.


The building is essentially a Catholic Chuch built over an Inka temple. The temple paid homage to the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, the Rainbow and Thunder/Lightning. All the temples walls except that of the Moon were covered in gold. The Moon naturally was covered in silver. (Rainbows were believed to be messages from the gods)

The structure of the walls were built in a 3D trapezoidal manner i.e. angled inwards to avoid destruction by earthquakes. The blocks , made of grey basaltic andesites were shaped in order to interlock at the corners, further increasing stability. The bocks were also "stapled" together by means of carved matching grooves in adjacent blocks; molten liquid bronze was then poured into the grooves and when set, they formed the staple.

The drainage system of this temple was also a feat of civil engineering. In the temple there are displays of the blocks of stone used to form the piplelines. These pipes transfered water from it{s origen at the top of one mountain, down thevalley and back up to the elevated location of the temple. This was done by (Hydraulic Engineering Year 1 coming in here) reduction of the diameter of the pipes in order to increase the head. These pipes were in fact 2 blocks of stone with semi circles cut into them to form each half of the pipe. (The elevation of the beginning and end of the water system are pretty damn impressive being the Andes and all)

The conquistadores (or invaders as i prefer to call them) landed, they enforced their Catholicism/ religion upon the Andean people, also terming them derogatorily "Indians". Qorikancha´s gold was torn off the walls and used for deocrating their own images of the virgen, and the papal and religious clothing (made by the Andean women). They covered up the Inka brickwork by plastering the walls and painting basic artwork over it. The Dominican priesthood further imposed their religion by making the andean folks paint european style Christian art, without letting them sign their name on their work.

Once my Andean tour guide (included in the entrance fee) found out my blood runs just as peruvian as his, he took great pride in giving me the alternative interpretation of the museum. One of the most interesting pieces of artwork I saw was a piece depicting the cruxifiction, but with Andean subversive touches. For example: JC is brown, unlike the european custom of painting him white. His nailed legs are not crossed like the euopean version, and the bendy legs typical of Andean folks are instead portrayed. The man and the woman at his side although caucasian and dressed in typical catholic golden robes are very subtley chewing coca, which can be seen by a little round ball at one edge of their cheeks. JC also wears a petticoat - traditional to the Andean women, instead of the typical nappy-like effort. The best bit about this was that the Catholic invaders didn´t realise any of this at the time and even now probably goes widely unnoted as the style is european. The painting is very important to the Cusqueñan people today, because of this subversion.

How this temple´s built over existence came about was by an earthquake. As stated before the Domincan knocked down bits of, built and covered up as much as possible of this engineering feat of a structure. When the earthquake came, the Catholic part fell down revealing the Inka walls and much of the original work. The Andeans has been made to believe by the Spaniards and the Church that they came from a barbaric uncivilised past, and that they were inferior. The earthquake revealed the splendour of the Inkas, their engineering skills and attention to detail (precious stone embossed walls). The indigenous people began to feel pride in their roots.

Interestingly enough, in the Museum the information below the Catholic plasterwork and shoddy painting glorifies it as being the "only piece to have survived the earthquake" (?!). I wanted a tippex pen to write over it.

Saturday 12th at Dawn: Macchu Picchu:

Well, most people know of it and want to see it.It does concern me that the majority of Peruvians can´t afford to see their own heritage. Even with different prices for nationals, it´s way out of most of their pockets. It´s definetly worth the trip although I´m glad I didn´t do the 4 day hike. Not having any proper shoes was a major issue for a start, the other being that I´m not exactly built for it nor do I understand hiking as fun...I´m sure plenty of people don´t understand lifting weights as fun but there you go. Vive la difference!

I did however trek up Waynu Picchu from Macchu Picchu which confirmed my wise decision. By this stage I´d made friends with a(nother) spanish lass and 2 chilean guys so we all scrambled up the steep and narrow tracks. It took us about 30 mins but I thought I was gonna have a heart attack, the altitude and scorching sun was harsh. Much respect to my compañeros as they´d been hiking for 4 days at this stage! I´d bought a box of sangria with me, which hadn´t been planned but with that and Natalia´s mary jane, some well chewed coca leaves, sweets and coca chocs, the view was pretty fucking ace! (the half man-half goat locals do this in about 12 minutes!)

We finally all got back to Cusco at 1030pm and ended up going out to a mixed gringo and local club. The music was shit and not even the cheeky peruvian class a made it any better so I called it a night. or rather a morning. :)


A few hours later, I woke up and determined to get to the Sacred Valley and have a gander. My thin soled hard shoes were killing me by this time, espeically as much of San Blas were I was staying is cobbled. Ouch! I kept repeating to myself I was really feeling Peru by putting myself in it´s own shoes / or that the Inkas wore silver sandals. It didn´t help much.

This time, after buying a bagfull of gifts for my family at the market, I trekked up to the ruins to see the Inka citadel. This took about an hour I think, although I did go quite slow as the blood was running to my head, I was finding it hard to breathe and sweating insanely in the sun. Not to mention my feet were knacking. Anyway, it was a good view. I still don´t get trekking but the Andes are painstakingly beautiful.

Caught a jam-packed bus back to Cuzco and balanced on one foot for one hour, one hand shovelling my choclo (corn on the cob)and cheese down.

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