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Cuzco

Ancient Capital of the Incas

Cuzco & the Sacred Valley map
Cuzco Basics
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According to the central Inca creation myth, the Sun sent his son, Manco Capac, and the Moon sent her daughter, Mama Ocllo, to spread culture and enlightenment throughout the dark, barbaric lands. They emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca and began their journey in search of the place where they would found their kingdom. When they reached the present-day Cuzco, Manco plunged his golden staff into the ground in order to test its suitability, and it duly sank deep into the fertile land. This was the sign they were looking for to choose where to found the capital of their empire. They named the spot Cuzco - meaning "navel of the earth". Thus was the significance of Cuzco and the Sacred Valley established for many hundreds of years to come. (Peru Handbook/Footprint Handbooks)

The ancient Inca capital is said to have been founded around 1100 AD. It is today a major commercial center of 275,000 permanent residents, most of whom are Quechua. The city council has designated the Quechua, Qosqo, as the official spelling.

Cuzco is considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Western Hemisphere and is of major historical importance. According to Peter Frost in his "Exploring Cusco" guide book: "Cusco was more than just a capital city to the Incas and the millions of subjects in their realm. It was a Holy City, a place of pilgrimage with as much importance to the Quechuas as Mecca has to the Moslems. Every ranking citizen of the empire tried to visit Cusco once in his lifetime; to have done so increased his stature wherever he might travel".

Cuzco is still laid out much as it was in Inca times. The Incas conceived their capital in the shape of a Puma with the river serving as the spine, Sacsayhuaman the head and the main city center the body.

Almost every central street has remains of Inca walls, arches and doorways. Many streets are lined with Inca stonework, now serving as foundations for more modern buildings.

Inca stonework is tapered upwards (battered) and every wall has a perfect line of inclination towards the center, from bottom to top. The stones have each edge and corner rounded. The curved stonework of the Temple of the Sun is probably unequalled in the world.