Monday, March 22, 2010

Cusco, the Navel of the World

Cusco claims to be the oldest city in the Americas, with the first inhabitants settling there approximately 1000 b.C. Located in the center of Tawantinsuyo, at the junction of the four Inca states, the Q'orikancha temple is the official center of the Incan empire. Serendipitously, I had a free day in Cusco today and it just happens to be the fall equinox. At the far corner of Q'orikancha is a narrow passageway leading to what used to be the most sacred place, the altar of the Inti, or sun. When the Spaniards came in to conquer, they razed most of the Incan sacred places and built their own sacred places on top of them. Most of the astronomical features painstakingly carved into the immense rock walls were broken away or covered by roofs. In the narrow passageway leading to the altar of the Inti, however, there are still a few protuberances that align on the solstices and equinoxes. 12:00 noon today, the shadows line up.

At 11:00, the sun was high enough to get over the cathedral and shine on the wall.

At a few minutes to 12, the shadows began to align. Then the sun went behind the clouds and ruined the rest of the show. I stood around for 20 more minutes hoping the sun would burn through the clouds, but to no avail. Oh well. Maybe another time...

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