Cusco

Manco Cápac and Maukallaqta

Rinda Payne and Filver Valdez Ynga

Depending on where you hear the story – Puno or Cusco – the origin of the first Inca will vary. Which story do you prefer?

Manco Cápac and Maukallaqta

Huanacauri (Photo: Filver Valdez Ynga)

People living around Cusco have a differemt opinion of the origin of the Inca from the one held by the people living near Lake Titicaca. We like to think the two versions represent rivalry between the two areas to cement their claim to the first Inca.

Manco Cápac is the legendary first Inca. According to the people living near Lake Titicaca, he was the son Father Inti (sun) and Mama Killa (moon). He emerged from Lake Titicaca with a golden staff. Father Inti instructed him to use the golden staff to find the ideal location to establish a city and a temple for his father. After traveling through the Andes, Manco Cápac arrived at a mountain now called Huanacauri overlooking the valley of Cusco.

Huanacauri is located in a municipality close to Cusco. It is one of the twelve sacred mountain spirits (apus) that guard Cusco. Manco Cápac thrust his golden staff into the ground at Huanacauri and discovered the future location of the city of Cusco and of the Temple to the Sun.

The people living around Cusco believe that the Inca originated near Maukallaqta at a site called Puma Orq’o, a two hour drive from Cusco.

Their version of the myth is that Manco Cápac (the first Inca and son of Inti, the sun), along with his three brothers and four sisters, arose from a cave called Tambutoco at the base of a high boulder called Puma Orq’o.

The three brothers of Manco Cápac met an unfortunate end. Two of the brothers sealed one of their brothers in a cave because he was powerful enough to move mountains. The remaining family traveled to the mountain of Haunacauri, a sacred place to the Inca and also to today’s locals.

At Haunacauri another brother turned into stone when he saw Cusco and recognized it as the place Manco Cápac was looking for. The third brother developed wings and flew to where the Temple of the Sun (the Koricancha in Cusco) would be built. When he arrived he also turned to stone.

According to the myth, Manco Cápac proceeded to enter the valley of Cusco where the golden staff given to him by the sun god Inti sank into the ground; a sign indicating where he should settle.

We began our expedition to find the Inca site called Maukallaqta by going to a town called Yaurisque near Cusco. From there we ascended into the mountains via a dirt road curving in hairpin turns. The red clay road was at the edge of cliffs with no guard rails protecting us from the steep drops into valleys.

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Maukallaqta (Photo: Filver Valdez Ynga)

In the middle of the bleak, barren landscape, we saw a sign with an arrow pointing to the left in the direction of Maukallaqta and an arrow pointing to the right for Puma Orq’o. We drove up and down the mountains, stopping at one point at a dead end. Where was Maukallaqta? There were no further signs.

We were in an isolated area with not many houses. Brilliant green fields planted with corn, and bands of red clay dotted the landscape. The few people we met all knew of Maukallaqta, but each one offered us a different set of directions.

We stopped beside a little boy and his younger sister. He knew where Maukallaqta was. “It’s not far,” he said. He agreed to come with us and show us.

He and his sister jumped into the front seat. He directed us a short distance to where the turnoff to the dead end was. He pointed. “Follow that path,” he said. We drove them back to where we had picked them up and gave the little boy a tip.

Driving back to the turnoff, we parked the car. We walked along a trail and stopped. We were speechless. Below us on the flank of the mountain was Maukallaqta, an impressive site consisting of over 200 structures.

Maukallaqta was built to honor Puma Orq’o, the supposed site of Manco Cápac’s origin. The complex was an important ritual site. It could have marked the beginning of a pilgrimage route to trace Manco Cápac’s journey to Cusco. As well, it could have served to support the Inca’s claim that they were direct descendants of Manco Cápac.

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A water channel (Photo: Filver Valdez Ynga)

Early Inca constructions and classical constructions represented by large smooth stones seamlessly fitted together dot the landscape. A grand plaza, ceremonial fountains and water channels tie the buildings together.

A water channel flows down a series of steps. The channel then runs between approximately 17 worn steps until it reaches the bottom and then runs across the ground for a short distance. Two pillars of stone blocks built in the classical manner front the end of the steps while classical Inca walls line the sides of the channel.

Roofed buildings shade areas once used for cooking. The roofs cover free-standing, circular clay bowls and circular clay bowls with clay lips set into the ground.

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Clay bowls (Photo: Filver Valdez Ynga)

Two high clay-formed structures with rounded tops sit side-by-side. Each has an elongated niche in its front. Both are covered by roofs. One has an early Inca stone wall enclosing its front. The wall enclosing the other structure lies in ruins.

Double jamb niches and a double jamb doorway attest to the importance of this site. Eight triple jamb niches and one triple jamb doorway confirm the religious significance of Maukallaqta. The Inca only used triple jamb constructions for their most sacred sites. Even Machu Picchu has no triple jamb niches or doorways.

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Triple jamb niches (Photo: Filver Valdez Ynga)

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The top of Puma (Photo: Filver Valdez Ynga)

We also visited Puma Orq’o, a giant boulder rounded at the top that juts up from the ground. At its top are several damaged carved pumas. Supposedly there are carvings at the base of the boulder, but we didn’t investigate them. It was getting dark. We decided to head out of the mountains.

Filver Valdez Ynga is a professional tour guide in Cusco whose specialty is spiritual tours. To contact him, call 991650175 or e-mail him at valdezynga@gmail.com

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