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At 4 and 6 km, 5 minutes to the northeast of Cusco, by asphalted road, we can find the two archaeological sites of Quenko: Quenko Grande, which is located near the road that goes from Sacsayhuamán to Písac; and Quenko Chico, which is located at 350 meters to the west from the latter, on the hillside. Both of them are worship places whose nature has not been deciphered yet, but in which we can highlight the Inca's predilection for stone and their thoroughness with regard to the carving process.
These sites are limestone outcrops on which intricate mythical representations had been carved. It is believed that it was destined to the worship of the land. Its Quechua name means zigzag, probably due to the labyrinthine underground galleries, or due to the small channels carved on rocks with that shape.
This complex contains a semicircular amphitheatre that surrounds a natural carved stone. It also has a rocky projection decorated with a passage that leads to an underground hall, a complex of cultivation terraces, rooms and a drainage channels system destined to evacuate the water from the area. The amphitheatre is constituted by slight-curve wall of 50 meters long approximately, which exhibits 19 large niches.
The focal point of this layout is a stone whose original shape could have been a puma or a phallus. It was probably destroyed by the persevering colonial friars that pursued idolatries.
The carved stone
Behind that stone there is a rocky headland with a staircase carved on the bare rock that leads to the top. In this place starts the little zigzag channel that, as of a minor hole, descends and then bifurcates into one branch that follows the slope and a second one that goes up to the underground chamber inside the rocky place.
It could have been used to transport the votive chicha and the blood of llamas sacrificed in some ritual that has not been clarified yet.
At the very top there are still some carved remains of what could have been a condor whose head was broken, and a puma. We can also appreciate the remains of a room.
Two short cylinders stick out of the leveled and polished bare rock. This could have been an intihuatana, which is translated as "place in where the sun is tied"; in other words, it enables to calculate the sun position. We still don't know how this device worked.
It is a Quechua name that means "temple or place that has monkeys". It is located at 500 meters straight to the east of Quenko Grande. It has a carved stone of almost two meters high in which some people see the shape of a frog. In this rock we can still see relieves of snakes and monkeys that could have served to name the place.
The underground chamber
It is remarkable the stone carving carried out in this place, through which floors, ceilings, walls, tables and niches were thoroughly carved on the bare rock. Undoubtedly, it was a worship place for secret and hidden rites. The place builders completed its composition with service rooms in the perimeter, cultivation terraces and channels to evacuate the rain water.
This acknowledged Incan Temple, another complex that surrounds the Imperial city, is nothing but a sanctuary that dominates an entire area, located only 4 km from the city of Cusco, following the route to Sacsayhuamán, towards the Antisuyo.
When the Spaniards arrived to the Tahuantinsuyo capital, they started to classify the buildings and cities according to their European conception and since K'enko had a semicircular construction, it was considered as an amphitheatre. We actually ignore the exact aim of this cyclopean construction that could have been an altar, a court or the Inca's grave, probably of Pachacútec. It is supposed that it was one of the most significant sanctuaries that existed during Incan times.
The original name of this Indian temple is unknown, the Quechua word K'enko means "labyrinth" and was assigned afterwards; whereas the Peruvian archaeologist César García Rossel considers that Quenco means "conch". This Indian temple is situated on what is currently known as the Socorro hill and comprises an area that exceeds the 3,500 square meters.
Some of the constructions of this monument that were not destroyed by the Spanish idolatry eradication are: the Intiwatana, the Zigzagging Gutter, the Amphitheatre and the Room of Mourning.
Intiwatana and Astronomic Observatory
Two large cylindrical rocks worked with an exceptional technique are positioned vertically on an almost elliptic pedestal. Everything is carved on a single petrous block. The use of intiwatanas ("place in where the sun is tied") during the Incan times is still an enigma.
However, it is to be supposed that it was a sort of astronomic observatory used to measure the time, to establish the seasons, to determine the solstices and equinoxes and as a temple to worship the Sun, the Moon, Venus and other stars.
The Zigzagging Gutter
It is located very close to the Intiwatana. Víctor Angles, a historian from Cusco, describes it as follows: "…it starts in a small hole, travels on chute and broken line and then bifurcates; one of the branches transported the liquid up to the Underground Chamber or Sacrifice Room". The liquid could have been the blood of sacrificed beings (animals and/or humans) for gods.
It is an immense semicircular area of 55 meters long with 19 incomplete niches distributed along the wall. Some publications state that the niches were arranged around the amphitheatre by way of seats; however, according to recent investigations, it is very probable that they had constituted the foundations of a large wall and that each one of them had borne a representation of the entity that they worshiped. During Incan times, this place was a temple to perform public ceremonies.
In front of the free area there is a large stone block of 6 meters high, that lays on a solid rectangular pedestal.
It could have been a gigantic sculpture that must have had zoomorphic modulations. The destruction vestiges caused by idolatry eradications during the colonial times are evident. "Suffice it to see the ensemble to say that, undoubtedly, the clod was venerated or that worship objects were supported by it…", says historian Víctor Angles.
The Room of Mourning
The mystery of the Incan culture is what makes it so attractive. Its religion and worship mystery constitute one of the aspects with regard to which specialists had not come to an agreement yet. Likewise, doubts related to the "Sacrifice Room" had not been clarified. It is an underground chamber entirely made of a gigantic rock. The floor, ceiling, walls tables, cupboards and bays comprised in the lower part of the large rocky place are totally carved. It is said that this underground chamber could have been used to embalm Inca noblemen; but it is also possible that human and llama sacrifices had taken place here.
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