Monday, July 24, 2017

Inca Ruins in the City

"Everything has crumbled and in ruins but you can still appreciate how grand it was."
-- Pedro Cieza de León, 1547, chronicler of the Spanish conquest, speaking about Tomebamba

Northern Inca Capital

The Inca conquered the Cañari people in 1470 and established the city-state of Tomebamba (Large Plateau) high in the Andes mountains. Emperor Huayna Capac (ruled 1493-1525) selected Tomebamba, where he was born, to be the Inca northern capital.

It was a short lived capital. A civil war between Incan brothers in the 1520s led to it's destruction. When the Spanish arrived in 1532, it was already in ruins. They established the modern day city of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca, burying most of the ruins under new buildings.

Pumapungo Archaeological Park

Today, the remains of the old capital are in the historic center of Cuenca, Ecuador's third largest city. Visit Pumapungo (Puma Gate) Archaeological Park, located near the Tomebamba river, to stroll among Inca ruins in the middle of a city.

The features include footprints of buildings, a pool, ovens, gardens, terraces, canals, and a mausoleum.

Acllas (also called Chosen Women, Virgins of the Sun, and Wives of the Inca)

On top of the terraced hill are footprints of acllawasi (house of the chosen women) buildings where sequestered young women lived and learned. The acllas were selected when they were between ages 8 and 10. Families whose girls were selected saw their own social status rise. During their 4 years in the acllawasi the girls learned to produce luxury items like fine woven cloths, to prepare ritual foods, and other skills to service the social elite.

Once trained, some of the acllas were given as wives to warriors who distinguished themselves in battle. Others were concubines for the emperor and a few lived out their lives in the acllawasi. Those deemed most perfect were selected for human sacrifice during religious rites.

Footprints of acllawasi



Next to the acllawasi remnants are two huge ovens. One can imagine wood burning in the middle layer with food on the top layer. At the bottom right of the photo below is a door leading to the outside, where ash could be emptied and wood inserted.

Looking into an Inca oven

Pool, Terraces, and Gardens

The artificial pool at the foot of the terraced hill is spring fed and canals carried water from the pool to the gardens.

Terraces behind the pool
The pool and the gardens are some distance from one another. A long canal leads from the edge of the pool to the gardens.

Canal from pool to gardens
At the other end of the canal, the gardens are shaped like a large cloverleaf. Gardeners today keep the gardens alive with vegetables that were grown in Inca times.

View of terraces from gardens

View of gardens from terraces

Mausoleum 

While walking up the hill from the garden, a locked gate is in the middle of a terrace wall. A tunnel leads to a room high enough for humans to stand and more than 30 meters (100 feet) long. It was a mausoleum where mummies were held for worship and veneration.

Tunnel leading to mausoleum

Admission

A great aspect of this park is that admission is free. Since it is in the middle of the city, residents can walk to the park or take a city bus. I have seen groups of teenagers, couples and families walking around. It is popular to hang out on the grass, enjoying the surroundings. Everyone seems to be respectful of the rules to stay off the stone walls.

Did you know there are Inca ruins in Ecuador?


4 comments:

  1. Hi Emily - I'll need to come back and read this properly ... but it looks an amazing place - thanks for letting us know about it ... cheers Hilary

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    1. You are right, Hilary. It is amazing to see where the acllas lived and learned while strolling around. Thank you for your visit!

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  2. Hi Emily - I'm sure I did know about the Incas in Ecuador and thus there would be ruins. Fascinating to see the park is free and in the middle of the town. What an amazing place ... so much to take in - but I've started! Cheers Hilary

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    1. Thanks for coming back Hilary! Until I moved to Ecuador, I did not know that the Incas had lived here either. The free admission is something I love as it allows anyone to stroll through history.

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