Sacsayhuamán (also known as Saksaq Waman, Sacsahuaman) is a walled complex near the old city of Cusco, at an altitude of 3,701 m. or 12,000 feet. The site is part of the City of Cuzco, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983. It was built by the prehistoric indigenous people of the Killke culture about 1100 AD. They were superseded by the Inca, who expanded and occupied the complex beginning about 1200 AD.
Some scholars believe the walls were a form of fortification. Others believe the complex was built specifically to represent the head of a puma, the effigy shape which Sacsayhuamán together with Cuzco forms when seen from above. There is much unknown about how the walls were constructed. The stones are so closely spaced that a single piece of paper will not fit between many of the stones. This precision, combined with the rounded corners of the limestone blocks, the variety of their interlocking shapes, and the way the walls lean inward, is thought to have helped the ruins survive devastating earthquakes in Cuzco. The longest of three walls is about 400 meters. They are about 6 meters tall. The estimated volume of stone is over 6,000 cubic meters. Estimates for the weight of the largest limestone block vary from 128 tonnes to almost 200 tonnes.
The Spanish harvested much rock from the walls of the structure to build churches in Cuzco. This is why the walls are in perfect condition up to a certain height, and missing above that point. Sacsayhuamán is also noted for an extensive system of underground passages known as chincanas, which connect the complex to other Inca ruins within Cuzco.
On March 13, 2008, archaeologists discovered the ruins of an ancient temple in the periphery of Sacsayhuaman. It also is believed to have been built by the Killke culture, and scholars believe this indicates the site was a ceremonial center for religious as well as political activities. These people built structures and occupied the site for hundreds of years before the Inca, between 900 and 1200 AD.
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