Sacred Valley Cusco History

The known Sacred Valley history is more or less limited to the start of the Inc civilization until the day of today. The area must have been populated by earlier societies, as proven by founds in the ruins of Sacsayhuaman near Cusco and only  35km away from the Sacred Valley. For the Inca however, the Sacred Valley actually was a sacred place and probably responsible for a large part of the agriculture and therefore food for the Cusco region, the capital in the Inca Inca Empire. The Urubamaba (Vilcanote) River runs through the valley as a snake and leaves behind fertile segmentation ideal for agriculture. The Inca soon found this out and started growing extensively corn and potatoes in the valley. Soon the acres at the rive were not sufficient anymore so the Inca started to build their famous terracing you can find all over the valley.

Being such an important area for the Inca it is no wonder that it had to be protected and maintained under control. This is probably one of the reasons why one can find some of other impressive ruins out of the time of the Inca. The ruins of Pisac are located at the entrance of the Sacred Valley (where the name of the Vilcanote River changes to Urubamba River) and on the other end, at the start of the Inca Trail (and nowadays the last train station) to Machu Picchu, you can find the ruins of Ollantaytambo. Both ruins are quite extensive and interesting. Located on high hills, providing good views of the surrounding valley, these are quite the sight to see. The ruins of Pisac most likely had a very important agricultural function based on the number of terracing found and the fact that the town up to the day of today has one of the larger farmers markets in the area. Nevertheless, based on some of the amazing buildings in the main ruins, it cannot be discarded that the ruins did have a ceremonial and religious function.  On the other side some of the valley, some 50 Km away lays the small Inca town of Ollantaytambo. This town is known for its impressive ruins one can already see from the main road about 10 minutes away. The ruins are made up out a large plain followed by some steep large steps constructed against the mountain slopes. Besides the steps there is large terracing constructed all along the curve of the mountain, here and there supporting large store houses. On top of the hill you can find a flat part with some typical Inca walls. The most impressive part of the ruins and the main reason why investigators think that this site was still under construction and had a special value in the Inca society are the 6 gigantic monoliths that appear to have been glued together. These probably had a religious value and worked with sun in one or another way. Recently there have been found more and more discoveries supporting this hypothesis; behind the ruins for example one can find two triangle fields that are dug out deeper than the surrounding areas and that are located exactly where the sun shines through on the summer and winter solstice. On the road behind the ruins one can also find “sleeping stones”. These are large stones that where semi processed to be used in the Ollantaytambo structure.  These stones where being transported when, most likely, the Spanish arrived and construction was brutally put to a hold.

Ollanta (as Ollantaytambo is known by locals), is one of the few towns that maintained their Inca structure, with as main characteristic the multi family houses. These houses build in squares, would hold several families housed around their own in-house patio. The streets are narrow walkways with mostly only one entrance per square. Based on joining of two valleys, the town has little flat area to one side and other Inca ruins and store houses can be found on the other side of the town across of the main ruins. (From here you have a great view on the ruins in the late afternoon). It is because of these geographical characteristics that Ollantaytambo history received its place in Spanish history books. It was here that the Spanish were defeated in a battle with the Inca. In 1536 when the Spanish had Cusco more or less under control, they came heading down the Sacred Valley and arrived at Ollantaytambo, only to be awaited by hundreds of Inca accompanied by several tribes from lower jungle areas that by now had dome to help the Inca looking at the threat the Spanish posed. The Spanish arrived with several hundred soldiers, many on horses and in heavy armor, something never seen by many Inca, to the plain of Mascabamba located at the foot of the town. The Inca however were expecting them and the jungle tribes that came to help provided the Spanish with a horrific sight when they arrived in Ollantaytambo. Armed with rocks spears and arrows the Inca together with the jungle tribes were able to hold back the Spanish until they were able to flood a part of the valley, obliging the Spanish to retreat. This victory however did not last long. A couple of weeks later the Spanish returned, better armed than ever and managed to make the Ollantaytambo history what it is today. They conquered the town and site but never really pushed onwards from here to discover Machu Picchu.    

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