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Exploring Inca ushnu sites

Peru

Atahualpa, the Inca ruler taken and killed by Spanish invaders in the 1500s, asked for the meeting with his murderers to take place in the great plaza of the town of Cajamarca at the site of a ‘castillejo’, a type of platform we now call an ushnu.

This shows not only that ushnus were appropriate sites to meet strangers, but that they were considered to hold great significance.

Research at 30 platforms across the modern
area of Ayacucho has demonstrated that ushnus are located in both town squares and alongside Inca roads. In towns the platforms are located in or by the side of the main square, while those located on Inca roads are often found on mountain tops. There, they offer views of the horizon and of Wamanis (mountain deities) in the landscape.

Featured ushnu sites

Condomarca

Condormarca

Thought to be named after the now damaged condor carved into a nearby rock face and located in the village of Huamanguilla

 
Incapirca Waminan

Incapirca Waminan

Located on a rounded mountaintop near Ayacucho and offering a remarkable views of major mountain peaks

 
Kunuquarqo

Kunuquarqo

Stone channels on the side of this ushnu connect it to the ritual of pouring drinks as an offering to God

 
Mesapata

Mesapata

A platform of between two and four levels featuring finely carved stonework comprised of grey andesite

 

Uscunta

Uscunta

Items found nearby include pottery, tools and stone balls believed to have been used in an organised game

 
Ushnupata

Ushnupata

A Late Horizon-era Inca structure located on a low hill near to a community cemetery

 
Vilcashuaman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vilcashuaman

A well-known site on the main
Inca road running along the Andes
mountain chain and down to the coast

 

Show full list of sites studied

Site Alternative name(s) Easting Northing Altitude (m)
Altarniyoc   574886.594 8508713.489 4319
Anahuarque   613294 8483654 4201
Aquqasa Mesayuqpata;Misapata 587681 8472616 4331
Condormarca   590273.221 8561137.921 3227
Huamanillo   586623 8460975 4487
Illakata Ilakata 570539 8382012 4350
Incapaq Misan   573967 8498938 3952
Incapirca 1 Incapirca de Chiara 599684.531 8522349.729 4370
Incapirca 2 Incapirca de Quina 600057.568 8557958.119 4398
Incapirca 3 Usnupatapampa 589388 8527080 4251
Incaqcuna   574185 8498776 3977
Inkapallanka Uchuy Quriwayrachina 605589 8394507 4580
Inkapirka Inkapirqa; Wamanpirqa 643680 8384264 4485
Kunukaurqu Intiwatana (1); Conoca Urqu 591794 8448018 4674
Laymi   652908 8435472 3406
Mesapata Qatun Mesapata 589515 8425656 4489
Mesapata Chico   589437 8422552 4568
Mesapatachayoq   615608 8383668 4498
Mesapatapampa   595742 8393221 4350
Quinoawillka   559121 8552710 3953
Quriwayrachina Qatun Quriwayrachina 604602 8395612 4573
Totospmapa   553566 8496503 2950
Ushnupata   581170.967 8518207.129 3695
Usnu 3   589050 8407852 4384
Usqunta 1 Intiwatana 2 588117 8418976 4364
Usqunta 2 Intiwatana 3 588375 8418522 4368
Vilcashuaman   613063 8490462 3499
Wamanillo Wamanillu 585443 8428111 4350
Wamanpirca   633218 8373310 4865
Warmichayuq   600861 8455536 4403