Having been in Peru for a couple of weeks and spending most of our time amongst ancient Inca ruins I feel like this blog has gotten a bit too archaeological. However, on our way from Cusco to Puno we stopped off at a quite different but equally wonderful set of Inca ruins in Raqchi. I guess that is the thing about the Incas, they constructed an amazing array of towns, forts and ceremonial centres in little more than a century of empire building and they are everywhere you go in Peru.
Set amidst beautiful countryside and surrounded by imposing mountains on a clear, crisp morning Raqchi is an impressive and moving sight, and one that could be easily overlooked as you speed past the modern-day village on the road between Cusco and Puno.
Raqchi was a major religious centre and home to a temple complex and palace that housed the great and the good of the Inca world. It is also home to a unique set of approximately 100 circular buildings that were used as storehouses for foodstuffs to be used for ceremonial purposes and to distribute to people when harvests were poor.
Being circular rather than square or rectangular, the storehouses are unlike virtually any other building in the Inca empire. No one knows why they are circular, but it is likely to be symbolism to do with Raqchi’s role as a religious and ceremonial centre.
The most impressive building is the Temple of Wiracocha, which is an imposing two storey building about 100 metres long. Prior to the Spanish conquest and the subsequent destruction of Raqchi this building is believed to have had the largest roof anywhere in the Inca world. I know that doesn’t sound particularly impressive, but roofs are hard to build and this just highlights the mastery of the Inca as architects and builders.
Wiracocha was the Inca Creator God and is believed to have performed a miracle at the site where the temple was built. The whole complex is large, comprising a residential section and a palace for Inca nobility as well as the temple and storehouses, testimony to the importance the Inca placed on the site as a religious centre.
The temple complex is probably the best surviving example of Inca adobe building in Peru. Which is pretty amazing given the site has suffered the destruction of the Spanish, seismic activity and the degradation of the weather over several centuries – and adobe is only mud. It is also one of the best places to see the unique Inca construction technique where the lower half of the wall is adobe and the upper half is stone.
Surrounding the site, and still in use by villagers today, are a number of Inca agricultural terraces. According to our guide the whole site was also enclosed by an enormous wall that skirted the hilltops around the site and was six feet thick and very high. Unfortunately not much of this wall remains as the Spanish used the stone to construct a church and village at the site.