of the nobles, and is so great and beautiful that it would be worthy of Spain.
—Pedro Sancho de la Hoz, secretary to Francisco Pizarro, 1534
Heart of the Inka Universe
Cusco, the holy Inka city, was the physical, political, and spiritual center of the Inka universe. Every aspect of the city reflected its cosmic importance.
1 A City Shaped Like a Puma
The city of Cusco is said to be in the shape of a puma. The puma symbolizes the power of the earth.
The puma's head was the temple of Saqsaywaman. Two rivers outlined the body. The main plaza, Hawkaypata, was in the belly. High-ranking persons lived within the outline of the puma. All others lived outside it.
3 Hawkaypata—The Main Plaza
Cusco was the center of the Inka universe. Hawkaypata was the center of Cusco. Dedicated to the creator god Tiqzi Wiracocha, this grand open space was used for ritual and ceremony. The Hawkaypata was filled with white sand from the Pacific coast. Offerings of gold, silver, and precious shell were buried in the sand during religious ceremonies.
4 The Qorikancha—Temple of the Sun
The Qorikancha (golden enclosure) was the religious center of the empire. Dedicated to the sun, it was the most important temple in Tawantinsuyu. Its walls were covered in gold and visible throughout the Cusco Valley. From the Qorikancha, 41 ceque lines (sacred pathways) linked the temple to wakas (holy sites) throughout the valley.
Gold and silver offerings were left at the Qorikancha. These figurines may have been dressed in clothing to represent high-ranking Inka.
In central Cusco, the panacas (royal families) of the Inka rulers lived in residences that the Spanish called palaces. Residences took the form of a kancha, a group of buildings surrounding a courtyard, all within an enclosing wall.
The families of Inka rulers wore ornaments made of sacred materials—gold, silver, and Spondylus shell.