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Ollantaytambo: House of the Dawn; an Underestimated Inca Monument (cont.)
By Brien Foerster

Ollantaytambo is, from a historical and symbolic point of view, equally as significant as Yllampu, but it needs a better publicist. It is an immense complex, covering 600 hectares, and in fact takes up much of a valley, next to and in fact including the Inca era village that shares its name.


Main Ollantaytambo complex showing Inca andene (agricultural terraces.) Photo by Brien Foerster

And what does Ollantaytambo mean, anyway; doesn’t sound as exotic as Machu Picchu, and a lot harder to pronounce? It was named after a warrior named Ollanta, whose family, the Anta, were lords of the area during Inca times. They were related by blood to the royal Inca line, but not full blooded themselves.


Ollantaytambo: Temple of the Sun and andene. Photo by Brien Foerster

Ollanta, unfortunately for him, fell in love with the daughter of the Sapa (high) Inca of the time, either Pachacutec, who ruled from 1438 to 1471, and was the great builder of Yllampu, or his successor Tupaq Inca Yupanqui (1471 to 1493.) As Ollanta was a noble but not a “true” Inca, the love affair was forbidden, until events took place by which he saved one of the royal sons of the Sapa Inca from the evil clutches of, most probably the Chanka people of the Apurimac region near Cusco.

It is probably the result of this heroic deed that gave Ollanta not only the hand of daughter of the Sapa Inca in wedlock, but also resulted in the town and complex being named after him.

The more formal and ancient name of the complex, is believed by F.E. and Edgar Elorrieta Salazar, in the book “Cusco and the Sacred Valley of Peru” to be Pacaritanpu, “House of the Dawn” or “House of Windows.” This should not be confused with the small town, near Cusco called Pacarectambo, from which erroneous stories have been written stating that it was from here that the Inca originated.

In fact, Pacarectambo was not founded until after 1571, almost 40 years after the beginning of the Spanish “conquest” of the Inca. Yet, many tour guides in Cusco, and some scholars, still point to this little town as being the Inca birthplace.

What is curious is that the Spanish chronicler Sarmiento (1572) who was possibly the first European to write about Pacarectambo, consulted with, according to him, 42 Quipumayoc (readers and recorders of the knotted cord system used by the Inca called quipu) who all told him the same lie! It is quite possible that they were misleading him and others, in order to save what little sacred knowledge was left of the Inca. And this included the true site of the House of the Dawn, which was Ollantaytambo.

And why should we care about this anyway?

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