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.
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.
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?