You should see a full moon rise over Cuzco. It lifts above the mountains and comes into the valley in a rising ark along the line of hills that rise upwards. Traditionally it is the female counterpart of a male sun, and very important in Inca Cuzco where, according to recent evidence, the Incas paid great attention to the various phases of the sun and its eighteen year cycle of movement.
To the side of the Qhapaq Ñan, the Inca Highway that rises from the city to head to Antisuyo, the jungle, the is a massive rock outcropping with some Inca stonework. Although formally called Amaru Cancha, the temple of the serpent, it is popularly known as the Temple of the Moon.
It is called this because of an opening in the rock with a somewhat difficult descent. To the side people see images of a condor, a snake, and a puma without its head. Inside there is a large altar with steps rising up to it. From a hole in the ceiling, the light of the moon enters at night. The position where the light falls on the altar and its steps appears to make the changing positions of the moon in its cycles.
This week, a Polish scholar archeologist, Mariusz S. Ziółkowski of the University of Warsaw, spoke in Cuzco’s Casa Concha to the issue of Inca observatories of the moon. While he was able to confirm that two sites in Machu Picchu were lunar observatories, he was not able to do the same with the Temple of the Moon in Cuzco. This was because its opening has been broken and without its original contours it is impossible to know exactly how the moon’s worked in it with any precision. Nonetheless, Dr. Ziółkowski said it was probably that the Temple of the Moon may have been a lunar observatory.
Nevertheless, today it is a beautiful place to visit, a good walk or horse ride from the city, with beautiful scenery around it. In what follows, Cuzco Eats presents a series of photos from Cuzco’s Temple of the Moon.