Archeology, Cultura

Usnu, or Ushno, which means ‘Altar’ in Quechua keeps a Rich Meaning

Ushnu, or Ushno, which means ‘Altar’ in Quechua, are platforms of different architectural styles depending on their location.  There are important Usnu’s in Vilcashuamán, Ayachuco, and in the Umari district.

In the Pre-Inca era they only fulfilled the role of altars where different offerings like the chicha (corn beer) or the blood of the sacrifices, were filtered by the stones to the interior of the earth.

During the development of the Inca-Nato the Usnu acquired greater importance. Complex drains for the resection of the offerings were considered channels that communicated with other sacred places. In the capital of the empire, the Usnu occupied a Central place in the Plaza Aucaypata (Known today as the main square of Cusco) and connected through subterranean pipes with the altars of the Qoricancha (Temple of the Sun).

The Usnu were also important meeting points between the Inkas leaders and the Populations of the new territories that were conquered, they performed the rites and Astronomical observations that served to consolidate the power of the administration. At the same time, these altars were sacred spots where the Inka could exercise the position of intermediary between

The USNU were also important points of encounter between the leaders of the Inkas and the populations of the new territories that were conquered. The Inka performed the rites and astronomical observations that served to consolidate the power of the administration. In turn, these altars were a sacred spot where the Inka could exercise its position as an intermediary between the three Andean worlds (Hanan Pacha, Kay Pacha, Uku Pacha).

At Archeological Park of Sacsayhuaman, Andean Terraces (Walter Coraza Morveli)
Usnu in Sacsayhumanan site (Walter Coraza Morveli)

The main offerings were the libations liquid such as water, and the chicha, but also offered  round stones, shells and special objects which had to be related to the rains, the rays of the sun, the rivers and the water cycle in general.

Federico Kauffmann Doig defines Usnu thus,”a truncated pyramidal building, based on a rectangular platform or several overlays. It describes a quadrangular or pyramidal element with the sole function of serving as a focal entity of a large ceremonial space, with fusions allowing access only to the Inkas to preside over the most important ceremonies of the Tawantinsuyu”. But Cristobal de Albornoz describes the Usnu as: “Golden pillar where they drank in the sun in the square” Referring to the architectural structures of Tumipampa Murua indicates that as well as the Cusco was built here a  Choqepillaka Usnu or used to “sacrifice the chicha to the sun when they drank with him.” This term was translated as cingulum gold by M.B. Farfan and had to be an adjective of this sacred element.

Rowe is emphatic in affirming based on the Chronicles, mainly in the documents of Pedro Pizarro to the Usnu is a round stone “tit” which in Cusco had a stack or source to pour the Aqha (Chicha) or the yawar (Blood) in the ceremonies. This stone was placed on a platform in the form of pedestal, which gave a lot of importance both in space and astronomy. For Betanzos this stone was the symbol of the sun and was an abstraction presented to people who could not enter the Qoricancha.

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