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Located in the hills of Machu Picchu, the historical remains of an Incan civilization, is the Intiwatana, or “hitching post of the sun.” This particular Intiwatana is the last of its kind, as the others were destroyed during the Spanish conquests in an attempt to erase Incan history. The four sides indicate the earth’s cardinal points; north, south, east and west, allowing the Incans to decipher the annual summer solstice as well as the winter solstice in order to prepare for Inti Raymi, or, Festival of the Sun. This stone pillar is considered by some archaeologists to be a sundial, while others believe it is a concentration of positive energy. Although there are many theories surrounding the use of this monument, one of the most agreed upon is that the Intiwatana was used for religious ceremonies and sacrifices. The Incan’s agriculture relied completely on the Sun, and it is because of this that the Incans worshipped the sun as a God.

The spiritual relationship between the Incan civilization and the sun was built around the importance of time. There was no way to know the specific hour or day of the year, only where the sun was positioned and the shadows it would cast on sundials and Intiwatanas. The Incas were skilled astronomers and developed these technologies to help them cultivate the greatest amount of crops possible. They realized, however, that as time went on the days began to grow increasingly shorter with less sunlight each day. With the use of the Intiwatana they were able to use the sun’s location to determine which day of the year had the least amount of sunlight, June 21st, also known as the winter solstice. On this day the Inca, leader of the Incan civilization, would invite his citizens to celebrate and witness his plea to the Sun god for more sunlight. Following the festivities the days began to grow longer and affirmed for all in attendance that the Inca was a powerful being with a close relationship to their god. While they might not have been able to speak directly to the sun, the Incas were an advanced population who used the Intiwatana to create an image of power as well as to yield an abundance of food for their people.

By Ella Burnham