Sayacmarka Inca Ruins
The Inca ruin of Sayacmarka is located at 3,600masl; Sayacmarca was discovered by the American explorer Mr. Hiram Bingham in 1915. He called it” Cedrobamba”, meaning “Plain of Cedars.” But since it is not a plain, nor are there any cedars. The archaeologist Paul Fejos, visited the area in 1940, gave it a new Quechua name (Sayacmarka) meaning Dominant or inaccessible Town. This magnificent Inca complex is built at the end of an abrupt promontory commanding a sweeping view of the “Aobamba” valley, with the snowcapped Pumasillo in the distance.
The layout of the settlement is mazelike and tightly organized, almost cramped. There must have been some special motive or mindset behind the choosing of this site, because there is a small plateau nearby to the northwest known as Ch’akicocha (Dry Lake), which, from our perspective, would seem a much better location for a town. It has a more accessible water supply, and far more space for building. But it does not overlook its surroundings in the same way as the site that was chosen. This was surely the overriding factor for the Incas – Sayacmarka was not, in military terms, a defensible site: its water supply was easy to cut off, and it could be bombarded with missiles from the nearby mountain slope. What it does have, in common with all other sites along the Inca trail, is a commanding view of the landscape.
A line of observation platforms ran between here and Machu Picchu, and it seems likely that the Incas used a signaling system to send information – warning of the approach of important people, for example – up and down this line. Sayacmarka may also have served as a center from which to control travel and cargo along the two main highways visible from this point (the second of these being the trail that led down the valley directly south of Sayacmarka, to the Aobamba valley.
These are the utilitarian reasons for the location of Sayacmarka. But the deeper motives were metaphysical, and are harder to explain. The truth is that there was no real economic or strategic rationale for building Machu Picchu or the Inca Trail and its sites. The land is so rugged and steep it is hardly worth farming, and there were no significant mineral deposits. The quality and type of construction cannot be accounted for by a military threat, and in fact the settlements were so remote that they made no economic sense at all. If they had, they would never have been abandoned.
Machu Picchu and the Inca trail make no sense to our rational minds, but our hearts can readily understand. The Incas worshipped the natural world – particularly the snowcapped mountains which are visible from all the major sites – and tried to communicate with its spirits. They were willing to make an enormous investment in the contemplation of natural beauty. The man who had all this built was a warrior and imperial conqueror; this was his other face, the hidden aspect of Pachacuteq.