Marcahuasi, develando el misterio

Marcahuasi: History of a Discovery

Narration by Luis Octavio Ruzo

Versión en Español

History of a Discovery : Narration by Luis Octavio Ruzo

The discovery of Marcahuasi was not fortuitous, but chance did play a part. Daniel Ruzo, my father, had been interested in megalithic cultures since his youth, therefore he had an open mind which could accept the information he received, while others may have ignored it.

In February 1952 a close friend of Daniel’s, Enrique Dammert, made a present to him of a photograph taken in 1935 by Kuroki Riva. Based on what my father told me years later, this gentleman spent much of his time traveling around Peru , and who knows where else, taking pictures of anything that looked, to him, unusual. Dammert’s dedication, written on the back of the photo (Original Photo of K. Riva) which now hangs on the wall of my study, reads thus: «I transfer to Don Daniel Ruzo this picture taken by my great friend Kuroki Riva, not because I do not like it, but rather because in Los Angeles (where my father had his country house near Lima) it will be more highly appreciated and reach further. In any case, this marvel will remain among the madmen of this valley (these were my father, Dammert and Asin, the latter lived in a railway car he had had lifted up the side of a mountain). Until its truth be deciphered and Don Daniel learn to photograph rocks.»

Ruzo definitely learned how to photograph rocks. Riva’s picture consisted of an exceptional rock seemingly carved with many anthropomorphic figures. Because Daniel Ruzo had been interested in ancient cultures since youth, he did not take lightly the possible meaning of such a magnificent sculpture. He soon organized an expedition which took him to a small village in the central Andes, San Pedro de Casta. Ruzo describes this first journey in his book Marcahuasi: The Fantastic History of a Discovery.

«During the month of August we journeyed up the valley of Santa Eulalia to the bridge at Autisha and managed to establish contact with a group descending from Casta, a village of approximately one thousand inhabitants at 3,200 meters above sea level. The only trail that could take us to the site where the photograph had been taken started near this village. The people there called the gigantic rock “head of the Inca”, though obviously it had no relationship to the Incas. The men we had met were Inocencio Obispo, Justiliano Rojas and Manuel Olivares. The latter, sometimes together with another villager, Miguel Bautista, accompanied me throughout the many expeditions I conducted in the following nine years. They had promised to have horses available on the following September 1 and on that day we returned and initiated our first climb to the high plateau, whose ancient name is lost, but which since the Inca invasion of this region has been known as Marcahuasi. This name is Quechua , that is Huanca, as are all the names applied to the topography of the central region of Peru. It may be translated as ‘the place of dwellings”, possibly because of the numerous soldiers’ barracks to be found there.

As soon as we had arrived to the top of the plateau we sighted an exceptional stone, twenty five meters high on the Western side and twenty on the opposite side (Figures 1 and 2). It must represent a monument to humanity, erected in very ancient times, since on it one can see sculptures of human heads and faces from many different ethnic groups. The sculptors must have worked this rock in times so ancient that its name has been forgotten and it is now referred to by the old people in the village as Peca Gasha, or “the head in the alley”, which corresponds to its location at the entrance to the plateau.”

In the following nine years Ruzo conducted a thorough photographic study of Marcahuasi. His original work representing three different views of the Peca Gasha from the West shown in Figures 2a-c. Three recent photos taken from the East are shown in Figures 2d-f.

Daniel Ruzo and his first campsite may be seen in Figures 3, 4 y 5 and his friend and guide Manuel Olivares in Figures 6a y 6b, photographs taken many years later when Don Manuel was nearing ninety years of age. A short time after Ruzo’s first expedition the people of Casta helped in the construction of a simple hut which served Ruzo through the years of his visits to the plateau and which continues to shelter visitors Figure 7, photo courtesy of Alex Kornhuber, 2016.

There must have been something very important that made these two men bond, even today Manuel’s family maintains a very close relationship with Javier Ruzo, Daniel’s grandson, and with me. My father died on the 21st of September, 1991 and Manuel Olivares on the same day in 2014

In June 1954 Ruzo published the first report on Marcahuasi (The Masma Culture), based on a presentation at the Military Academy of Peru. For the first time he referred to a human culture that would have disappeared after a great catastrophe. Years later he developed a chronological theory based on the displacement of the solar system along the ecliptic, a journey that takes the sun and its planets on an enormous spiral lasting 25,920 years, with each zodiac sector of 2,160 years (The Last Days of the Apocalypse). This culture would date from a period when the system changed from one sector to the next, from Cancer to Gemini, more than eight thousand years ago. The next transition will be from our current sector, Piscis to Aquarius in 2,140 AD. He called this culture that had created the sculptures in Marcahuasi “Masma”, based on information he received from his friend and mentor, Pedro Astete. After relating a dream he had in Andahuaylas at the house of a friend, which was reputed to house a Nacaj (a type of malignant spirit), in Astete’s words:

“The dream was beginning to dissipate, but before it went completely I managed to distinguish the presence of certain beings dressed in ceremonial robes of black and white and heard the word Masma uttered..

Masma!... I sought information about this name which sounded ancient to me, as if I had heard it in earlier times. No one could give me information about it, however most agreed that it could derive from an Indian name. Some years later, now back in Lima, three things happened almost simultaneously which allowed me to remember…”

The first of these three events was finding the word Masma in a Quechua dictionary with two meanings provided: one a house of wide overhanging eaves and the second a clay container, similar to the pakarinas, used for burials. In a description of the departments of Junin and Ayacucho, in the central Andes of Peru, by Dr Luis Carranza found the word Masma as the name of a hamlet or a ruin near Jauja (an old city of the Huancas). The third instance happened while Astete was leafing through the bible where the name Masma struck him, this is the fifth son of Ismael (Genesis XXV, 14). As we know designations of the patriarchs and their children often represent cultures and ethnic groups.

For the Ruzos the name Masma has additional meaning. Our family emigrated to the Americas from a village called Lea near Lugo, in Galicia. The house of the Ruzos still stands, abandoned and partly covered in silt deposited over the past three centuries by the river Ruzo which originates nearby. A few leagues from Lea, a little beyond Mondoñedo (the county seat), this river passes through San Andres de Masma and there takes that name. It’s a coincidence that seems incredible, but both my father and I have been to these places and I can confirm the veracity of this story. My father named Marcahuasi culture Masma before having been to Galicia!

Ruzo discovered a great number and variety of sculptures on the plateau, many representing human heads and the faces of personages whose identity is lost in time, as well as various animals. Some recent photographs of these are given in Figures 8-16, as well as in Portal 2 of this website. Through the years in which he studied Marcahuasi he looked unsuccessfully for relationships between the most important structures. The technology available in the 1950s did not provide the information we have now obtained using geosynchronous satellites (GPS) (Table 1 – 2014 Expedition in PDF Format;  Table 2 - 2016 Expedition in PDF Format). Furthermore, Ruzo did not consider other minor structures and smaller rocks, whose importance we have now established and have designated “markers” (See Marcahuasi and the Cosmos).

The Road and the Town of San Pedro de Casta

San Pedro is approximately 80 km from Lima, in Huarochiri, department of Lima. Although this seems near about 3-4 hours by car are required to reach it, passing Chosica, Santa Eulalia and Huinco. Parts of the unpaved road are shown in (Figures 17a y 17b).

Nearly 300 families live in San Pedro and at present the community has electrical, telephone and internet services as well as regular transport to the cities down the valley such as Ricardo Palma and Chosica. Its main resources are agriculture and tourism Figures 18-20 show different aspects of the town. Perhaps the best way to visualize the changes that have taken place in Casta is to compare its church in 2016 and 1978 (Figures 21 y 22).

The trail from the village to Marcahuasi starts just past the cemetery and about an hour later it forks right below the northernmost side of the plateau into two possible ascents. The first and nearest is called the short way, this is the most steep and difficult. It ends in a relatively narrow gorge directly to the northwest of Peca Gasha, thus giving it its name of “head in the alley”.

Following the original trail is the “long way” which turns around the plateau and provides access from the southeast into the amphitheater. The long way can be appreciated from the photos in Figures 23-25 and the short way in Figure 26. In 2016 construction of a track road for vehicles was completed, which starts in the village and reaches the point where the final ascent to the amphitheater starts.

Peca Gasha (Figure 27) is located at the following coordinates: 11 degrees 46 minutes 32.6 seconds South and 76 degrees 54 minutes 51.1 seconds West. Its line of sight (LOS) is at 180 degrees south. In the 2014 and 2016 expeditions we used GPS to determine the geo-references for many of the structures as well as their LOS values. These can be found in (Table 1 – 2014 Expedition in PDF Format;  Table 2 - 2016 Expedition in PDF Format) of "Marcahuasi and Cosmos" in this website.

The weather in Marcahuasi can be quite varied depending on the season. During the months of June –September, a period that the villagers call summer (because it is drier), it can be very dry and extremely cold at night reaching temperatures below zero (centigrade). In the rainy season during the actual summer (December- March) there is intense rain a well as very thick fogs. These extremes are illustrated in Figure 28 (a descent through the cloud in late December) and Figure 29, (courtesy of Alex Kornhuber) in which the clearest night sky can be appreciated.

Geology of Marcahuasi

The Marcahuasi volcanic group is composed of pyroclastic rocks containing volcanic ash, pumice and other minerals. Their age is estimated at 15-20 million years. This information was reported by the Mines, Metallurgy and Geology Institute of Peru in the Geo-Touristic guide of Marcahuasi. Analyses of more than 30 representative samples obtained in our 2014 expedition confirmed this data.

Historical Background

The ruins of barracks and burial structures (chullpas) exhibit characteristics typical of other Inca military construction found elsewhere in Peru (Figures 30, 31a & 31b, courtesy of Alex Kornhuber). Daniel Ruzo describes in detail their architecture and the conflict between the Huancas and the Incas which resulted in the victory of the latter and the subjugation of the Huancas. Upon arrival of the Spaniards the Huancas became their allies and exacted their revenge. For the Incas the plateau constituted a strategic stronghold at the juncture of two important valleys.

Legends about Marcahuasi

It is said in the village that the Huanca god Huallallo sculpted the figures found on the plateau and that after their people’s defeat the Incas forced him to work for them in the construction of Sacsahuaman and the Coricancha temple in Cuzco.

During one of my longest stays at Marcahuasi, Severiano Olivares (son of Don Manuel) related another legend. Two powerful magicians , Lloctacure and Huambo, made war upon each other and during the final battle their armies were converted to stone through their magic. Huambo is the present name of a volcano in Southern Peru near Majes and Lloctacure is a magician mentioned in many Peruvian legends (Manuscript of Huarochiri and The Extirpation of Idolatry in Peru).

Water in Marcahuasi

San Pedro relies in part for its water supply on the water collection and storage works on the plateau. The location of lagoons across the plateau can be seen as the darkest areas in the aerial photograph shown in Figure 32. There lagoons (cochas) and their dykes are kept in good repair and maintained as cisterns by the villagers (Figures 33-36, courtesy of Alex Kornhuber). Cachu Cachu, the largest of these, located in the southern part of the plateau, is surrounded with sculptures (Figure 37). We have also identified a system of stone ducts which crisscross the plateau, leading the rain water to the various cochas (Figures 38-40) or providing channels for runoff at the edges of the plateau (Figures 41 y 42), feeding streams below that are used for irrigation (Figure 43).

List of Figures

Figures 1 and 2. Peca Gasha from the West and East respectively
Figures 2a-c. Photographs of Peca Gasha from different angles, Daniel Ruzo, 1950s
Figures 2d-f. Photographs of Peca Gasha from the East (2d courtesy of Alex Kornhuber)
Figure 3. Daniel Ruzo at Marcahuasi (1954)
Figure 4. Daniel Ruzo with the musicians from Casta
Figure 5. Daniel Ruzo at his original camp north of Peca Gasha
Figure 6a. Don Manuel Olivares (2011), companion and guide of Ruzo (1953-1962)
Figure 6b. Don Manuel at his home with Javier Ruzo
Figure 7. Ruzo’s stone hut (2016, courtesy of Alex Kornhuber)
Figure 8. The Philosopher
Figure 9. Human head
Figure 10. Head with cap and long beard
Figure 11. Faces above Cachu Cachu
Figure 12. Sculptures reflected on Cachu Cachu
Figure 13. the Knight
Figure 14. Man with cap
Figure 15. The Political King
Figure 16. The Lion (south side near Santa Maria)
Figure 17a. Track Road to San Pedro
Figure 17b. Track Road from the Autisha Bridge
Figure 18. San Pedro from the trail going up to Marcahuasi
Figure 19. San Pedro, street where the Olivares live
Figure 20. Feast of Santiago in Casta
Figure 21. The Church at San Pedro (1978)
Figure 22. The Church at San Pedro (2016)
Figure 23. New track road toward the Amphitheater
Figure 24. The Long Way ascending to Marcahuasi
Figure 25. Ascent to the Amphitheater from the end of the new track road
Figure 26. Photograph taken from the end of the “alley” leading to Peca Gasha
Figure 27a and 27b. Peca Gasha as seen from the West (27b courtesy of Alex Kornhuber)
Figure 28. Descent via the “Short Way” in the December fog
Figure 29. Starry night in June (courtesy of Alex Kornhuber)
Figure 30. Barracks in ruins Figures 31a and 31b. Chullpas (courtesy of Alex Kornhuber)
Figure 32. Aerial photograph of Marcahuasi
Figures 33. Close-up of the small lagoon near Peca Gasha (courtesy of Alex Kornhuber)
Figure 34. The small lagoon (courtesy of Alex Kornhuber)
Figure 35. Cachu Cachu lagoon
Figure 36. The dyke at Cachu Cachu
Figure 37. Sculptures facing Cachu Cachu
Figures 38-40. Water channels in the north side of the plateau
Figures 41 and 42. Water channels at the edge of the precipice
Figure 43. A stream near the village

Daniel Ruzo de los Heros, Marcahuasi : La Historia Fantastica de un Descubrimiento (Editorial Diana, Mexico) 1974. There were five subsequent editions in Mexico y Peru until 2004. Daniel Ruzo, The Masma Culture (Cultural Extension Program of the Military Academy of Peru). June 30, 1954.
Daniel Ruzo, Los Ultimos Dias del Apocalipsis, (Editorial Iztaccihuatl, Mexico 1970)
Pablo Joseph de Arriaga, La Extirpacion de la Idolatria en el Peru (1621), editado por el Centro de Estudios Regionales Andinos, Cuzco, Peru (1999).
Manuscrito de Huarochiri, version bilingue de Jose Maria Arguedas, Biblioteca Nueva, Universidad de Extremadura (2011)

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Marcahuasi and the Cosmos

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