Wednesday, June 17, 2009

That Incan Ruin in the Back Yard

If you've done the rounds of the Incan ruins in Cuzco, the stone work in the photos below should be quickly recognisable. The large, rectangular blocks, smooth surfaces, and uncanny fit, are all hallmarks of the architectural structures to which the Incas accorded importance. The contrast is notable with the rubbly stone work to the right of the picture, while it can be seen that these stones and the Incan blocks have all been glued together with the dried mud used as cement in the traditional adobe constructions of the region.

For various reasons, I didn't get a very good angle on either photo, and you can't quite see that the large, 'Incan' blocks form the left hand side of a doorway, which has been filled in with the rubbly stones. The right hand side of the doorway (out of picture) was also made of large, smooth blocks.

So, is this doorway in some obscure corner of Machu Picchu, or one of the lesser ruins dotted around Cuzco and included in a tourist route? No, in fact it is sitting quietly in the back yard of a private residental property in Cabanaconde in the province of Caylloma, Arequipa. The doorway was apparently part of the palace of a regional Incan governor. Now it's an anomalous structure out the back of someone's little corner shop.

It's things like this which kind of sum up what is so attractively offbeat and incongruous about Peru.

I'm not going to reveal the exact location, so as not to subject the owner of the property to excessive harassment. Yes, I know that I only have about thirty readers, of whom most probably won't be in the region in the near future. But it only takes someone from the Lonley Planet or similar to happen across this post, and the next thing you know the place has become a tourist curiosity, whether or not its owner is ready or willing.

As you'd imagine in the case of a piece of architecture that has presumably sat virtually untouched for over 500 years, there are stories of strange powers attached to the Incan doorway. However, I won't say any more for now -- the details need to be worked into the report for my ethnographic research project.

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