History of Cuzco Peru

Early history

What do we know about the history of Cuzco, Peru? There are numerous stories about the origins of the Incas and the founding of their capital, Cuzco. Many of them share some basic elements, but vary greatly in detail. However, they all agree in naming Manco Capac as the first Inca ruler. Inca origin stories can be divided into two groups. Those that hold that Manco Capac came from the cave of Pacariqtambo.  (“Pacariq” meaning “dawn” or “origin,” “tambo” meaning “place of lodging”). Secondly, there are those that say he came from Lake Titicaca. But even in those stories where Lake Titicaca is the place of origin. Pacariqtambo usually plays a role of some import.

The origin story


The main Pacariqtambo origin story is as follows. Four brothers, Ayar Manco, Ayar Auca, Ayar Cachi, and Ayar Uchu, and their four sisters, Mama Ocllo, Mama Huaco, Mama Cura, and Mama Rawa, emerged from a cave in the mountain of Tambo Toco. The sisters were also the wives of the brothers, respectively.

The cave at Pacariqtambo


This cave, located south of Cuzco at Pacariqtambo , had three windows. From the middle window emerged Ayar Manco and his siblings. From the two side windows emerged the people who would later found the 10 ayllus of Cuzco. Ayar Manco and his followers travelled for days. Many different things are said to have happened to the group. One of the brothers was sealed up in the cave at Pacariqtambo. There, two of them turned into stone. During the trip, Ayar Manco and his wife, Mama Ocllo had a son. He was named Sinchi Roca.

The Incan fortress of Sacsayhuaman, Peru

At last they arrived in the Valley of Cuzco. Having been given a sign from the Sun, they knew this was the place to settle. The land was already inhabited. Because the Incas were deemed to be superior in culture and intelligence, they were allowed to live there and come to govern the natives. Ayar Manco became Manco Capac, the ruler of Cuzco and its people. Upon his death, he turned to stone. Exactly in the place where the Incas later built their temple of the sun.

Do we all agree about the history of Cuzco, Peru?

So do we have consensus about the history of Cuzco, Peru? In other versions of the origin story, Manco Capac and his brothers and sisters arose from Lake Titicaca, and were sent out from there by their father, the Sun, to found the city of Cuzco. Manco Capac was given a golden staff. This staff he was to plunge into the ground at each place the group rested. When the staff sank all the way into the ground, they knew they had arrived at the proper place. They wandered for years going to many places. And at one point stopped at Pacariqtambo. Finally, it happened. When they arrived in the fertile valley of Cuzco, the staff sank all the way into the ground. This is where they founded their kingdom.

Alternate versions of Cuzco history

Other versions link Lake Titicaca and Pacariqtambo by stating that Manco and his siblings originated in Lake Titicaca. There they travelled underground to arise from the cave at Pacariqtambo. The proliferation of Inca origin stories may seem confusing. It is likely that different versions were meant for different audiences. In order to serve all of the Inca elite in different ways.*

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