Photos, Artwork, & Musings on Life, Spirit, Entheogens, Time, & Travel

Fountains of the Incas

Fountains at Ollantaytambo Fortress, Peru

Whatever one’s opinion may be about the Incan empire, it is a fact that they were amazing engineers. Before I made my first trip to the Andes, I was not aware of the sophistication, extent, durability, and outright beauty of the Inca’s stone water works and fountains. Their hydraulic engineering was extensive and very impressive, often surpassing what was being done in Europe during those times. Much of it still functions perfectly today, more than 500 years later.

Incan watercourse-Coricancha, Cusco, Peru

To make sluiceways, they hand carved channeled blocks in solid stone using bronze and stone tools, bringing fresh water from sources to wherever it was needed. They surveyed landscapes and slopes, built water tunnels and reservoirs, and designed sophisticated drainage systems and pipeworks.

This beautiful sluice is in the courtyard of the famous Coricancha, or Temple of the Sun, the most important and impressive temple of the Incan Empire. This was the capital or main center of the empire, and before it was destroyed by the Spanish, the temple was covered, walls and floors, with solid gold.

Courtyard: Coricancha, Cusco, Peru

Here in this courtyard, a crop of corn once stood tall, but the corn and the stalks were all made of solid gold. It was a sight that amazed all who saw it, including, of course, the greedy conquistadores. Now, under the Incan stone wall and the Spanish church that replaced the temple, there is only grass and this lovely artistic watercourse made of stone, still pouring water into the Incan fountain today.

Machu Picchu Citadel ________ Photo by David P. Crews

The great citadel of Machu Picchu was a retreat for the Inca himself and he had the site plumbed and drained with great care. A stone canal about a half-mile long brought fresh water from a spring.

Watercourse and Fountain-Machu Picchu

The Inca emperor had the first use of it, then the water made its way down a series of sixteen other fountains for the rest of the city.

His bath water drained off separately to maintain fresh water for all, and the entire city sent its used water off through building walls and other structures into more than 130 drains that nourished their farming terraces.

Fountain at Machu Picchu

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Click on photos for a larger view. More images after the fold.

These fountains are at the base of the immense fortress at the small Incan village of Ollantaytambo, in the Sacred Valley just north of Cusco.

Fountain at Ollantaytambo, Peru


3 Tiered Fountain at Ollantaytambo, Peru


Fountain at Ollantaytambo Fortress, Peru


Village water channel: Ollantaytambo, Peru


Fountain at Machu Picchu


Fountain at Machu Picchu


Elegant tall fountain-Pisac Ruins


Watercourse-Pisac Ruins


Fountain at Tambomachay, the “Inca Baths”


Only remaining wall of the Coricancha

The Coricancha (Golden Temple)  in Cusco once held the great Sun Disc, made of solid gold. It is rumored to have been spirited out of the temple before the Spanish destroyed it and the disc is said to be well hidden somewhere in the sacred high Andes awaiting a time when the people will once again need it.

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5 responses

  1. Martin Cororan

    Great pictures – went to Cusco in 2002 – still ranks as one of the most fantastic places I’ve ever been.

    February 22, 2012 at 2:27 am

    • Thanks! I agree, it is one amazing place. I hope to return soon. With its deep and troubling history and ancient wonders, Cusco has such a dynamic range of not only sights, but of emotions as well.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:46 am

  2. I loved the tiered fountains – is there a specific time of year they are filled? Would have to go and find them dry…

    February 22, 2012 at 6:34 am

    • I’m not sure if there is a time when the fountains go dry. My sense is that these are mostly still running naturally, so there may be times where the springs flow more than other times. I was there in September of that year. Some, like the civic watercourses in Ollantaytambo are still in use for everyday water. I think I would have been intrigued by the stonework even if they were dry, but to find the fountains and channels running was a delight. I presume certain ones have been maintained or repaired, as from earthquake damage, over the years, as well.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:42 am

  3. Pingback: The Incan Fortress of Ollantaytambo « DavidCrews

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