What Is The Intihuatana Stone At Machu Picchu?

One of the last surviving Intihuatana stones is located in the heart of Machu Picchu.

Travelers from all over the world are mystified by Machu Picchu. What was it's purpose? Who lived here? Historians are still debating these questions. One thing we can all agree on: the Incans had style. Machu Picchu is constantly voted as one of the top destinations on earth.

Within the city there are dozens of significant sites. Arguably the most visited site is Intihuatana. Quechua for "Hitching Post of the Sun", this is the four-sided stone carving just above the Sacred Plaza. While most tourists walk by and think "sun dial", it was actually much more than that.

The Equinoxes and Astronomy of the Incas

Intihuatana was a sacred ritual stone used by the Incas as an astronomic calendar. It is designed to "hitch" the sun at the two equinoxes (not at the solstic). At midday on March 21 and September 21, the sun hover directly over the pillar. At these times the Incas would hold ceremonies.

Intihuatana stones were extremely sacred to the Incas. Peruvian Shamans claimed (and still claim) that if a sensitive person touches there forehead to the stone it would open their vision to the spirit world. During the conquest the Spaniards specifically sought out and destroyed Intihuatana stones. The Incans believed that when a Intihuatana stone was broken, the deities pertaining to that sacred spot would die.

The Spaniards Never Discovered Machu Picchu

The Spaniards never discovered Machu Picchu. It is one of the few places left on earth where you can observe the Intihuatana.

In the past you would see tourists and locals hovering around the Intihuatana at Machu Picchu, touching their hands and faces to the stone to try and extract spiritual energy. About 2 years ago the Ministry of Tourism roped off the stone and no longer allow tourists to touch this stone.

Although I never touched my forehead to the Intihuatana, I still feel something special as I walk by, thinking of the Incas as they performed their rituals, planned their crops, and enjoyed the same incredible view as me, looking out at the cloud forest to the west of Machu Picchu.



Jared Snow