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Inca Trail Photo Essay

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Inca Shrines on the Inca Road
Inca Altar, Carved Stone Shrine on Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Inca Altar, Carved Stone Shrine on Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Teddy Sipaseuth

One feature commonly found along the Inca Road are shrines. Shrines along the road vary a great deal--some are merely piled rock; others are elaborately carved and shaped boulders; and some are the mountains themselves.

Christie (2008) identified four types of carved rock shrines found along the Inca road. The first type is carved or fore-grounded rocks as primary trail/road markers, such the major carved rock complex at Kusilluchayoq on the outskirts of Cusco. The second type is carved or fore-grounded rocks at places with significant views, such as the seat-like carving at Machu Picchu illustrated in the photo above.

Christie's third type of shrine is carved or fore-grounded rocks as delimiters of important sites, such as the complex near the estate of Topa Inca [AD 1471-1493] at Chinchero. And the fourth type is that marking the route of ceques, pilgrimage roads of the Incas that were not built, but rather marked by a series of wayposts.

Sources and Further Information

Christie, Jessica J. 2008 Inka Roads, Lines, and Rock Shrines: A Discussion of the Contexts of Trail Markers. Journal of Anthropological Research 64(1):41-66.

Hyslop, John. 1984. The Inka Road System. Academic Press: New York.

McEwan, Gordon F. 2006 The Incas: New Perspectives. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

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