Q’enqo, Qenko, Kenko, or Quenco (all from Quechua for “zig-zag”) is an archaeological site in the Sacred Valley of Peru located in the Cusco Region, Cusco Province, Cusco District, about 6 km north east of Cusco. The site was declared a Cultural Heritage (Patrimonio Cultural) of the Cusco Region by the National Institute of Culture.
It is one of the largest huacas (holy places) in the Cusco Region. Many huacas were based on naturally occurring rock formations. It was believed to be a place where sacrifices and mummification took place.
Qenqo (3,580 meters above sea level) is one of the most important archaeological attractions in Cusco. It is located just 4 kilometers from the Imperial Imperial City ’and a few meters from Sacsayhuamán, Tambomachay, Puca Pucara and other important Inca sites. This archaeological center must have enjoyed a lot of importance due to the amazing remains that still stand despite the destruction caused by the Spaniards in the place. It is believed that the Inca gods were worshiped there like the sun, the moon, the mountains and the earth. Even today there are many mysteries surrounding this place. Learn 8 interesting facts about this amazing place.
Qenqo (also known as Kenko) is a Quechua word (Q’inqu) that means ‘labyrinth’. This refers to the underground galleries in various directions and the zigzag-shaped stone channels. This name was put by the Spaniards after the conquest. The original Inca name is unknown. Although much of its buildings (aqueducts, terraces, trails, colcas and liturgical baths) were destroyed by the conquerors, it is still possible to appreciate the skill with which the Incas carved the stones.
Qenqo is located in the current Socorro hill. This place covers an area of up to 3,500 square meters of rocky land. This land was ideal for the construction of underground galleries which are one of the main attractions of the site. These lead to several spaces of the archaeological complex. Like Puca Pucara and Sacsayhuaman, the existence of these underground tunnels or ‘chincanas’ enjoyed great importance. It is even believed that in the fortress of Sacsayhuamán there is a tunnel that connects with the Coricancha (Temple of the Sun).
ROAD BOY, ROAD BIG
The Archaeological Site of Qenqo is divided into two places according to the paths that lead to it: the small road and the large road. The first crosses a hillside of Socorro hill. The second is the longest, which is at the foot of the hill and leads from Sacsayhuamán to Pisac. Qenqo Grande covers most of the current tourist buildings such as the underground galleries Qenqo Chico, on the other hand, is almost completely destroyed except for some carved stone walls and the urban layout of the site.
In the same style as the Roman amphitheaters, the Incas built a 55 meter long semicircular platform surrounded by unfinished niches in Qenqo. In the middle is a huge stone block (6 meters) irregularly erected in a rectangular block. In this place is the carved passage that leads to the underground galleries. Although popularly known as the amphitheater, its objective is still uncertain. It is presumed that this place should have served as a ceremonial center. The destruction caused during the conquest does not allow us to appreciate the true majesty of the site.
BLOOD OR CHICHA
Like many ancient cultures, the Incas offered the blood of different animals to worship their gods. They even made human sacrifices. Among the most used elements for these rites are the blood of llamas, alpacas, or chicha, fermented grain-based beverage. In Qenqo there is a rocky elevation that leads to a carved stone staircase to the top. There the Incas worked a hole that descends in zigzag until it is divided into 2 points, one to the underground galleries and the other that continues in slope. It is presumed that chicha or llama blood was offered there.
One of the main attractions of the Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu is the Intihuatana (‘place where the sun is tied’) or astronomical observatory to calculate the solar position. A similar construction exists in several important archaeological sites such as Ollantaytambo and Qenqo. The latter is based on a rock where two small cylindrical formations stand out. This lithic structure should have served as an astronomical observatory where the seasonal changes were calculated as well as an observatory to the sun, the moon and the stars.
THE TEMPLE OF THE APES
500 meters from the large Qenqo there are some irregularly carved rock constructions called Cusillachayoc, a Quechua word translated as Temple of the Apes. This rock has zoomorphic figures in relief of which the forms of snakes and monkeys stand out; which gave the name to the enclosure. Due to the destruction of the place, many of the main structures are damaged. On the site you can see the remains of a water pipe and the rock whose figure was probably that of a cougar.
The Incas made human sacrifices called ‘capacocha’. In Qenqo it is believed that there was a mortuary room called ‘Sacrifice Room’. This platform carved in a large rock resembles a large seat and is located in the underground galleries. In this structure floors, walls, ceilings, niches and other ways in which, it is presumed, human and animal sacrifices as well as embalming were made. The mortuary room is one of the spaces of the enclosure in better condition.