Almost all ancient civilizations marveled at the vastness of the sky and its stars, and the Inca culture was no exception. For the ancient Inca Empire, astronomy formed an important part of their culture and worldview. It was one of the most important studies for this civilization and its development was very advanced for the time. They were able to define certain constellations, the passage of time, stars, and the change of seasons among other achievements. Even his religion was strongly connected with the study of astronomy, his worship of the Sun God Inti is clear evidence of this. For this reason, together with the experts of Cusco Peru Travel, we have thought of a small article about the main aspects of Inca Astronomy. So that you know other important aspects of Peruvian culture.
The Inca Astronomy: The ancestral vision of the skies
Because the Incas had as their objective the unification of the Andean people, they needed to have great knowledge about the climate, the seasonal changes, and how these influence agriculture. The Inca astronomy was what allowed them to grow at a much faster rate, reaching a vast territory in less than 300 years. Luckily for the Incas, this knowledge dates long before their Empire. The ancient Empire inherited this knowledge from ancient pre-Inca civilizations, such as the first settlers of Caral. Even the first coastal civilizations of Peru had a strong devotion to the Sun and Moon God, building sanctuaries (Huacas) in their honor. The Temple of the Moon is great evidence of the many temples that existed around Peru. The religion of ancient civilizations was complicated but closely linked to astronomical studies. That strong devotion to the stars began to form what would later become the first foundations of Inca astronomy.
The Inca Astronomy was very important for the development of their civilization, as it was related to agriculture. The Incas used astronomy and observing the skies to identify seasonal changes, solstices, and the best time to harvest or sow. But this is not all, it is believed that most of the ancient Inca cities and their holy places were geodesically aligned. This characteristic can also be observed in other sacred places of ancient civilizations such as the Mayans and Egyptians. For example, the ancient urban layout of the Imperial City tried to mimic the constellations in the sky. In addition to all this, astronomical instruments such as the Intihuatana were built, carved, and located in numerous sacred places.
In general, the skies were very important to the Inca culture. Both the Moon and the Sun were seen as gods and numerous buildings were built in honor of them. Architecture, religion, and his vision of the world were strongly linked to Inca astronomy. Temples and pillars were built with great precision so that the different celestial bodies could align themselves with them. Even the architecture of Machu Picchu was designed to fulfill these functions. A great example of this is the Temple of the Three Windows, facing east and allowing you to notice the movement of the Sun. Within our Luxury Peru tours, you will be able to visit these attractions while enjoying the best Machu Picchu information.
When the Incas looked at the stars, they realized that some groups of these were similar to what they saw in their daily life. The Incas, as well as other ancient civilizations, managed to identify some constellations. They believed that the stars protected the animals on earth and each animal had a constellation that watched over it. The ancient Incas classified the different constellations into two well-defined groups. The first consisted of stars that when joined together formed figures, while the second was related to the gaseous clouds of the Milky Way. Luckily, all the ancient cult of the constellations by the Inca Empire as well as the knowledge of the importance in the agricultural cycle managed to survive the Spanish conquest and the colonial era. Together with our Peru Travel guide, you can learn about these many details of the ancient culture and much more.
And as if this was not enough, not only the Incas had a close relationship with the heavens. The Nazca culture was another great pioneer of astronomy, leaving us its majestic and timeless Nazca Lines. If you are wondering what the Nazca lines are, these are some giant geoglyphs in the middle of the Peruvian desert. Although its purpose remains unknown, some theories assume that it had a great astronomical purpose. Leaving aside the great Nazca Lines mystery that surrounds the place, the different cults to the heavens show us how everything was closely connected. The clear relationship of the heavens with agriculture, architecture, religion, and culture suggests that Inca astronomy had a great impact on daily life and was key in the management of civilization.
As we mentioned earlier, Inca astronomy was key to agricultural production. The Incas were expert observers of the skies and they followed the movement of the Sun across the sky, marking where it rose and where it perched on stone pillars. These continuous observations helped the Incas to know the harvest and sowing times.
“ASTRONOMY COMPELS THE SOUL TO LOOK UPWARDS AND LEAD US FROM THIS WORLD TO ANOTHER.”
We hope together with Cusco Peru Travel to have been able to clarify a little the astronomical aspect of the Inca culture. If you are looking to know more about this amazing civilization, it is obviously much better done by visiting Peru. Our qualified advisors can help you plan your future vacations.