31 December, 2019
The Inca civilization in Peru gave great importance to astronomy. They were the only culture in the world that defined the constellations of light and darkness. The Incas not only identified individual constellations and stars, but also assigned them a purpose. They believed that everything in our world and its surroundings was connected. Contemplating a starry night sky is magical. People have always been fascinated with the stars and tried to find meaning in what they saw in the sky.
Astronomy was one of the most important studies for the Inca civilization and, of course, they developed it very well. They were able to define constellations, stars, the passage of time, the change of seasons, etc. The Inca city of Machu Picchu is completely built according to the sun; The same goes for the old buildings in the city of Cusco, whose streets were designed to mimic their constellations.
The Incas flourished in the Andes mountains in South America from the 12th to the 15th centuries. They have a great empire that extended from present-day Colombia to Chile. Worship was very important to them and they had a complicated religion, closely linked to astronomy. The Incas worshiped several gods, including Viracocha (The Creator), Inti (The Sun) and Chuqui Illa, the god of thunder. They also worshiped the huacas, spirits that were believed to inhabit any notable phenomenon, including large rocks, trees, streams or waterfalls.
In general the sky was very important for the Incas. Both the moon and the sun were seen as gods and built extravagant pillars and temples with great precision so that these “celestial bodies” pass over the structures or through windows on specific days. The most crucial events for the Incas generally involve sunrise and sunset, the moon and the stars.
Astronomy was very important for the Inca civilization, partly due to the importance of agriculture. Astronomy was used for agricultural purposes. Cusco, for example, is in a radial plan, imitating the sky and indicating specific astronomical events on the horizon. Similar to the ancient Egyptians, this was a culture based on the horizon. They built carefully placed pillars in mountains and hills overlooking Cusco, so when the sun rose or set between these pillars, they knew they had to plant at a specific altitude.
When looking at the stars, the Inca noticed many animals and other representations of his daily life. They believed that Viracocha had ensured that each animal had a corresponding star and that all living things were protected. Grouping these stars into constellations became very important for the Incas.
The Inca classified the constellations into two groups. The first and most common groups of stars were linked in a way to connect the dots to create images of animals, gods, heroes and more. These constellations were considered inanimate. It was especially believed that a group of stars known as Pleiades was influential on animal welfare. The Pleiades were not seen as a major god for the Inca, but they saw him as a huaca to which the shamans would make regular sacrifices.
The second type of constellations could only be observed when there were no stars: they were dark spots or spots on the Milky Way. These dark spots were considered live animals (animated). It was believed that animals lived in the Milky Way, which they considered a river. The Incas were one of the few civilizations that could locate their constellations without the presence of stars.
Some popular constellations of animals that identified:
* Mach’acuay – The Snake
* Hanp’atu – The Toad
* Yutu – The Tinamou
* Urcuchillay – The Flame
* Atoq – The Fox
The Inca worship of the stars and the dark constellations shows us that this culture believed that everything around it was connected. Heaven had a very special meaning in the management of this civilization and impacted everyday life. Even the construction of the famous site of Machu Picchu is connected to the stars. Archaeological and ethnological studies now suggest that Machu Picchu was a sacred ceremonial site, a site of agricultural experimentation and an astronomical observatory.