Marcahuasi Historical and Geological Information

The weather in Marcahuasi can be quite varied depending on the season. During the months of June –September, a period that the villagers call summer (because it is drier), it can be extremely cold at night reaching temperatures below freezing. In the rainy season during the actual summer (December- March) there is intense rain a well as very thick fogs. These extremes are illustrated in Figures 28 (a descent through the cloud in late December) and Figure 29 (courtesy of Alex Kornhuber) in which the clearest night sky can be appreciated.

Historical Background

The ruins of barracks and burial structures (chullpas) exhibit characteristics typical of other Inca military structures found elsewhere in Peru (Figures 30, 31a and 31b, courtesy of Alex Kornhuber). Daniel Ruzo describes in detail their architecture and the conflict between the Huancas and the armies sent by the Inca from Cuzco which resulted in the victory of the latter and the subjugation of the Huancas. Upon arrival of the Spaniards the Huancas became their allies and exacted their revenge. For the Incas the plateau constituted a strategic stronghold at the juncture of two important valleys.

Legends about Marcahuasi

It is said in the village that the Huanca god Huallallo sculpted the figures found on the plateau and that after their people’s defeat the Incas forced him to work for them in the construction of Sacsahuaman and the Coricancha temple in Cuzco.

During one of my longest stays at Marcahuasi, Severiano Olivares (son of Don Manuel) related another legend. Two powerful magicians, Lloctacure and Huambo, made war upon each other and during the final battle their armies were converted to stone through their magic. Huambo is the present name of a volcano in Southern Peru near Majes and Lloctacure is a magician mentioned in many Peruvian legends (Manuscript of Huarochiri and The Extirpation of Idolatry in Peru).

Taking into account the numerous cultures and ancient monuments and cities being discovered with modern archaeological techniques and the ever increasing age assigned to these, we believe it is totally unnecessary as well as irresponsible to invoke the involvement of aliens and UFOs in Marcahuasi as is often done by the more ignorant among its visitors. Unfortunately these beliefs which are highly publicized by the tabloids have discouraged serious researchers from studying the plateau. A high degree of courage and integrity is required from scientists to study a phenomenon that has been discredited by contemporary cultists.

Geology of Marcahuasi

The Marcahuasi volcanic group is composed of pyroclastic rocks containing volcanic ash, pumice and other minerals. Their age is estimated at 15-20 million years. This information was reported by the Mines, metallurgy and Geology Institute of Peru in the Geo-Touristic guide of Marcahuasi. Analyses of more than 30 representative samples obtained in our 2014 expedition confirmed this data.

Water in Marcahuasi

San Pedro relies in part for its water supply on the water collection and storage works on the plateau. The location of lagoons across the plateau can be seen as the darkest areas in the aerial photograph shown in Figure 32. Some of these lagoons (cochas) and their dykes are kept in good repair and maintained as cisterns by the villagers (Figures 33-36, courtesy of Alex Kornhuber). Cachu Cachu, the largest of these, located in the southern part of the plateau, is surrounded with sculptures (Figure 37). We have also identified a system of stone ducts which crisscross the plateau, leading the rain water to the various cochas (Figures 38-40) or providing channels for runoff at the edges of the plateau (Figures 41 and 42) feeding streams below that are used for irrigation (Figure 43). The importance ascribed to the water supply is demonstrated in the celebration of the Feast of Waters in San Pedro before the beginning of the rainy season in early October.

List of Figures

Figure 1. The original photograph of Peca Gasha, by Kuroki Riva, 1935

Figures 2a-c. Photographs of Peca Gasha from different angles, Daniel Ruzo, 1950s

Figures 2d-f. Photographs of Peca Gasha from the East (2d courtesy of Alex Kornhuber)

Figure 3. Daniel Ruzo at Marcahuasi (1954)

Figure 4. Daniel Ruzo with the musicians from Casta

Figure 5. Daniel Ruzo at his original camp north of Peca Gasha

Figure 6a. Don Manuel Olivares (2011), companion and guide of Daniel Ruzo (1953-1962)

Figure 6b. Don Manuel at his home with Javier Ruzo

Figure7. Ruzo’s stone hut (2016, courtesy of Alex Kornhuber)

Figure 8. The Philosopher

Figure 9. Human head

Figure 10. Head with cap and long beard

Figure 11. Faces above Cachu Cachu

Figure 12. Sculptures reflected on Cachu Cachu

Figure 13. The Knight

Figure 14. Man with cap

Figure 15. The Political King

Figure 16. The Lion (south side near Santa Maria)

Figure 17a. Track Road to San Pedro

Figure 17b. Track Road from the Autisha Bridge

Figure 18. San Pedro as seen from the trail going up to Marcahuasi

Figure 19. San Pedro, street where the Olivares live

Figure 20. Feast of Santiago in Casta

Figure 21. The Church at San Pedro (1978)

Figure 22. The Church at San Pedro (2016)

Figure 23. New track road toward the Amphitheater

Figure 24. The Long Way ascending to Marcahuasi

Figure 25. Ascent to the Amphitheater from the end of the new track road

Figure 26. Photograph taken from the end of the “alley” leading to the Peca Gasha

Figure 27a and 27b. Peca Gasha as seen from the West (27b courtesy of Alex Kornhuber)

Figure 28. Descent via the “Short Way” in December fog

Figure 29. Starry night in June (courtesy of Alex Kornhuber)

Figure 30. Barracks in ruins

Figures 31a and 31b. Chullpas (courtesy of Alex Kornhuber)

Figure 32. Aerial photograph of Marcahuasi

Figures 33. Close-up of the small lagoon near Peca Gasha (courtesy of Alex Kornhuber)

Figure 34. Huacracocha lagoon (courtesy of Alex Kornhuber)

Figure 35. Cachu Cachu lagoon

Figure 36. The dyke at Cachu Cachu

Figure 37. Sculptures facing Cachu Cachu

Figures 38-40. Water channels in the north side of the plateau

Figures 41 and 42. Water channels at the edge of the precipice

Figure 43. A stream near the village of Casta


Daniel Ruzo de los Heros, Marcahuasi : La Historia Fantastica de un Descubrimiento (Editorial Diana, Mexico) 1974. There were five subsequent editions in Mexico y Peru until 2004.

Daniel Ruzo, The Masma Culture  (Cultural Extension Program of the Military Academy of Peru). June 30, 1954.

Daniel Ruzo, Los Ultimos Dias del Apocalipsis, (Editorial Iztaccihuatl, Mexico 1970)

Pablo Joseph de Arriaga, La Extirpacion de la Idolatria en el Peru (1621), editado por el Centro de  Estudios Regionales Andinos, Cuzco, Peru (1999).

Manuscrito de Huarochiri, version bilingue de Jose Maria Arguedas, Biblioteca Nueva, Universidad de Extremadura (2011)