copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)                                             
Click Here to return to
Inca Lands
Content Page

Click Here to return to
previous chapter




THE valley of the Huatanay is one of many valleys tributary to the Urubamba. It differs from them in having more arable land located under climatic conditions favorable for the raising of the food crops of the ancient Peruvians. Containing an area estimated at less than 160 square miles, it was the heart of the greatest empire that South America has ever seen. It is still intensively cultivated, the home of a large percentage of the people of this part of Peru. The Huatanay itself sometimes meanders through the valley in a natural manner, but at other times is seen to be confined within carefully built stone walls constructed by prehistoric agriculturists anxious to save their fields from floods and erosion. The climate is temperate. Extreme cold is unknown. Water freezes in the lowlands during the dry winter season, in June and July, and frost may occur any night in the year above 13,000 feet, but in general the climate may be said to be neither warm nor cold.

This rich valley was apportioned by the Spanish conquerors to soldiers who were granted large estates as well as the labor of the Indians living on them. This method still prevails and one may occasionally meet on the road wealthy landholders on their way to and from town. Although mules that this was an Inca fortress, intended to separate the chiefs of Cuzco from those of Vilcanota. It is now locally referred to as a “fortaleza.” The major part of the wall is well built of rough stones, laid in clay, while the sides of the gateway are faced with carefully cut andesite ashlars of an entirely different style. It is conceivable that some great chieftain built the rough wall in the days when the highlands were split up among many little independent rulers, and that later one of the Incas, no longer needing any fortifications between the Huatanay Valley and the Vilcanota Valley, tore down part of the wall and built a fine gateway. The faces of the ashlars are nicely finished except for several rough bosses or nubbins. They were probably used by the ancient masons in order to secure a better  hold when finally adjusting the ashlars with small crowbars. It may have been the intention of the stone masons to remove these nubbins after the wall was completed. In one of the unfinished structures at Machu Picchu I noticed similar bosses. The name “Stone-granary” was probably originally applied to a neighboring edifice now in ruins.

On the rocky hillside above Rumiccolca are the ruins of many ancient terraces and some buildings. Not far from Rumiccolca, on the slopes of Mt. Piquillacta, are the ruins of an extensive city, also called Piquillacta. A large number of its houses have extraordinarily high walls. A high wall outside the city, and running north and south, was obviously built to protect it from enemies approaching from the Vilcanota Valley. In the other directions the are essentially the most reliable saddle animals for work in the Andes, these landholders usually prefer horses, which are larger and faster, as well as being more gentle and better gaited. The gentry of the Huatanay Valley prefer a deep-seated saddle, over which is laid a heavy sheepskin or thick fur mat. The fashionable stirrups are pyramidal in shape, made of wood decorated with silver bands. Owing to the steepness of the roads, a crupper is considered necessary and is usually decorated with a broad, embossed panel, from which hang little trappings reminiscent of medieval harness. The bridle is usually made of carefully braided leather, decorated with silver and frequently furnished with an embossed leather eye shade or blinder, to indicate that the horse is high-spirited. This eye shade, which may be pulled down so as to blind both eyes completely, is more useful than a hitching post in persuading the horse to stand still.

The valley of the Huatanay River is divided into three parts, the basins of Lucre, Oropesa, and Cuzco. The basaltic cliffs near Oropesa divide the Lucre Basin from the Oropesa Basin. The pass at Angostura, or “the narrows,” is the natural gateway between the Oropesa Basin and the Cuzco Basin. Each basin contains interesting ruins. In the Lucre Basin the most interesting are those of Rumiccolca and Piquillacta.

At the extreme eastern end of the valley, on top of the pass which leads to the Vilcanota is an ancient gateway called Rumiccolca (Rumi = “stone”; ccolca = “granary”). It is commonly supposed slopes are so steep as to render a wall unnecessary. The walls are built of fragments of lava rock, with which the slopes of Mt. Piquillacta are covered. Cacti and thorny scrub are growing in the ruins, but the volcanic soil is rich enough to attract the attention of agriculturists, who come here from neighboring villages to cultivate their crops. The slopes above the city are still extensively cultivated, but without terraces. Wheat and barley are the principal crops.

As an illustration of the difficulty of identifying places in ancient Peru, it is worth noting that the gateway now called Rumiccolca is figured in Squier’s “Peru” as “Piquillacta.” On the other hand, the ruins of the large city, “covering thickly an area nearly a square mile,” are called by Squier “the great Inca town of Muyna,” a name also applied to the little lake which lies in the bottom of the Lucre Basin. As Squier came along the road from Racche he saw Mt. Piquillacta first, then the gateway, then Lake Muyna, then the ruins of the city. In each case the name of the most conspicuous, harmless, natural phenomenon seems to have been applied to ruins by those of whom he inquired. My own experience was different.


Dr. Aguilar, a distinguished professor in the University of Cuzco, who has a country place in the neighborhood and is very familiar with this region, brought me to this ancient city from the other direction. From him I learned that the city ruins are called Piquillacta, the name which is also applied to the mountain which lies to the eastward of the ruins and rises 1200 feet above them. Dr. Aguilar lives near Oropesa. As one comes from Oropesa, Mt. Piquillacta is a conspicuous point and is directly in line with the city ruins. Consequently, it would be natural for people viewing it from this direction to give to the ruins flue name of the mountain rather than that of the lake. Yet the mountain may be named for the ruins. Piqui means “flea”; llacta means “town, city, country, district, or territory.” Was this “Territory of the Fleas” or was it “Flea Town”? And what was it a name in the clays of the Incas? Was the old name abandoned because it was considered unlucky?

Whatever the reason, it is a most extraordinary fact that we have here the evidences of a very large town, possibly pre-Inca, long since abandoned. There are scores of houses and numerous compounds laid out in regular fashion, the streets crossing each other at right angles, the whole covering an area considerably larger than the important town of Ollantaytambo. Not a soul lives here. It is true that across the Vilcanota to the cast is a difficult, mountainous country culminating in Mt. Ausangate, the highest peak in the department. Yet Piquillacta is in the midst of a populous region. To the north lies the thickly settled valley of Pisac and Yucay; to the south, the important Vilcanota Valley with dozens of villages; to the west the densely populated valley of the Huatanay and Cuzco itself, the largest city in the highlands of Peru. Thousands of people live within a radius of twenty miles of Piquillacta, and the population is on the increase. It is perfectly easy of access and is less than a mile east of the railroad. Yet it is “abandonado — desierto — despoblado”! Undoubtedly here was once a large city of great importance. The reason for its being abandoned appears to be the absence of running water. Although Mt. Piquillacta is a large mass, nearly five miles long and two miles wide, rising to a point of 2000 feet above the Huatanay and Vilcanota rivers, it has no streams, brooks, or springs. It is an isolated, extinct volcano surrounded by igneous rocks, lavas, andesites, and basalts.

How came it that so large a city as Piquillacta could have been built on the slopes of a mountain which has no running streams? Has the climate changed so much since those days? If so, how is it that the surrounding region is still the populous part of southern Peru? It is inconceivable that so large a city could have been built and occupied on a plateau four hundred feet above the nearest water unless there was some way of providing it other than the arduous one of bringing every drop up the hill on the backs of men and llamas. If there were no places near here better provided with water than this site, one could understand that perhaps its inhabitants were obliged to depend entirely upon water carriers. On the contrary, within a radius of six miles there are half a dozen unoccupied sites near running streams. Until further studies can be made of this puzzling problem I believe that the answer lies in the ruins of Rumiccolca, which are usually thought of as a fortress.

Squier says that this “fortress” was “the southern limit of the dominions of the first Inca.” “The fortress reaches from the mountain, on one side, to a high, rocky eminence on the other. It is popularly called ‘El Aqueducto,’ perhaps from some fancied resemblance to an aqueduct — but the name is evidently misapplied.” Yet he admits that the cross-section of the wall, diminishing as it does “by graduations or steps on both sides,” “might appear to conflict with the hypothesis of its being a work of defense or fortification” if it occupied “a different position.” He noticed that “the top of the wall is throughout of the same level; becomes less in height as it approaches the hills on either hand and diminishes proportionately in thickness” as an aqueduct should do. Yet, so possessed was he by the “fortress” idea that he rejected not only local tradition as expressed in the native name, but even turned his back on the evidence of his own eyes. It seems to me that there is little doubt that instead of the ruins of Rumiccolca representing a fortification, we have here the remains of an ancient azequia, or aqueduct, built by some powerful chieftain to supply the people of Piquillacta with water.

A study of the topography of the region shows that the river which rises southwest of the village of Lucre and furnishes water power for its modern textile mills could have been used to supply such an azequia. The water, collected at an elevation of 10,700 feet, could easily have been brought six miles along the southern slopes of the Lucre Basin, around Mt. Rumiccolca and across the old road, on this aqueduct, at an elevation of about 10,600 feet. This would have permitted it to flow through some of the streets of Piquillacta and give the ancient city an adequate supply of water. The slopes of Rumiccolca are marked by many ancient terraces. Their upper limit corresponds roughly with the contour along which such an azequia would have had to pass. There is, in fact, a distinct line on the hillside which looks as though an azequia had once passed that way. In the valley back of Lucre are also faint indications of old azequias. There has been, however, a considerable amount of erosion on the hills, and if, as seems likely, the water-works have been out of order for several centuries, it is not surprising that all traces of them have disappeared in places. I regret very much that circumstances over which I had no control prevented my making a thorough study of the possibilities of such a theory. It remains for some fortunate future investigator to determine who were the inhabitants of Piquillacta, how they secured their water supply, and why the city was abandoned.



Until then I suggest as a possible working hypothesis that we have at Piquillacta the remains of a pre-Inca city; that its chiefs and people cultivated the Lucre Basin and its tributaries; that as a community they were a separate political entity from the people of Cuzco; that the ruler of the Cuzco people, perhaps an Inca, finally became sufficiently powerful to conquer the people of the Lucre Basin, and removed the tribes which had occupied Piquillacta to a distant part of his domain, a system of colonization well known in the history of the Incas; that, after the people who had built and lived in Piquillacta departed, no subsequent dwellers in this region cared to reoccupy the site, and its aqueduct fell into decay. It is easy to believe that at first such a site would have been considered unlucky. Its houses, unfamiliar and unfashionable in design, would have been considered not desirable. Their high walls might have been used for a reconstructed city had there been plenty of water available. In any case, the ruins of the Lucre Basin offer a most fascinating problem.

In the Oropesa Basin the most important ruins are those of Tipon, a pleasant, well-watered valley several hundred feet above the village of Quispicanchi. They include carefully constructed houses of characteristic Inca construction, containing many symmetrically arranged niches with stone lintels. The walls of most of the houses are of rough stones laid in clay. Tipon was probably the residence of the principal chief of the Oropesa Basin. It commands a pleasant view of the village and of the hills to the south, which to-day are covered with fields of wheat and barley. At Tipon there is a nicely constructed fountain of cut stone. Some of the terraces are extremely well built, with roughly squared blocks fitting tightly together. Access from one terrace to another was obtained by steps made each of a single bonder projecting from the face of the terrace. Few better constructed terrace walls are to be seen anywhere. The terraces are still cultivated by the people of Quispicanchi. No one lives at Tipon now, although little shepherd boys and goatherds frequent the neighborhood. It is more convenient for the agriculturists to live at the edge of their largest fields, which are in the valley bottom, than to climb five hundred feet into the narrow valley and occupy the old buildings. Motives of security no longer require a residence here rather than in the open plain.

While I was examining the ruins and digging up a few attractive potsherds bearing Inca designs, Dr. Giesecke, the President of the University of Cuzco, who had accompanied me, climbed the mountain above Tipon with Dr. Aguilar and reported the presence of a fortification near its summit. My stay at Oropesa was rendered most comfortable and happy by the generous hospitality of Dr. Aguilar, whose finca is between Quispicanchi and ‘Oropesa and commands a charming view of the valley.

From the Oropesa Basin, one enters the Cuzco Basin through an opening in the sandstone cliffs of Angostura near the modern town of San Geronimo. On the slopes above the south bank of the Huatanay, just beyond Angostura, are the ruins of a score or more of gable-roofed houses of characteristic Inca construction. The ancient buildings have doors, windows, and niches in walls of small stones laid in clay, the lintels having been of wood, now decayed. When we asked the name of these ruins we were told that it was Saylla, although that is the name of a modern village three miles away, down the Huatanay, in the Oropesa Basin. Like Piquillacta, old Saylla has no water supply at present. It is not far from a stream called the Kkaira and could easily have been supplied with water by an azequia less than two miles in length brought along the 11,000 feet contour. It looks very much like the case of a village originally placed on the hills for the sake of comparative security and isolation arid later abandoned through a desire to enjoy the advantages of living near the great highway in the bottom of the valley, after the Incas had established over the highlands. There may be another explanation.

It appears from Mr. Cook’s studies that the deforestation of the Cuzco Basin by the hand a man, and modern methods of tillage on unterraced slopes, have caused an unusual amount of erosion to occur. Landslides are frequent in the rainy season.

Opposite Saylla is Mt. Picol, whose twin peaks are the most conspicuous feature on the north side of the basin. Waste material from its slopes is causing the rapid growth of a great gravel fan north of the village of San Geronimo. Professor Gregory noticed that the streams traversing the fan are even now engaged in burying ancient fields by “transporting gravel from the head of the fan to its lower margin,” and that the lower end of the Cuzco Basin, where the Huatanay, hemmed in between the Angostura Narrows, cannot carry away the sediment as fast as it is brought down by its tributaries, is being choked up. If old Saylla represents a fortress set here to defend Cuzco against old Oropesa, it might very naturally have been abandoned when the rule of the Incas finally spread far over the Andes. On the other hand, it seems more likely that the people who built Saylla were farmers and that when the lower Cuzco Basin was filled up by aggradation, due to increased erosion, they abandoned this site for one nearer the arable lands. One may imagine the dismay with which the agricultural residents of these ancient houses saw their beautiful fields at the bottom of the hill, covered in a few days, or even hours, by enormous quantities of coarse gravel brought down from the steep slopes of Picol after some driving rainstorm. It may have been some such catastrophe that led them to take up their residence elsewhere. As a matter of fact we do not know when it was abandoned. Further investigation might point to its having been deserted when the Spanish village of San Geronimo was founded. However, I believe students of agriculture will agree with me that deforestation, increased erosion, and aggrading gravel banks probably drove the folk out of Saylla.

The southern rim of the Cuzco Basin is broken by no very striking peaks, although Huanacaurai (13,427 ft.), the highest point, is connected in Inca tradition with some of the principal festivals and religious celebrations. The north side of the Huatanay Valley is much more irregular, ranging from Ttica Ttica pass (12,000 ft.) to Mt. Pachatucsa (15,915 ft.), whose five little peaks are frequently snow-clad. There is no permanent snow either here or elsewhere in the Huatanay Valley.

The people of the Cuzco Basin are very short of fuel. There is no native coal. What the railroad uses comes from Australia. Firewood is scarce. The ancient forests disappeared long ago. The only trees in sight are a few willows or poplars from Europe and one or two groves of eucalyptus, also from Australia. Cuzco has been thought of and written of as being above the tree line, but such is not the case. The absence of trees on the neighboring hills is due entirely to the hand of man, the long occupation, the necessities of early agriculturists, who cleared the forests before the days of intensive terrace agriculture, and the firewood requirements of a large population. The people of Cuzco do not dream of having enough fuel to make their houses warm and comfortable. Only with difficulty can they get enough for cooking purposes. They depend largely on fagots and straw which are brought into town on the backs of men and animals.

In the fields of stubble left from the wheat and barley harvest we saw many sheep feeding. They were thin and long-legged and many of the rains had four horns, apparently due to centuries of inbreeding and the failure to improve the original stock by the introduction of new and superior strains.

When one looks at the great amount of arable slopes on most of the hills of the Cuzco Basin and the unusually extensive flat land near the Huatanay, one readily understands why the heart of Inca Land witnessed a concentration of population very unusual in the Andes. Most of the important ruins are in the northwest quadrant of the basin either in the immediate vicinity of Cuzco itself or on the “pampas” north of the city. The reason is that the arable lands where most extensive potato cultivation could be carried out are nearly all in this quadrant. In the midst of this potato country, at the foot of the pass that leads directly to Pisac and Paucartambo, is a picturesque ruin which bears the native name of Pucára.

Pucára is the Quichua word for fortress and it needs but one glance at the little hilltop crowned with a rectangular fortification to realize that the term is justified. The walls are beautifully made of irregular blocks closely fitted together. Advantage was taken of small cliffs on two sides of the hill to strengthen the fortifications. We noticed openings or drains which had been cut in the wall by the original builders in order to prevent the accumulation of moisture on the terraced floor of the enclosed area, which is several feet above that of the sloping field outside. Similar conduits may be seen in many of the old walls in the city of Cuzco. Apparently, the ancient folk fully appreciated the importance of good drainage and took pains to secure it. At present Pucára is occupied by llama herdsmen and drovers, who find the enclosure a very convenient corral. Probably Pucára was built by the chief of a tribe of prehistoric herdsmen who raised root crops and kept their flocks of llamas and alpacas on the neighboring grassy slopes.

A short distance up the stream of the Lkalla Chaca, above Pucára, is a warm mineral spring. Around it is a fountain of cut stone. Near by are the ruins of a beautiful terrace, on top of which is a fine wall containing four large, ceremonial niches, level with the ground and about six feet high. The place is now called Tampu Machai. Polo de Ondegardo, who lived in Cuzco in 1560, while many of the royal family of the Incas were still alive, gives a list of the sacred or holy places which were venerated by all the Indians in those days. Among these he mentions that of Timpucpuquio, the “hot springs” near Tambo Machai, “called so, from the manner in which the water boils up.” The next huaca, or holy place, he mentions is Tambo Machai itself, “a house of the Inca Yupanqui, where he was entertained when he went to be married. It was placed on a hill near the road over the Andes. They sacrifice everything here except children.”

The stonework of the ruins here is so excellent in character, the ashlars being very carefully fitted together, one may fairly assume a religious origin for the place. The Quichua word macchini means “to wash” or “to rinse a large narrow-mouthed pitcher.” It may be that at Tampu Machai ceremonial purification of utensils devoted to royal or priestly uses was carried on. It is possible that this is the place where, according to Molina, all the youths of Cuzco who had been armed as knights in the great November festival came on the 21st day of the month to bathe and change their clothes. Afterwards they returned to the city to be lectured by their relatives. “Each relation that offered a sacrifice flogged a youth and delivered a discourse to him, exhorting him to be valiant and never to be a traitor to the Sun and the Inca, but to imitate the bravery and prowess of his ancestors.”

Tampu Machai is located on a little bluff above the Lkalla Chaca, a small stream which finally joins the Huatanay near the town of San Sebastian. Before it reaches the Huatanay, the Lkalla Chaca joins the Cachimayo, famous as being so highly impregnated with salt as to have caused the rise of extensive salt works. In fact, the Pizarros named the place Las Salinas, or “the Salt Pits,” on account of the salt pans with which, by a careful system of terracing, the natives had filled the Cachimayo Valley. Prescott describes the great battle which took place here on April 26, 1539, between the forces of Pizarro and Almagro, the two leaders who had united for the original conquest of Peru, but quarreled over the division of the territory. Near the salt pans are many Inca walls and the ruins of structures, with niches, called Rumihuasi, or “Stone House.” The presence of salt in many of the springs of the Huatanay Valley was a great source of annoyance to our topographic engineers, who were frequently obliged to camp in districts where the only water available was so saline as to spoil it for drinking purposes and ruin the tea.

The Cuzco Basin was undoubtedly once the site of a lake, “an ancient water-body whose surface,” says Professor Gregory, “lay well above the present site of San Sebastian and San Geronimo.” This lake is believed to have reached its maximum expansion in early Pleistocene times. Its rich silts, so well adapted for raising maize, habas beans, and quinoa, have always attracted farmers and are still intensively cultivated. It has been named “Lake Morkill” in honor of that loyal friend of scientific research in Peru, William L. Morkill, Esq., without whose untiring aid we could never have brought our Peruvian explorations as far along as we did. In pre-glacial times Lake Morkill fluctuated in volume. From time to time parts of the shore were exposed long enough to enable, plants to send their roots into the fine materials and the sun to bake and crack the muds. Mastodons grazed on its banks. “Lake Morkill probably existed during all or nearly all of the glacial epoch.” Its drainage was finally accomplished by the Huatanay cutting down the sandstone hills, near Saylla, and developing the Angostura gorge.

In the banks of the Huatanay, a short distance below the city of Cuzco, the stratified beds of the vanished Lake Morkill to-day contain many fossil shells. Above these are gravels brought down by the floods and landslides of more modern times, in which may be found potsherds and bones. One of the chief affluents of the Huatanay is the Chunchullumayo, which cuts off the southernmost third of Cuzco from the center of the city. Its banks are terraced and are still used for gardens and food crops. Here the hospitable Canadian missionaries have their pleasant station, a veritable oasis of Anglo-Saxon cleanliness.

On a July morning in 1911, while strolling up the Ayahuaycco quebrada, an affluent of the Chunchullumayo, in company with Professor Foote and Surgeon Erving, my interest was aroused by the sight of several bones and potsherds exposed by recent erosion in the stratified gravel banks of the little gulch. Further examination showed that recent erosion had also cut through an ancient ash heap. On the side toward Cuzco I discovered a section of stone wall, built of roughly finished stones more or less carefully fitted together, which at first sight appeared to have been built to prevent further washing away of that side of the gulch. Yet above the wall and flush with its surface the bank appeared to consist of stratified gravel, indicating that the wall antedated the gravel deposits. Fifty feet farther up the quebrada another portion of wall appeared under the gravel bank. On top of the bank was a cultivated field! Half an hour’s digging in the compact gravel showed that there was more wall underneath the field. Later investigation by Dr. Bowman showed that the wall was about three feet thick and nine feet in height, carefully faced on both sides with roughly cut stone and filled in with rubble, a type of stonework not uncommon in the foundations of some of the older buildings in the western part of the city of Cuzco.


Even at first sight it was obvious that this wall, built by man, was completely covered to a depth of six or eight feet by a compact water-laid gravel bank. This was sufficiently difficult to understand, yet a few days later, while endeavoring to solve the puzzle, I found something even more exciting. Half a mile farther up the gulch, the road, newly cut, ran close to the compact, perpendicular gravel bank. About five feet above the road I saw what looked like one of the small rocks which are freely interspersed throughout the gravels here. Closer examination showed it to be the end of a human femur. Apparently it formed an integral part of the gravel bank, which rose almost perpendicularly for seventy or eighty feet above it. Impressed by the possibilities in case it should turn out to be true that here, in the heart of Inca Land, a human bone had been buried under seventy-five feet of gravel, I refrained from disturbing it until I could get Dr. Bowman and Professor Foote, the geologist and the naturalist of the 1911 Expedition, to come with me to the Ayahuaycco quebrada. We excavated the femur and found behind it fragments of a number of other bones. They were excessively fragile. The femur was unable to support more than four inches of its own weight and broke off after the gravel had been partly removed. Although the gravel itself was somewhat damp the bones were dry and powdery, ashy gray in color. The bones were carried to the Hotel Central, where they were carefully photographed, soaked in melted vaseline, packed in cotton batting, and eventually brought to New Haven. Here they were examined by Dr. George F. Eaton, Curator of Osteology in the Peabody Museum. In the meantime Dr. Bowman had become convinced that the compact gravels of Ayahuaycco were of glacial origin.

When Dr. Eaton first examined the bone fragments he was surprised to find among them the bone of a horse. Unfortunately a careful examination of the photographs taken in Cuzco of all the fragments which were excavated by us on July 11th failed to reveal this particular bone. Dr. Bowman, upon being questioned, said that he had dug out one or two more bones in the cliff adjoining our excavation of July 11th and had added these to the original lot. Presumably this horse bone was one which he had added when the bones were packed. It did not worry him, however, and so sure was he of his interpretation of the gravel beds that he declared he did not care if we had found the bone of a Percheron stallion, he was sure that the age of the vertebrate remains might be “provisionally estimated at 20,000 to 40,000 years,” until further studies could be made of the geology of the surrounding territory. In an article on the buried wall, Dr. Bowman came to the conclusion that “the wall is pre-Inca, that its relations to alluvial deposits which cover it indicate its erection before the alluvial slope in which it lies buried was formed, and that it represents the earliest type of architecture at present known in the Cuzco basin.”

Dr. Eaton’s study of the bones brought out the fact that eight of them were fragments of human bones representing at least three individuals, four were fragments of llama bones, one of the bone of a dog, and three were “bovine remains.” The human remains agreed “in all essential respects” with the bones of modern Quichuas. Llama and dog might all have belonged to Inca, or even more recent times, but the bovine remains presented considerable difficulty. The three fragments were from bones which are among the least characteristic parts of the skeleton. That which was of greatest interest was the fragment of a first rib, resembling the first rib of the extinct bison. Since this fragmentary bovine rib was of a form apparently characteristic of bisons and not seen in the domestic cattle of the United States, Dr. Eaton felt that it could not be denied “that the material examined suggests the possibility that some species of bison is here represented, yet it would hardly be in accordance with conservative methods to differentiate bison from domestic cattle solely by characters obtained from a study of the first ribs of a small number of individuals.” Although staunchly supporting his theory of the age of the vertebrate remains, Dr. Bowman in his report on their geological relations admitted that the weakness of his case lay in the fact that the bovine remains were not sharply differentiated from the bones of modern cattle, and also in the possibility that “the bluff in which the bones were found may be faced by younger gravel and that the bones were found in a gravel veneer deposited during litter periods of partial valley filling, . . . although it still seems very unlikely.”

Reports of glacial man in America have come from places as widely separated as California and Argentina. Careful investigation, however, has always thrown doubt on any great age being certainly attributable to any human remains. In view of the fragmentary character of the skeletal evidence, the fact that no proof of great antiquity could be drawn from the characters of the human skeletal parts, and the suggestion made by Dr. Bowman of the possibility that the gravels which contained the bones might be of a later origin than he thought, we determined to make further and more complete investigations in 1912. It was most desirable to clear up all doubts and dissolve all skepticism. I felt, perhaps mistakenly, that while a further study of the geology of the Cuzco Basin undoubtedly might lead Dr. Bowman to reverse his opinion, as was expected by some geologists, if it should lead him to confirm his original conclusions the same skeptics would be likely to continue their skepticism and say he was trying to bolster up his own previous opinions. Accordingly, I believed it preferable to take another geologist, whose independent testimony would give great weight to those conclusions should he find them confirmed by an exhaustive geological study of the Huatanay Valley. I asked Dr. Bowman’s colleague, Professor Gregory, to make the necessary studies. At his request a very careful map of the Huatanay Valley was prepared under the direction of Chief Topographer Albert H. Bumstead. Dr. Eaton, who had had no opportunity of seeing Peru, was invited to accompany us and make a study of the bones of modern Peruvian cattle as well as of any other skeletal remains which might be found.

Furthermore, it seemed important to me to dig a tunnel into the Ayahuaycco hillside at the exact point from which we took the bones in 1911. So I asked Mr. K. C. Heald, whose engineering training had been in Colorado, to superintend it. Mr. Heald dug a tunnel eleven feet long, with a cross-section four and a half by three feet, into the solid mass of gravel. He expected to have to use timbering, but so firmly packed was the gravel that this was not necessary. No bones or artifacts were found — nothing but coarse gravel, uniform in texture and containing no unmistakable evidences of stratification. Apparently the bones had been in a land slip on the edge of an older, compact gravel mass.

In his studies of the Cuzco Basin Professor Gregory came to the conclusion that the Ayahuaycco gravel banks might have been repeatedly buried and reëxcavated many times during the past few centuries. He found evidence indicating periodic destruction and rebuilding of some gravel terraces, “even within the past one hundred years.” Accordingly there was no longer any necessity to ascribe great antiquity to the bones or the wall which we found in the Ayahuaycco quebrada. Although the “Cuzco gravels are believed to have reached their greatest extent and thickness in late Pleistocene times,” more recent deposits have, however, been superimposed on top and alongside of them. “Surface wash from the bordering slopes, controlled in amount and character by climatic changes, has probably been accumulating continuously since glacial times, and has greatly increased since human occupation began.” “Geologic data do not require more than a few hundreds of years as the age of the human remains found in the Cuzco gravels.”

But how about the “bison”? Soon after his arrival in Cuzco, Dr. Eaton examined the first ribs of carcasses of beef animals offered for sale in the public markets. He immediately became convinced that the “bison” was a Peruvian domestic ox. “Under the life-conditions prevailing in this part of the Andes, and possibly in correlation with the increased action of the respiratory muscles in a rarefied air, domestic cattle occasionally develop first ribs, closely approaching the form observed in bison.” Such was the sad end of the “bison” and the “Cuzco man,” who at one time I thought might be forty thousand years old, and now believe to have been two hundred years old, perhaps. The word Ayahuaycco in Quichua means “the valley of dead bodies” or “dead man’s gulch.” There is a story that it was used as a burial place for plague victims in Cuzco, not more than three generations ago!

Click here to continue to the next chapter of Inca Lands