The city of Machu Picchu is a religious, military and residential area, divided by majestic plazas. In this religious area are temples, the royal sarcophagus, the intihuatana and priests’ residences. A portion of this area is reserved for the Inca, his partner Mama Occllo and the royal house, a temple-like building with three large windows made of perfectly framed granite blocks.
The highest point of this religious area is the Intihuatana. At this sacred place is a small flat plaza where the Inca or high priest could speak to his people. The acoustics are perfect in the great plaza located below, similar to today’s auditoriums. To the right of the main square is the residential area, and up on a rocky hill, the military zone.
The intihuatana is a sundial perfectly modeled with the highest peak of a natural rock. “Inti” means ‘sun’ and “Huatana” ‘trap’, thus, “intihuatana” is ‘a rock that holds the sun’ so to speak. It was an altar to worship the highest visible god, the Inti. Peruvian regions on the solstice still come to offer prayers and flowers to intihuatana.
El Torreón, for example, also known as the Sun Temple (Templo del Sol) is built over a cave, a cave that served as a repository of mummified Incas and other dignitaries, as well as an altar for ritual offerings. The Tower is built completely of granite, perfectly polished and conformed blocks between them. The temple is a small intihuatana cut and served as a solar observatory (this is also visible in the drawing to the right). The windows are located so that you can see the sunrise during the summer and winter solstices. On these days (December 21 and June 24) the sun
first flows into a window through the Inti Punku (the Sun Gate or “Puerta del Sol”) or from the other side of the Vilcanota Valley.