Samaipata Fortress (World Heritage)

According to hyperrestaurant, the ruins of El Fuerte de Samaipata are located southeast of La Paz on a mountain top at an altitude of 1950 m. It is a unique testimony to pre-Columbian traditions and cults. The ceremonial center and the remains of the Inca settlements from the 14th to 16th centuries are spread over around 40 hectares. A multitude of channels, steps and figures have been carved on an elongated sandstone rock.

Samaipata Fortress: Facts

Official title: Pre-Columbian fortress Samaipata
Cultural monument: Inca ceremonial center from the 14th-16th centuries Century as evidence of a highly developed culture in the Andean region with niches carved out of the rock and depictions of puma or jaguars, after the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire south of this center, construction of a “fortress” to control the Chiriguano living in the lowlands
Continent: America
Country: Bolivia
Location: Samaipata, southeast of La Paz, on the eastern flank of the Bolivian Andes
Appointment: 1998
Meaning: a major pre-Columbian ceremonial center with carved sandstone rocks

Samaipata Fortress: History

1438-1471 Expansion of the Inca Empire under Pachacutec Yupanqui
1493-1525 Division of the empire under Huayna Capac
1532-1535 Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire
1992 and 1994/95 Investigations by the Department of Ethnology at the University of Bonn

In search of the holy mountain

Today nobody can say with absolute certainty whether it was really the holy mountain they were looking for. After all, the guaraní-speaking Chiriguano, who penetrated from the lowlands, were rewarded princely when they stole the gold left behind by the Inca after the conquest. About a generation before the Spanish conquest of South America, the Chiriguano set out westward from the Atlantic coast in what is now Brazil in search of a “loma santa,” a “holy mountain,” which should be in a “land without evil.” In this, the Chiriguano believed, there was abundance and people were immortal.

At the “elbow of the Andes” they came across the most easterly outpost of the Inca, who were just preparing to incorporate the entire Andean region into the largest empire of ancient America. Hardly anyone on both sides had expected such bitter resistance, least of all the Inca, who were used to victory. But it was just an ordinary fortress, one of many that they had built on the eastern foothills of the Andes, similar to a Roman Limes.

At its center is a reddish sandstone rock about 250 meters long and 50 meters wide, which stretches in an east-west direction and which is still valued today – not only by esotericists – for its calming and energizing effect on people.

One can explain this radiation scientifically – for example as an electromagnetic field – or simply deny it. It seems undisputed that this bare rock represented something special for the Inca and their “wild” neighbors from the eastern lowlands. They carved a multitude of figures, steps, stairs, triangular and square seats, platforms, basins and other design elements into the soft sandstone. Above all, a »group of motifs« dominates: in the foreground a group of three big cats in half-relief, probably pumas or jaguars, further up two long canal channels with three parallel incised rhombus bands and finally on the apex of the crest a star-shaped structure that consists of one circular recessed channel. It has nine carved seats on the inside and 18 on the outside, obviously places of sacrifice where human or animal blood, corn beer or simply water was ritually spilled. The circle element is also interpreted as a priestly choir and oracle.

The overall system also has astronomical significance: the two channel channels are aligned in such a way that the sun rises on the days of the southern solstice as they extend to the horizon. Thanks to this explanation, one does not have to rely on adding Erich von Däniken’s bizarre interpretation as a launch pad for alien aircraft.

Since finds from earlier cultures were unearthed during the excavations carried out by a team from Bonn University, it can be assumed that people settled here long before the Incas. In addition, two phases of the Inca settlement were established. This confirms what the chronicle reports: that the returning Inca not only took bloody revenge, but also expanded the holy place into a provincial capital. This consisted of a central »plaza«, which was surrounded by large architecture, buildings for the priests and sun maidens, and terraces on which maize was grown for the production of the sacrificial potion. They transformed the mountain itself into a huge ceremonial center by building a series of temples on the flanks of the rock, which housed their statues of gods and the mummies of their ancestors. The gold, which probably lined the numerous niches, only shone in the sun until the Spanish conquistadores became the rulers of South America and thus involuntarily avenged the Chiriguano. Just like them, they too were looking for paradise, the “El Dorado”, which, however, was not supposed to bring immortality, but eternal wealth.

Samaipata Fortress (World Heritage)

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