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MONUMENTS, USAGES, AND CHARACTERISTIC SKETCHES, OF THE ANCIENT PERUVIANS.
THE Spanish conquerors, after completely subverting the general government established in Peru, at the time of their arrival, by experience found that they were unable to manage the various tribes scattered over an extensive and mountainous country, without gaining their chieftains over to the Spanish cause, by evincing an apparent interest in their welfare, and that of their followers and dependants. Hence were the viceroys compelled to delegate a portion of their power to the remaining Caciques, whose authority over their countrymen was successively defined and secured by judicious enactments in the laws of the Indies; and in this manner only was it that the white and bearded men were enabled to subdue and hold in check the copper tribes inhabiting the declivities of the Andes. The expedient was, in fact, attended with the most astonishing success; and, up to the present day, the government of the Caciques over those tribes and districts of country where they hold an absolute sway, their peculiar tact for command, their inflexible justice, the order and economy observed in their administration, as well as the facility and willingness with which their mandates are obeyed by men who at the same time know that their leaders have not a single musket to enforce their authority, may certainly be taken as a living example, illustrative of that energetic, and, at the same time, equal patriarchal and consoling government of the Incas, which their descendants, exercising a diminished power, yet so fondly imitate.
If we were to judge from the situation in which all the Indians, inhabiting that extensive district, stretching from the Saint Lawrence to the Mississippi, were found at the time of their discovery, or if we were to draw our conclusions from the actual state of the more southern portions of the same continent, the existence of which Columbus first announced to astonished Europe, with the exception of Chili and Mexico, one would have expected that the ancient Peruvians, confined in the midst of mountains, and, by natural impediments, cut off from all communication with the other natives of their own hemisphere, would have been discovered in a rude and barbarous state. This, however, was by no means the case, as is testified by the confession of their conquerors themselves. Their astonished assailants in fact saw that they presented a perfectly opposite picture, and were surprised to find that they had masters to instruct them in several useful branches of science, and legislators to teach them the art of governing.
Among their most distinguished lawgivers and benefactors, was
Manco Capac de Tequicaca, who founded an empire which, slender as the Peruvian annals are, it is well ascertained, regularly devolved to the Incas, his successors, for a period exceeding seven centuries. He laid the basis of a new system, and actually rescued his countrymen from a state of barbarism, and, as it were, brought them from the wilds. Religion was one of the chief engines which he employed; and the evident advantages resulting from his new administration, secured to him the esteem and co-operation of his countrymen. His precepts are still remembered and spoken of with the utmost respect. It would indeed be difficult to find, in the annals of any primitive nation, such an uniformity of maxims in government, and such lessons of practical morality, as those which distinguished the councils of the Peruvian Incas. We have heard of few such extended conquests as those made by them, without the effusion of human blood. We read of few enterprises so signal and noble as those undertaken by the Peruvian Emperors, for the purpose of establishing interior intercourse, by the opening of four great roads, called by them Antiguyos, Collaguyos, &c., and partly corresponding to the cardinal points of the compass. With the exception of the blood spilt by Colla, in his rebellion, and Atahualpa, in his usurpation of the kingdom, the Peruvians enjoyed uninterrupted peace; and the preceding emperors and rightful heirs to the throne helped to enlarge their dominions, by causing their laws to be extended and imitated,-by example and persuasion, as well as by exhibiting their power and greatness to the minor tribes, and convincing them how much more beneficial it would be, to the interests of a detached and isolated population, to live united under their authority and laws. The goodness of their regulations, framed for the administration of the interior and distant provinces, is strikingly evinced by the fact of the Spanish conquerors, in most instances, having adopted them; and they afterwards materially served as a basis to the code, vauntingly called, by the Castilian monarchs, The Laws of the Indies.'
The plantation-grounds, held in community, and the allotment of the fruits thereon grown, and set apart for the temple, the sovereign, and individuals; those public granaries and depôts for other necessaries, by means of which they guarded against want and scarcity, and established, with a greatness and magnificence which might be said to rival those of Egypt, added to similarly wise and provident regulations for other public purposes, were evidently derived from a fund of prudence, policy, and humanity, which, considering their secluded situation, might bear a comparison with the advances of either the Greeks or Romans in this branch of political economy.
The celebrated ruins of the fortress of Cusco, the stupendous fragments of which still strike the eye with awe and wonder, show
to what an extent the mind of man can carry his efforts, unassisted by the knowledge of machinery. These remains clearly point out that, in the time of the Incas, the Peruvians constructed their edifices with solidity and ostentation. One of the hewn blocks of stone, still embedded in the wall, has been calculated to weigh ten or fifteen tons. Another portion, which lies on the ground near the spot, and appears not to have been yet applied to the purpose for which it was originally intended, is of so enormous a size, as to make it difficult to imagine how, with such simple means as those which the workmen possessed, they were enabled to bring it from the quarry whence it was drawn; or how it was to have been raised to the height of the wall. To pile together stones of a prodigious size, by the aid of numbers of men, and such simple levers only as it is presumable they were acquainted with, may be considered as an astonishing effort in their architecture; yet this power, coupled with the art and regularity of their structures, the proportion and union of all their parts, and the exterior finish by which they were distinguished, are circumstances tending to excite admiration, when we reflect that these works were performed by men destitute of all knowledge of mathematical science.
The construction of the great aqueducts of Lucanas, Coudesurgos, and several others, which, in the midst of precipices, conveyed the water from deep valleys to hills of considerable elevation, and some of which are to this day used, attest the skill of the ancient Peruvians in the important science of hydraulics; and the result certainly deserves to be compared with similar works in China. On the road from Cusco to Lima, the traveller is struck with astonishment on beholding lofty ridges, crowned and surrounded by rows of stone walls, like the steps of an amphitheatre. At first, as he approaches, he doubts whether these are the works of man, or the playful fancies of nature, in that hemisphere so varied and unaccountable in all her productions. On a nearer examination, he finds that these parapets were built, in former times, for the purpose of collecting the waters dripping from the mountain summit, and conveying them to remote parts, often by means of subterranean passages, in aid of agriculture, pursued on portions of land which otherwise would have remained nearly sterile.
Of the knowledge of the ancient Peruvians in hydraulics, another remarkable instance is found in the artificial springs of Lanasca. They are situated on a barren extent of land, which, in the course of time, must have undergone several changes in its exterior appearance. An abundant supply of water is found at one place; yet, by means of digging, the same cannot be obtained any where else in the neighbourhood. Although evidently an artificial work, the conduits have never been discovered, nor the place from which the water is brought. Many similar works unfortunately have been destroyed by the hand of avarice; the tubes, in some instances,
having been made of gold, or silver, they fell a prey to pillage, or were mutilated in search of it. A subterranean aqueduct of this kind was still to be seen in the city of Cusco, as late as the year 1766, having been discovered near the spot on which the Convent of St. Dominic at present stands.
The clefts of hills, filled up with earth, for the purpose of increasing the surface of land susceptible of cultivation, are enterprises which the attentive observer cannot fail to contemplate with admiration and regret. He wonders at the perseverance and economy of the ancient Peruvians; but an involuntary sigh escapes him, when he asks himself the question: Where are now the former inhabitants of this secluded spot, of whose labours this was once the busy scene? Clearly these were works belonging to a community; and the useful custom still observed by the more remote Indians, at the present day, of uniting together like brethren, for the purpose of pursuing their joint labours, during the seed-time and harvest, are so many incontestable proofs of their system and arrangement; whilst the numerous and varied works left behind them distinctly show the progress they must have made in agriculture and the practical part of the useful arts.
The science of the ancient Peruvians, in architecture and stonecutting, appears the more astonishing when we consider the imperfect nature of their tools and implements, at least compared with those of modern times, as well as their total ignorance of the use of iron. The works left behind them, particularly in Cusco and its vicinity, are really admirable. The temple of that city, its fortress, the half-demolished palaces, together with a number of other proud mementos, still left for the inspection of the traveller, loudly proclaim the genius and enterprise of the original natives. Their most select edifices were, however, destroyed, or greatly mutilated, by the conquerors and their immediate descendants, as well for the purposes of erecting churches and convents, as with a view to extract the gold and silver ligatures with which the stones were frequently bound together. And, after such facts as these, avowed by eye-witnesses and unsuspected parties, or rather by the very perpetrators of the crimes above alluded to, shall we call the ancient Peruvians barbarians? Such a spirit for demolition, or, more properly speaking, such an incentive to the thirst after wealth, as the one above mentioned, would appear almost problematical, if we did not reflect that the Peruvians valued metals only for their utility. Nevertheless, one might feel inclined to doubt the fact, if some of the vestiges of these monuments, marked by the profusion of the Incas, had not triumphed over the lapse of time, and remained as proud and striking memorials to the modern tourist. An ancient wall, still perfect as far as it goes, and since adapted to form the entrance into the Convent of St. Dominic, in Cusco, has luckily survived the ravages of fanatical fury and the restless search after
wealth. In it, the silver melted into the interstices of the stones, in order to fill up the crevices and hold them together, is still visible; and several other remains, of a less remarkable character, may yet be seen.
In the structures of hewn stone, which exclusively belonged to the Royal Family, or were reserved for the most distinguished of the nobles and heroes, three peculiarities are noticed. The first is, that, although the Indians were unacquainted with the use of lime, or any other cement, the stones are so perfectly well fitted, united, and polished, except in occasional instances, and evidently attributable to previous accidents in the quarry, that it is scarcely possible to introduce the point of a knife between them. It must, however, be observed, that the use of gold and silver, as ligatures to the stones, and for the purpose of filling up interstices, and remedying defects in the surface, was confined to the edifices destined for the residence and recreation of the Incas and their favourites; or, at most, extended to the temples devoted to the adoration of the Divinity. The other buildings, such as fortresses and public stores, although erected with great solidity, were, nevertheless, marked with less nicety and splendour. Unhappily, this distinction has deprived us of the most finished portions of Peruvian architecture. Of this peculiar care with which the stones were fitted, there are still many specimens in and round Cusco, as well as in the baths of Huamalies, and several others, scattered about in Vilcasquaman, Calca y Lares, Tinta, Lampa, Paucarcolla, and even as far inland as Santa Cruz de la Sierra, on a mountain near Saniaypata, the most remarkable of which will be hereafter particularly described.
The second peculiarity noticed in the architecture of the ancient Peruvians is, that the wrought stones are not always square, but sometimes marked by a variety of figures. Some are round, oval, triangular, whilst, occasionally, they even assume the shape of stars. Nevertheless, they are so well fitted in and dove-tailed, that the solidity of the edifice is not in the least impaired, nor is any inequality observable on the surface. Of this fact, the ancient palace of Limatambo, situated twelve leagues on this side of Cusco, towards the present capital of Peru, is a striking instance. It is a most singular building, and would require whole days for its due contemplation.
The third remarkable characteristic of ancient Peruvian structures, is the enormous size of the stones of which they are composed. To convey them from the nearest quarry to the spot which they were intended to adorn, and afterwards to hew, raise, and fit them, must have required hosts of men, even supposing that the natives had a knowledge of some great mechanical power, the traces of which are now entirely lost. Certainly they had no other beast of burden than the slender lama; and this animal was never applied to the draught. Nevertheless, we find many of these gi