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Saksaywaman is a walled complex on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco, Peru, the former capital of the Inca Empire. The complex is as many other Inca constructions made of large polished dry stone walls, each boulder carefully cut to fit together tightly without mortar. The site, at an altitude of 3701 m, was added as part of the city of Cusco to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983. Located on a steep hill that overlooks the city, it contains an impressive view of the valley to the southeast.
Because of its location high above Cusco and its immense terrace walls, this area of Saksaywaman is frequently referred to as a fortress. The importance of its military functions was highlighted in 1536 when Manco Inca lay siege to Cusco. Much of the fighting occurred in and around Saksaywaman as it was critical for maintaining control over the city. It is clear from descriptions of the siege, as well as from excavations at the site, that there were towers on its summit as well as a series of other buildings. The large plaza area, capable of holding thousands of people, is well designed for ceremonial activities and several of the large structures at the site may also have been used during rituals. It is also clear from early accounts that the complex held a great number of storage rooms. Pedro Pizarro described storage rooms that were within the complex and which were filled with military equipment. The best-known zone of Saksaywaman includes its great plaza and its adjacent three massive terrace walls. The stones used in the construction of these terraces are among the largest used in any building in prehispanic America and display a precision of fitting that is unmatched in the Americas. The stones are so closely spaced that a single piece of paper will not fit between many of the stones. This precision, combined with the rounded corners of the blocks, the variety of their interlocking shapes, and the way the walls lean inward, is thought to have helped the ruins survive devastating earthquakes in Cuzco. The longest of three walls is about 400 meters. They are about 6 meters tall. The estimated volume of stone is over 6,000 cubic meters. Estimates for the weight of the largest Andesite block vary from 128 tonnes to almost 200 tonnes. Today, Peruvians celebrate Inti Raymi, the annual Inca festival of the winter solstice and new year. It is held near Sacsayhuamán on 24 June. Some Cusqueños use the large field within the walls of the complex for jogging, t'ai chi, and other athletic activities.
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