Sacsayhuamán is a walled complex on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco
, 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 3,701 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. Surface collections of pottery at Sacsayhuaman indicate that the earliest occupation of the hill top dates back at least a millennium.
Because of its location high above Cuzco
and its immense terrace walls, this area of Sacsayhuaman is frequently referred to as a fortress. Some writers also believe the complex was built specifically to represent the head of a puma, the effigy shape which Sacsayhuamán together with Cuzco forms when seen from above.
The best-known zone of Sacsayhuaman 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.
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.