Contributed Talk - Splinter Culture

Thursday, 16 September 2021, 17:05   (virtual Cult)

The Significance of Solstices in the Inca Empire

Steven R Gullberg
University of Oklahoma

The Incas were a Sun worshipping society and therefore placed great emphasis on solar horizon events. Their culture centered around the Sun and they used it as a calendar to mark times of the year for such as planting, harvesting, and religious festivals. Observances were made of sunrises and sunsets throughout the year and especially at times of the solstices and the zenith Sun. It has been posited as well that they were made coincident with the equinoxes and the anti-zenith Sun. Field research was conducted at many sites to identify and document intentional light and shadow effects created by the Incas in their many huacas (shrines), temples, and caves. The study took place in the heart of the empire, primarily at sites in and near Cusco, at Tipon, at Saihuite, in the Sacred Valley, and at sites in and near Machu Picchu. Collected data supports that the Incas encoded astronomy into many of their huacas. This presentation explores the astronomical and cultural significance of solar observances in relation to festivals such as Inti Raymi in June and Capac Raymi in December. The greatest number of huaca solar orientations were found to be associated with the solstices and few astronomical events dominate Inca culture as much as do those of the Sun at these times. Great festivals were staged annually twice each year when the Sun’s horizon travel stopped and reversed direction. The solstices became embedded in Inca culture and led them to celebrate with some of their greatest ceremonial activity.