In the area around the city of Cuzco in Peru there are many archaeological complexes dating from the Inca period. One of these is Tambomachay which is known as the ‘Inca-spa’ because of its water cult. The original name derives from two words in the Quechua language – tampu or tambo (guesthouse/ place of rest and provisions) and machay (cave). In itself this name has nothing to do with the function of the site, seeing that there is no cave and no trace of a ‘tambo’ has been found
The most important features of Tambomachay are the three low terraces on the side of the hill, which are encircled by walls of protruding blocks of stone, decorated with trapezium-shaped alcoves. As at other Inca sites, the stones fit seamlessly together. The terraces are linked to each other by stairways.
Under one of the walls there is a flowing spring which presumably has something to do with the function of the structure. The Incas piped the water to the first terrace, where it disappeared only to reappear higher up in the form of a double waterfall which fell onto the last terrace.
It is thought that this place was some kind of health resort, although other experts believe that it was a military post or that it had a religious purpose. It is probable that the site was already being used before the Incas came for rituals which were somehow connected with the water. They rebuilt it into the complex which we see today.
Text Harrie Wolters
Translation Alun Harvey