In the midst of the Sacred Valley in Peru lies an Inca complex that was once used for ceremonial purposes, and within the confines of this complex sits a stone altar surrounded by 14 ritual baths that were once used by the most elite Incas of the valley.
As Live Science reports, Sacred Valley can be found in what is now a thoroughly cleared jungle in Peru. Through the use of laser scans combined with radar, archaeologists have finally begun to solve some of the secrets of this complex and the mysteries associated with its ritual baths.
But besides radar and laser scans, archaeologists have also employed some good old-fashioned excavations here to learn how these Inca baths were first constructed. Through radiocarbon dating, archaeologists have learned that this complex was originally built in the 15th century before Europeans arrived on the scene and drastically changed the way of life for the Inca people living here.
The Sacred Valley site, which is officially called Chachabamba, has exerted a powerful fascination over archaeologists, who have been investigating the area since 1941. However, it wasn’t until 2018 that archaeologists learned that this site was built in two distinct phases.
Once this study was released to the public, archaeologists began to study the ritual baths of the Incas in earnest, discovering that these baths may have once been used by Incas to practice their worship of fertility goddesses that would have been associated with water.
— Live Science (@LiveScience) February 22, 2019
Project researcher Mariusz Ziółkowski, who is the head of the Center of Andean Studies at the University of Warsaw in Cusco, Peru, explained, “This was undoubtedly a site of religious ceremonial use, and not by the common people. The most notable characteristics of the site are the presence of a sculptured sacred rock, probably a ‘huaca’ (a revered monument), and an unusual number of baths.”
As Ziółkowski further elaborated, these baths of the Incas were most likely constructed to serve as ritual cleansing, which was “a very important element in the various Inca ceremonies, especially during the feast of Citua,” which was the sacred Inca festival of the moon. It is believed that during rituals of this kind, Incas would be able to wash away their sins through the use of water, purifying themselves by the light of the moon.
Once the purifying process was completed, the Incas would then emerge from their ritual baths and don new clothing, discarding their previous clothes right along with their past sins which they believed they had been freed of.
Archaeologists have discovered that the canals which flowed into these baths were “very advanced,” and that with the passing of time, the method of water delivery eventually changed. However, what didn’t change is where the water originated from, which was a waterfall.
While the Inca way of life would never be the same again after the emperor Atahuallpa was officially introduced to the Spaniards who had journeyed to the New World, many of the secrets of the Inca people, such as these ritual baths in Peru, are finally being revealed to archaeologists, keeping the memories of the Incas alive.