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Archive for July, 2015

Peru 4

From Ollantaytamba the train winds down the ever narrowing and deepening gorge toward Machu Picchu. The trip takes 1:45 including a few short pauses on siding for passing trains. The gorge only has room for the river and the cut for the train in many places where an extended arm would literally touch the jagged rocks of the cut. Some of the rapids are intense looking and the vegetation slowly increases in density, height, and variety from semi-desert to cloudland rainforest. Students in their uniforms and farmers in their work clothes were headed to school and field. Terraces still hold corn and grazing animals.

I spent most of my time looking out of the windows.

I spent most of my time looking out of the windows.

The Whole Tour Group at the first good view of the city

The Whole Tour Group at the first good view of the city

The Narrowing Urabamba River Gorge

The Narrowing Urubamba River Gorge

Terraces still used

Terraces still used

 

The village of Machu Picchu is not more than 100 m wide and is cut in two by the Urubamba River and the railroad. Densely vegetated cliffs rise easily 1500 feet on either side. I find the topography the most amazing characteristic of the village and the ancient site. Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site visited by over one million people each year. Many details about the construction, location, and history of the site are amazing. Being in a rainforest, the Inca engineers provided it with a subterranean drainage system without which it would have long since eroded away. The temple and Inca rulers’ structures are built of the smooth, fitted stones that are earthquake resistant and yet the Temple of the Sun is slowly splitting apart due to a minor fault line that extends across the concave city green. A wire stretched across the green from one side to the other and made taut by a weight and measured by an instrument indicates that the green is expanding by a few millimeters per year. A quarry on the brow of the ridge was the source of the building stone.

Inca Trail

Inca Trail (25 miles to the Capitol Cusco)

Main Gate to the City

Main Gate to the City

Temple of the Sun has a fault

Temple of the Sun has a fault

Living and Working Spaces

Living and Working Spaces

Llamas wander throughout the site

Llamas wander throughout the site

Steep Real Estate (note the archaeologists in blue)

Steep Real Estate (note the archaeologists in blue)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chinchilla Chillin'

Chinchilla Chillin’

Huayna Picchu overlooks the ridgetop city

Huayna Picchu overlooks the ridgetop city

Hiram Bingham, the Yale historian who revealed Machu Picchu to the world in 1911, was not the first person of European descent to explore the terraces and temples. It was not the Spanish who saw it though, for they never found it. Why? It had been abandoned before they came and conquered the Inca. The actual reason for its abandonment is unknown but the well worn theories about religious, political, or military causes are not very convincing. Our trained Peruvian guide seemed to think that the evidence of syphilis in the bones of some buried at the Temple of the Condor suggests that an epidemic caused the inhabitants and would be inhabitants to forsake the city. It seems most plausible to me since the Spanish never seemed to have even heard about it. Their writings make no mention of its existence. Also, syphilis was a new world endemic disease before Europeans arrived. Epidemic levels of syphilis result from a sexually debased society. A mere 10 years of abandonment would have been sufficient for the jungle to cover all evidence of its existence. Hiram Bingham would not have found it if farmers had not shown him exactly where it was and had several terraces cleared for farming. The Europeans who discovered it before the American were treasure hunters who did not want Peruvians or anyone else to know they had come and gone.

 

Inca Bridge-a secure gate against an enemy who never came.

Inca Bridge-a secure gate against an enemy who never came.

Farmers were in good shape

Farmers were in good shape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Built in about 1450 and abandoned before 1520, the 140 stone buildings of a construction project in progress testify to both the semi-permanence and futility of all that we do apart from God. Syphilis, war, superstition, drought, or whatever caused the peoples of Machu Picchu to leave give testimony to the ultimate powerlessness of an empire to perpetuate control and forego God’s judgment on evil practices. If we assume that empires and culture are simply short-lived because that is the way it must be, then we fail to remember that this world is fallen and it did not have to be that way. God did not create life for death; man chose death. The enemy is not outside the gate but inside the heart.

 

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In the late afternoon the bus labored up the steep, windy streets out of Cusco onto a highway and through a gap into a increasingly rural setting. The highway wound from there ever down through a steep-sided valley with occasional leveler spots where villages cling to the side of hills. Chencheros is one such village with walled adobe courtyards along both sides of its streets and no appearance of significant prosperity or poverty. The bus stopped at an open gate in one of the 7 to 8 feet walls. Here is a tourist market for the woven goods of the village, a village where the real things are made. A short distance beyond the gate are pens for llama and Guinea Pigs, the latter having come over from Africa many centuries ago are now a food delicacy and a source for fine wool. Further in young and old Quechua women were weaving various textiles and a pavilion was setup for the demonstration of cutting, washing, carding, spinning, dying, and drying yarn. Leaves and roots provide for many colors but the most fascinating is the Cochineal insect that inhabits cacti of Latin America that provides deep, crimson red colors. The woman demonstrating crushed the white remains of one she had dug out of a prickly pear cactus fruit between her thumb and forefinger. Swirling the contents into her palm revealed the deepest, purplish red. Boiled in water with the yarn these produce a very permanent dye.

Leaving Cusco

Leaving Cusco

Moving Upward

Moving Upward

Wool on Hoof

Wool on Hoof

Cutting, washing, carding, spinning, dying, drying

Cutting, washing, carding, spinning, dying, drying

Weaving Alpaca Wool

Weaving Alpaca Wool

Sacred Valley Downstream of Temple Site above Ollantaytamba

Sacred Valley Downstream of Temple Site above Ollantaytamba

  Dusk was upon us as we left Chencheros.

   It was time to head down to Urubamba.

I saw a most beautiful sight as the bus cruised across the upper reaches of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. A high, rugged peak to the west combed the rays of the setting Sun into golden strands while a sliver of the Moon looked on from the deeply violet background. A picture would have trouble doing the scene justice even if I could have stopped and attempted a time exposure, much less my words, for it was profoundly beautiful. By upper reaches of the valley I mean that it is much higher than the part down by the Urubamba River. As the twilight dimmed we came to a set of switchbacks 1000 feet above the provincial capital of Urubamba, shining by electric lights in the dark valley below, while the snow capped peaks loomed darkly above pressing down on the small village below.

Peaks 'feel heavy' on the small valley below

Peaks ‘feel heavy’ on the small valley below

Peaks to Comb the Sun's Rays

Peaks to Comb the Sun’s Rays

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning we headed further downstream to the village and temple site at Ollantaytamba. The temple site has pottery and stonework evidence of pre-Inca terraces and temples. The Incas never finished their temple site here because the Spanish interrupted their 100 year empire and building spree. This fact actually left abundant evidence for how it was being built. Boulders of the acceptable type to the builders (gray basalt) were quarried several thousand feet upslope on the other side of the valley and rolled down. The Urubamba River was divided into two channels by a central levee and half at a time blocked off so the blocks could be pulled across half the river at a time. A ramp on the near side of the valley provided the route up to the temple site. It was perhaps a 9% (~5 degree) slope. We were told that experiments with a 1 ton block required 180 men to drag across smooth, rounded stones lubricated with wet clay up such an incline. The estimate was that 2000 men would have been needed to pull some of the blocks resident to the site!

Ollantaytamba Temple site, terraces, and village

Ollantaytamba Temple site, terraces, and village

Temple of the Sun at Ollantaytamba with quarry site in the background

Temple of the Sun at Ollantaytamba with quarry site in the background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While we were at the temple site the local tour guide was telling us about the various foci of Inca worship: sun, moon, stars, earth, water, the underworld, fertility of land, animals, and wives, and more. Solstices, equinoxes, planetary conjunctions, and the like were times for worship. In their pantheon of gods and means of worship they recognized the invisible god who created all things. At this temple site they believed that this god had left them a representation of himself in the rock formations across the valley. They built a small, four parapet structure on top of this formation as a crown. Why with all of their worship of created things did they recognize an invisible god, utterly different from all of their other objects of worship? But remember what Paul said to the men at Lystra who tried to worship Barnabas and him: “We…preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:15-17) What was this witness that He left? What the text lists is the very things that the Inca culture worshipped, physical sources of life. And God left further witness: “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, and its circuit to the other end of them; and there is nothing hidden from its heat.” (Psalm 19:1-6) All that those priests were worshipping in the ridge top temples were witnesses to the very God they acknowledged exists but did not worship. How could they have known of His existence? Was it a long forgotten tradition? Perhaps it was but it need not be. They may have figured out the evidence: “…that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” (Romans 1:19-23) Wow! The object of their worship became the snare that prevented them from worshipping the true God that all of those things clearly pointed to. This perspective on their knowledge and lack of worshipful acknowledgement of God helped to inform my understanding of all that I saw of Inca culture in Peru.

Unfinished Entryway

Unfinished Entryway

A Block left just short of its destination

A Block left just short of its destination

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ancient way still practiced

The ancient way still practiced

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No cement, no gaps, highly earthquake resistant, not eternal

No cement, no gaps, highly earthquake resistant, not eternal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you care to come along I will explore another strand of this thought in the next Peru entry on Machu Picchu. Until then, blessed truth hunting.

 

 

 

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Peru 2

An American educated Peruvian named Rafael Larco Hoyle opened a museum of Pre-Columbian pottery in 1925 after his father gifted him 600 ancient pieces of pottery and his uncle suggested a museum should be set up. For the rest of his life Larco added to his collection which is now the Museo Larco tesoros del antiguo Peru. [tesoros- “treasure”] There is evidence of 43 Pre-Incan cultures who were sophisticated metalworkers and weavers and farmed and hunted arid and semi-arid landscapes successfully.

Earrings

Earrings

Weaving

Weaving

Royal Decorations

Royal Decorations

Amazingly Lifelike

Amazingly Lifelike

A Small Part of the 'tesoros'

A Small Part of the ‘tesoros’

Possibly Cerro de Salantay west of Cusco

Possibly Cerro de Salantay west of Cusco

Flight from Cusco to Lima

Flight from Cusco to Lima

 

 

 

The Andes Mountains beyond Patagonia are little considered as significant mountains by most North Americans and yet Peru features 9 peaks over 20,000 feet.

Salantay, which is west of Cusco standing 6271 m (20,574 ft.), waters much of the area of the Sacred Valley of the Incas by its melting glaciers. Without these glaciers a large part of Peru would be barren. Flying into Cusco, the one time capital of the Incas (kings of the Quechua), is impressive. The airplane has to snake its way in between high mountain peaks all around and drop fast to land at 11,000 feet. The air is crisp and dry. A certain smell persisted the first half an hour until I was used to it. I finally figured out it must be the smell of ozone that forms at higher elevations. You quickly learn that the sunny side of the street is just barely uncomfortably warm while the shady side of the street requires a sweater if you are not active. Sunscreen or a covering hat is advisable.

A Higher Plain (~11,000 ft)

A Higher Plain (~11,000 ft)

Welcome to Cusco, Royal City of the Incas

Welcome to Cusco, Royal City of the Incas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch next time for forays into the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Traveling Buddies

Traveling Buddies

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A blog titled this way could take many paths through Scripture and personal experience. This entry will only be an abbreviated sequence of thinking that occurred to me while reading about anointing oil and incense for the tent of meeting in Exodus 30 expanded with Scripture references.

God has appeared in the cloud and spoken to the sons of Israel from Mt. Sinai, scaring them sufficiently for them to plead with Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” Exodus 20:19  But it did not scare them enough to serve the purpose for which Moses said that God spoke for: “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” Exodus 20:20 The evidence of course is Exodus 32 when Moses is up on the mountain: He [Aaron] took this [gold] from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” (v.4) The rapidity with which the Israelites turned away from God is both amazing and frightening, but it pales in comparison to what Aaron, the recently consecrated and anointed High Priest, did by way of directing and encouraging their sinful passions. There is much warning to be taken from this scene. Rather than a rabbit trail about our sinfulness, I see this as the fuller context for the comments I want to make about God.

God knew their tendencies and even warned them to watch out for them by giving them a scare at Mt. Sinai.

So what is God saying to us about worship of Him?

Is He ‘pleading’ with us to worship Him as though He will be lacking and sad without it. No, God is not in need of anything we possess or can give, as Psalm 50 says,“Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you; I am God, your God. I do not reprove you for your sacrifices, and your burnt offerings are continually before Me. I shall take no young bull out of your house nor male goats out of your folds.
For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and all it contains. Shall I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of male goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High; call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” (v.7-15)

Is He ‘expecting’ us to worship Him? In the sense of an expectation placed upon us I would say yes, but in the sense of surprised if we don’t, I think not.“You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.” Acts 7:51 “Nothing really changes; everything remains the same. We are what we are ’til the day that we die,” sang Larry Norman. God knows the true nature of our hearts. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” John 2:24-25

Is God “demanding” that we worship Him? No, He has left us with free will to the extent that we do what we always want to do, namely turn away from Him, for “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.: Isaiah 53:6

Instead, I think the Scripture is saying that God is ‘commanding’ us to worship Him. He is worthy of worship, as Psalm 29:2 says, “ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name”. Worship of God is also beneficial to the worshipper: “Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; praise is becoming to the upright.” Psalm 33:1 “‘I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners, creating the praise of the lips.
Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,’
Says the Lord, ‘and I will heal him.’” Isaiah 57:18-19 Worship trains the next generation for worship of God: “We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strngth and His wondrous wondrous works that He has done.” Psalm 78:4

Give praise to God for Who He is; praise Him for the glory and efficacy of His name; praise God for His wonderful works in creation and beneficial works in salvation through His Son Jesus Christ.

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