London: The location of the tomb of last Inca emperor Atahualpa has mystified researchers for centuries but now an expert has pinpointed a site in the Andes mountains, nearly 45 miles south of Quito, Ecuador, as the emperor’s resting place.
Patrimony Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa, spoke about the ruins unearthed by Ecuadoran historian Tamara Estupinan.
“This is an absolutely important find for the history of Ecuador’s archeology and for the (Andean) region,” the Telegraph quoted Espinosa as saying.
The Inca empire, in the 1400s and early 1500s, expanded much of South America’s Andean region, more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers), from modern-day Bolivia and Peru to Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Colombia.
It comprised dozens of ethnic groups with different languages, cities, temples, farming terraces and fortresses.
Atahualpa was the last emperor of his dynasty. During the Spanish conquest he was taken captive in what is now Cajamarca, Peru.
He had been forced to convert to Christianity and then the Spanish executed him by strangulation. After his death in 1533, the empire began to collapse.
This year Ecuador’s state Cultural Patrimony Institute will begin work on a promising archeological site, and Estupinan will be the front and centre to raise the curtain on a colossal complex sprawling over a ridge at 1,020 meters.
It was back in June 2010 that Estupinan, now a researcher with the French Institute for Andean Studies (IFEA), found out what she describes as an “Inca archeological site” high on the Andes’ eastern flank amid plunging canyons. Close by are a small local farm and a facility for raising fighting cocks.
But in the area called Sigchos, about 45 miles south of Quito, up on a hill dotted with brush, there is more - much more: she found a complex of walls, aqueducts and stonework that lie inside the Machay rural retreat.
Machay means burial in the Quechua language.
“This is a late imperial design Inca monument that leads to several rectangular rooms that were built with cut polished stone set around a trapezoidal plaza,” Estupinan explained to a news agency.
Archeologist Tamara Bray, of Wayne State University in Michigan, and a colleague of Estupinan, confirmed that the place boasts “an Inca edifice that is phenomenally well preserved and quite important scientifically.”
Inside the facility, a walled walkway starts at the Machay River and one can see the shape of an “ushno”, basically stairs that form a pyramid believed to be the (capac’s) emperor’s throne.
Also a tiny cut channel of water would spout out a small waterfall nicknamed “the Inca''s bath”.
The director at the Lima-based IFEA, Georges Lomne, insisted that the find appears to validate that the Incas were active and present in a lowland area well outside what their best-known area of operations were: Andean highlands.
“Malqui-Machay is part of a broader complex that also would have included the Quilotoa lagoon and the area called Pujili (Cotopaxi),” he said.
“All of this belonged to Atahualpa. It was his personal fiefdom in the way that French (and other) kings had royal domains.”
Bray also stressed that “very few such Inca sites have been found in this type of tropical lowland. I think that the Incas used it as a sort of getaway.”
Meanwhile, Estupinan believes Malqui-Machay is Atahualpa’s final resting place. The tomb of the last capac (emperor) of Tahuantinsuyo, the trans-Andean empire.
While many experts have other theories, Estupinan believes that when Atahualpa was executed, his remains could have been brought by his most loyal man, Ruminahui, to Sigchos for burial, to a place where Ruminahui based his fight for survival against the European intruders.
First Published: Wednesday, February 29, 2012, 17:43