"...The ninth [holy place] was named Tambomachay; it was a house of Inca Yupanpui where he lodged when he went hunting."  Bernabe Cobo, 1653.

"...that city of Cuzco was house and dwelling of gods, and thus there was not, in all of it, a fountain or passage or wall which they did not say held mystery."  Juan Polo de Ondegardo, 1571

The archaeological site of Tambomachay is located about 8 km north of the city of Cuzco, in the southern Peruvian highlands.  The well-crafted stonework, beautiful fountains, and pastoral setting on the Cachimayu ("Salt River") combine with ease of access to make this site one of the most visited in the area.
High quaility stonework, a double-jam doorway, and the four large, outward-facing niches all indicate that the site was an important shrine to the Incas.  Despite the importance of the site to the Incas, the original name is uncertain.  Cobo (1653) tells us that Tambomachay was a house (see reference above), and there is no provision for lodging at the present day archaeological site.  It is likely that the original name was "Quinoapuquiu".  Cobo tells us that Quinoapuquiu "...was a fountain near Tambo Machay which consists of two springs."  Tambomachay
The fountains of Tambomachay These beautiful fountains are the focal point of the site.  Set slightly off-center, the fountains make a dynamic architectural composition that underscores the importance of the spring.  The area around Cuzco receives a yearly average of 950mm of rainfall, mostly during the few months of monsoon season.  In this semi-arid region, the spiritual treatment of the spring is in harmony with the importance of a dependable water supply. 
The hydrologic nature of the site captured my interest during a visit in 1995.  Since that time I have been studying the hydrogeology of Tambomachay and other Inca sites.   Understanding Inca water management practices requires a knowledge of Inca culture, as well as a good background in hydraulics and geology.  The happy result is the opportunity for archaeologists and hydrologists to work together and learn from each other.  Archaeohydrology, is a true multi-disciplinary area of study.  Wifredo tests the water
The Cachimayu (Salt River) The image to the left shows the interaction between the groundwater and the Inca construction.  A ridge of limestone bedrock blocks groundwater from flowing to the river (right edge of photo); a similar ridge blocks the water on the other side of the stone walls (not visible in this photo).  The stone construction is located so as to control the discharge of groundwater through the gap between the two limestone ridges.  The Cachimayu is dry in the foreground of the photo; however, some water is underflowing the walls, and can be seen discharging to the riverbed near the bridge (left center).  The walls filter and collect the groundwater, and may slow the discharge to store water in-situ in the earth behind the walls. 

The work I have been doing at Tambomachay has only been possible thanks to the generous funding provided by the Stahl Foundation, and by the Earth Sciences Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  If you are interested in learning more about my work at Tambomachay and other Inca sites, you can wait for my publication in Latin American Antiquity (currently in review), or E-mail me at: jfairley@uidaho.edu.
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