On Inca astronomical instruments: the observatory at Inkaraqay – El Mirador (National Archaeological Park of Machu Picchu, Peru)

  • Fernando Astete Victoria Parque Arqueológico Nacional de Machu Picchu, Dirección Regional de Cultura, Cusco, Perú.
  • Mariusz Ziółkowski Centre for Precolumbian Studies, University of Warsaw
  • Jacek Kościuk Laboratory of 3D Scanning and Modelling, Faculty of Architecture, Wrocław University of Science and Technology http://orcid.org/0000-0003-0623-8071
Keywords: Inca, Archaeology, Archaeoastronomy, Machu Picchu


Th is article is dedicated to a special category of structures that may be called “astronomical instruments”,  constructed in the Inca Empire (ca. 14-16 c. AD). As mentioned in some sources, these were intended for use by a small group of priests-astronomers. A good example is Intimachay in Machu Picchu, which was recently re-designated as an astronomical observatory, far more complex and precise than was previously believed. Th e discovery of Inkaraqay – El Mirador, a second structure, even more complicated than Intimachay and erected for the purpose of precise astronomical observation, confi rms the importance of the knowledge of the skies in the running of the Incan Empire.


Astete Victoria, Fernando; Mariusz Ziółkowski and Jacek Kościuk 2017 Discovery of an inca precise astronomical observatory at el Mirador de Inkaraqay, Machu Picchu/El descubrimiento del observatorio astronómico inca del Mirador de Inkaraqay In: El Top Anual de los grandes descubrimientos del Perú, Ministerio de Cultura, Lima, pp. 576-595

Aveni, Anthony F. 1981 Horizon Astronomy in Incaic Cuzco. In Archaeoastronomy in the Americas, edited by Ray A. Williamson, pp. 305-318. A Ballena Press/Center for Archaeoastronomy Cooperative Publication, Los Altos – College Park.

Aveni, Anthony F., Sharon L. Gibbs and Horst Hartung 1975 Th e Caracol Tower at Chichen Itza: An Ancient Astronomical Observatory? Science 188: 977-985.

Bauer, Brian S. and David S. P. Dearborn 1995 Astronomy and Empire in the Ancient Andes: Th e Cultural Origins of Inca Sky Watching. University of Texas Press, Austin.

Ghezzi, Ivan and Clive Ruggles 2007 Chankillo: A 2300-Year-Old Solar Observatory in Coastal Peru. Science 315 (5816): 1239-1243. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1136415

Kendall, Ann 1985 Aspects of Inca Architecture: Description, Function and Chronology. BAR International Series 242. British Archaeological Reports, Oxford.

Orlove, Benjamin S., John C. H. Chiang and Mark A. Cane 2000 Forecasting Andean rainfall and crop yield from the infl uence of El Nino on Pleiades visibility. Nature 403: 68-71. https://doi.org/10.1038/47456

Sarmiento de Gamboa, Pedro 1906 [1571] Segunda Parte de la Historia General Llamada Indica. In Geschichte des Inkareiches von Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, edited by Richard Pietschmann. Abhandlungen der Koniglichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaft en zu Gottingen, Philologisch-Historiche Klasse, Neue Folge, Band VI no 4. Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, Berlin.

Szemiński, Jan and Mariusz Ziołkowski 2015 Mythes, rituels et politiques des Incas dans la tourmente de La Conquista. L’Harmattan, Paris.

Taylor, Gerald (editor) 1999 [1608] Ritos y tradiciones de Huarochiri del siglo XVII. Manuscrito quechua de comienzos del siglo XVII. 2nd ed. rev. Instituto Frances de Estudios Andinos/Banco Central de Reserva del Peru/Universidad Particular Ricardo Palma, Lima.

Ziołkowski, Mariusz, Jacek Kościuk and Fernando Astete Victoria 2013 Astronomical Observations at Intimachay (Machu Picchu): A new approach to an Old Problem. In Ancient Cosmologies and Modern Prophets. Proceedings of the 20th Conference of the European Society for Astronomy in Culture, edited by Ivan Sprajc and Peter Pehani, pp. 391-404. Slovene Anthropological Society, Ljubljana. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6141-8_81

Ziołkowski, Mariusz, Jacek Kościuk and Fernando Astete Victoria 2014 Inca Moon: Some Evidence of Lunar Observations in Tahuantinsuyu.In Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy, edited by Clive L.N. Ruggles, pp. 897-912. Springer Science+Business Media, New York.

Ziołkowski, Mariusz 2015 Pachap Unancha. El calendario metropolitano del Estado Inca. Ediciones El Lector/Sociedad Polaca de Estudios Latnoamericanos, Arequipa

How to Cite
Astete Victoria, F., Ziółkowski, M., & Kościuk, J. (2017). On Inca astronomical instruments: the observatory at Inkaraqay – El Mirador (National Archaeological Park of Machu Picchu, Peru). Estudios Latinoamericanos, 37, 9–25. https://doi.org/10.36447/Estudios2017.v36-37.art1