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Caves, Liminality and the Sun in the Inca World
Steven R. Gullberg and J. McKim Malville
Caves were liminal features of the Inca sacred landscape, connecting this world with the underworld. They were places for making contact with ancestors and the powers of creation. In this paper we examine caves in southeastern Peru for solar orientations and cosmological context, with recourse to the concept of liminality that appears central to cave use. The cave within Kenko Grande has ceremonial steps adjacent to an altar upon which sunlight climbs at midday in June. A rear entrance and altar are illuminated at the time of the solar equinox sunrises. Lacco has three caves which have one solsticial orientation and two light-tubes. A primary opening in the cave at Lanlakuyok faces sunrise at the time of the equinoxes. Tambomachay contains a major fountain and a cave with a platform oriented to December solstice sunrise. Rumiwasi Bajo contains a number of niches and a nine-meter-long passageway oriented close to the June solstice sunset, while the other door opens to December solstice sunrise. Choquequilla is a complex cave opening to December solstice sunrise. The Royal Mausoleum is one of the major shrines of Machu Picchu and opens to June solstice sunrise. Intimachay is a cave with a constructed opening for the December solstice sunrise. The Temple of the Condor contains a cave approximately open to the anti-zenith sunrise. The Gran Caverna includes both an upper and a lower cave oriented for June solstice sunset. There are two caves at the River Intihuatana that, while part of an astronomically oriented complex, don't have solstitial nor equinoctial orientations, nor do they have interior carvings. We end the paper by considering the role of caves and liminality in Inca cosmology.