CHAPTER VI. The Vilcanota Country and the Peruvian Highlanders
It has been claimed that this temple was devoted to the worship of Viracocha, a great deity, the Jove or Zeus of the ancient pantheon. It seems to me more reasonable to suppose that a primitive folk constructed here a temple to the presiding divinity of the place, the god who gave them this precious clay. The principal industry of the neighboring village is still the manufacture of pottery. No better clay for ceramic purposes has been found in the Andes.
It would have been perfectly natural for the prehistoric potters to have desired to placate the presiding divinity, not so much perhaps out of gratitude for the clay as to avert his displeasure and fend off bad luck in baking pottery. It is well known that the best pottery of the Incas was extremely fine in texture. Students of ceramics are well aware of the uncertainty of the results of baking clay. Bad luck seems to come most unaccountably, even when the greatest pains are taken. Might it not have been possible that the people who were most concerned with creating pottery decided to erect this temple to insure success and get as much good luck as possible? Near the ancient temple is a small modern church with two towers. The churchyard appears to be a favorite place for baking pottery. Possibly the modern potters use the church to pray for success in their baking, just as the ancient potters used the great temple of Viracocha. The walls of the church are composed partly of adobe and partly of cut stones taken from the ruins.
Not far away is a fairly recent though prehistoric lava flow. It occurs to me that possibly this flow destroyed some of the clay beds from which the ancient potters got their precious material. The temple may have been erected as a propitiatory offering to the god of volcanoes in the hope that the anger which had caused him to send the lava flow might be appeased. It may be that the Inca Viracocha, an unusually gifted ruler, was particularly interested in ceramics and was responsible for building the temple. If so, it would be natural for people who are devoted to ancestor worship to have here worshiped his memory.