CHAPTER XVI. The Story of Tampu-tocco, a Lost City of the First Incas

It will be remembered that while on the search for the capital of the last Incas we had found several groups of ruins which we could not fit entirely into the story of Manco and his sons. The most important of these was Machu Picchu. Many of its buildings are far older than the ruins of Rosaspata and Espiritu Pampa. To understand just what we may have found at Machu Picchu it is now necessary to tell the story of a celebrated city, whose name, Tampu-tocco, was not used even at the time of the Spanish Conquest as the cognomen of any of the Inca towns then in existence. I must draw the reader's attention far away from the period when Pizarro and Manco, Toledo and Tupac Amaru were the protagonists, back to events which occurred nearly seven hundred years before their day. The last Incas ruled in Uiticos between 1536 and 1572. The last Amautas flourished about 800 A.D.

The Amautas had been ruling the Peruvian highlands for about sixty generations, when, as has been told in Chapter VI, invaders came from the south and east. The Amautas had built up a wonderful civilization. Many of the agricultural and engineering feats which we ordinarily assign to the Incas were really achievements of the Amautas. The last of the Amautas was Pachacuti VI, who was killed by an arrow on the battle-field of La Raya. The historian Montesinos, whose work on the antiquities of Peru has recently been translated for the Hakluyt Society by Mr. P. A. Means, of Harvard University, tells us that the followers of Pachacuti VI fled with his body to "Tampu-tocco." This, says the historian, was "a healthy place" where there was a cave in which they hid the Amauta's body. Cuzco, the finest and most important of all their cities, was sacked. General anarchy prevailed throughout the ancient empire. The good old days of peace and plenty disappeared before the invader. The glory of the old empire was destroyed, not to return for several centuries. In these dark ages, resembling those of European medieval times which followed the Germanic migrations and the fall of the Roman Empire, Peru was split up into a large number of small independent units. Each district chose its own ruler and carried on depredations against its neighbors. The effects of this may still be seen in the ruins of small fortresses found guarding the way into isolated Andean valleys.

Montesinos says that those who were most loyal to the Amautas were few in number and not strong enough to oppose their enemies successfully. Some of them, probably the principal priests, wise men, and chiefs of the ancient regime, built a new city at "Tampu-tocco." Here they kept alive the memory of the Amautas and lived in such a relatively civilized manner as to draw to them, little by little, those who wished to be safe from the prevailing chaos and disorder and the tyranny of the independent chiefs or "robber barons." In their new capital, they elected a king, Titi Truaman Quicho.

The survivors of the old regime enjoyed living at Tampu-tocco, because there never have been any earthquakes, plagues, or tremblings there. Furthermore, if fortune should turn against their new young king, Titi Truaman, and he should be killed, they could bury him in a very sacred place, namely, the cave where they hid the body of Pachacuti VI.

Fortune was kind to the founders of the new kingdom. They had chosen an excellent place of refuge where they were not disturbed. To their ruler, the king of Tampu-tocco, and to his successors nothing worth recording happened for centuries. During this period several of the kings wished to establish themselves in ancient Cuzco, where the great Amautas had reigned, but for one reason or another were obliged to forego their ambitions.

One of the most enlightened rulers of Tampu-tocco was a king called Tupac Cauri, or Pachacuti VII. In his day people began to write on the leaves of trees. He sent messengers to the various parts of the highlands, asking the tribes to stop worshiping idols and animals, to cease practicing evil customs which had grown up since the fall of the Amautas, and to return to the ways of their ancestors. He met with little encouragement. On the contrary, his ambassadors were killed and little or no change took place. Discouraged by the failure of his attempts at reformation and desirous of learning its cause, Tupac Cauri was told by his soothsayers that the matter which most displeased the gods was the invention of writing. Thereupon he forbade anybody to practice writing, under penalty of death. This mandate was observed with such strictness that the ancient folk never again used letters. Instead, they used quipus, strings and knots. It was supposed that the gods were appeased, and every one breathed easier. No one realized how near the Peruvians as a race had come to taking a most momentous step.

This curious and interesting tradition relates to an event supposed to have occurred many centuries before the Spanish Conquest. We have no ocular evidence to support it. The skeptic may brush it aside as a story intended to appeal to the vanity of persons with Inca blood in their veins; yet it is not told by the half-caste Garcilasso, who wanted Europeans to admire his maternal ancestors and wrote his book accordingly, but is in the pages of that careful investigator Montesinos, a pure-blooded Spaniard. As a matter of fact, to students of Sumner's "Folkways," the story rings true. Some young fellow, brighter than the rest, developed a system of ideographs which he scratched on broad, smooth leaves. It worked. People were beginning to adopt it. The conservative priests of Tampu-tocco did not like it. There was danger lest some of the precious secrets, heretofore handed down orally to the neophytes, might become public property. Nevertheless, the invention was so useful that it began to spread. There followed some extremely unlucky event - the ambassadors were killed, the king's plans miscarried. What more natural than that the newly discovered ideographs should be blamed for it? As a result, the king of Tampu-tocco, instigated thereto by the priests, determined to abolish this new thing. Its usefulness had not yet been firmly established. In fact it was inconvenient; the leaves withered, dried, and cracked, or blew away, and the writings were lost. Had the new invention been permitted to exist a little longer, some one would have commenced to scratch ideographs on rocks. Then it would have persisted. The rulers and priests, however, found that the important records of tribute and taxes could be kept perfectly well by means of the quipus. And the "job" of those whose duty it was to remember what each string stood for was assured. After all there is nothing unusual about Montesinos' story. One has only to look at the history of Spain itself to realize that royal bigotry and priestly intolerance have often crushed new ideas and kept great nations from making important advances.

Montesinos says further that Tupac Cauri established in Tampu-tocco a kind of university where boys were taught the use of quipus, the method of counting and the significance of the different colored strings, while their fathers and older brothers were trained in military exercises - in other words, practiced with the sling, the bolas and the war-club; perhaps also with bows and arrows. Around the name of Tupac Cauri, or Pachacuti VII, as he wished to be called, is gathered the story of various intellectual movements which took place in Tampu-tocco. Finally, there came a time when the skill and military efficiency of the little kingdom rose to a high plane. The ruler and his councilors, bearing in mind the tradition of their ancestors who centuries before had dwelt in Cuzco, again determined to make the attempt to reestablish themselves there. An earthquake, which ruined many buildings in Cuzco, caused rivers to change their courses, destroyed towns, and was followed by the outbreak of a disastrous epidemic. The chiefs were obliged to give up their plans, although in healthy Tampu-tocco there was no pestilence. Their kingdom became more and more crowded. Every available square yard of arable land was terraced and cultivated. The men were intelligent, well organized, and accustomed to discipline, but they could not raise enough food for their families; so, about 1300 A.D., they were forced to secure arable land by conquest, under the leadership of the energetic ruler of the day. His name was Manco Ccapac, generally called the first Inca, the ruler for whom the Manco of 1536 was named.

There are many stories of the rise of the first Inca. When he had grown to man's estate, he assembled his people to see how he could secure new lands for them. After consultation with his brothers, he determined to set out with them "toward the hill over which the sun rose," as we are informed by Pachacuti Yamqui Salcamayhua, an Indian who was a descendant of a long line of Incas, whose great-grandparents lived in the time of the Spanish Conquest, and who wrote an account of the antiquities of Peru in 1620. He gives the history of the Incas as it was handed down to the descendants of the former rulers of Peru. In it we read that Manco Ccapac and his brothers finally succeeded in reaching Cuzco and settled there. With the return of the descendants of the Amautas to Cuzco there ended the glory of Tampu-tocco. Manco married his own sister in order that he might not lose caste and that no other family be elevated by this marriage to be on an equality with his. He made good laws, conquered many provinces, and is regarded as the founder of the Inca dynasty. The highlanders came under his sway and brought him rich presents. The Inca, as Manco Ccapac now came to be known, was recognized as the most powerful chief, the most valiant fighter, and the most lucky warrior in the Andes. His captains and soldiers were brave, well disciplined, and well armed. All his affairs prospered greatly. "Afterward he ordered works to be executed at the place of his birth, consisting of a masonry wall with three windows, which were emblems of the house of his fathers whence he descended. The first window was called Tampu-tocco." I quote from Sir Clements Markham's translation.

The Spaniards who asked about Tampu-tocco were told that it was at or near Paccaritampu, a small town eight or ten miles south of Cuzco. I learned that ruins are very scarce in its vicinity. There are none in the town. The most important are the ruins of Maucallacta, an Inca village, a few miles away. Near it I found a rocky hill consisting of several crags and large rocks, the surface of one of which is carved into platforms and two sleeping pumas. It is called Puma Urco. Beneath the rocks are some caves. I was told they had recently been used by political refugees. There is enough about the caves and the characteristics of the ruins near Paccaritampu to lend color to the story told to the early Spaniards. Nevertheless, it would seem as if Tampu-tocco must have been a place more remote from Cuzco and better defended by Nature from any attacks on that side. How else would it have been possible for the disorganized remnant of Pachacuti VI's army to have taken refuge there and set up an independent kingdom in the face of the warlike invaders from the south? A few men might have hid in the caves of Puma Urco, but Paccaritampu is not a natural citadel.

The surrounding region is not difficult of access. There are no precipices between here and the Cuzco Basin. There are no natural defenses against such an invading force as captured the capital of the Amautas. Furthermore, tampu means "a place of temporary abode," or "a tavern," or "an improved piece of ground" or "farm far from a town"; tocco means "window." There is an old tavern at Maucallacta near Paccaritampu, but there are no windows in the building to justify the name of "window tavern" or "place of temporary abode" (or "farm far from a town") "noted for its windows." There is nothing of a "masonry wall with three windows" corresponding to Salcamayhua's description of Manco Ccapac's memorial at his birthplace. The word "Tampu-tocco" does not occur on any map I have been able to consult, nor is it in the exhaustive gazetteer of Peru compiled by Paz Soldan.