Famous 12 angle Inca stone topped but not overshadowed by 13 angle stone

Famous 12 angle Inca stone topped but not overshadowed by 13 angle stone

For centuries, it was held up as the preeminent example of Inca polygonal stone masonry: the famous 12-angle stone.

The massive jigsaw piece is carved with 12 angles to fit perfectly with the stones around it in a monumental foundation on Hatun Rumiyoc Street in Cusco. It is widely believed to have once been part of the palace of Inca Roca, the sixth Sapa Inca ruler of the Kingdom.

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Martin Chambi - The Stone of Twelve Angles - Cusco - 1925

The 12-angle stone’s iconic curves are a mainstay of the Peruvian esthetic. It extends beyond Peru’s borders, from tourist lounges and kitsch hostal lobbies all the way to  haughty university classrooms in the United States and Europe.

Art historian Adam Herring wrote about it in an excellent semiotic study, Shimmering Foundation: The Twelve-Angled Stone of Inca Cusco.

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda referred to its angled form as “rocky petals,” Herring noted, and a young Ché Guevara called it “an ingma in stone.”

When you tour Cusco, see how many times you can spot the 12-angle stone incorporated into business signs and logos

Countless businesses, including Peru’s most important railroad concession, PeruRail, and beer company, Cuzqueña, have engraved the stone into their corporate identities.

Now comes news just released by Peru’s Ministry of Culture that, far from the tourist Mecca that is Cusco, in an isolated Inca ruins called Inkawasi de Huaytará, archaeologists have discovered a carved stone with 13 angles.

That’s right, thirteen.

The 13-angle stone is built into a complex system of irrigation channels that researchers believe was used in ritual ceremonies.

It is located in one of two interconnected fountains, with fine coursed stonework, that run straight, then zigzag to slow the flow of water, and ultimately feeds into the Viscacha River.

Ritual management of water was a central feature of the  Inca, who — like dozens of Andean civilizations that preceded them— viewed springs, lakes and mountain glaciers as sacred, living deities.

12-Angle Stone Calle Hatunrumiyoc - Cuzco
"Stone of 13 Angles" discovered perfectly carved and laid into place in an ancient Inca water canal in the archaeological complex of Inkawasi in Huaytará, Huancavelica, Peru
13-Angle Stone of Inkawasi map

So, what to make of this discovery.

Qhapaq Ñan, the system of Inca trails that connected an empire.

“Move over, Cusco’s famed 12-angle stone,” was the quip that Peruvian Times led with in its story about the 13-angle stone. But only a quip it was.

The 13-angle stone is part and parcel of the great Inca structures found not only in Cusco, but throughout the vast Inca territory that stretched along the spine of the Andes from modern day Ecuador and Colombia to Chile and Argentina.

It is another example of “stylistically consistent, technically superlative, and surpassingly labor-intensive, monumental architecture,” to borrow a phrase from Prof. Herring.

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Authored by: Rick Vecchio

Rick Vecchio, Fertur’s director of development and marketing, was educated at the New School for Social Research and Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. He worked for Pacifica Radio WBAI and as a daily reporter for newspapers in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. Then in 1996, he decided it was time to realize a life-long dream of traveling to Peru. He never went back. While serving as Peru country manager for the South American Explorers from 1997-1999, he fell in love with Fertur's founder, Siduith Ferrer, and they married. Over the next six years, he worked as a correspondent for The Associated Press. Meanwhile, Siduith built the business, which he joined in January 2007. Now he designs custom educational and adventure tour packages for corporate and institutional clients, oversees Fertur’s Internet platform and occasionally leads special trips, always with an eye open for a good story to write about.

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