Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue
More about Ollantaytambo!
This week, as promised, I'm talking about Ollantaytambo's temples and its role in the war against the Spanish conquistadores.
The picture above depicts the very steep terraces, not used for farming, that lead like a giant staircase to Ollantaytambo's Temple Hill. You can see people walking up the actual staircases between the terraces. Looks like a hell of a climb.
This hill resides to the west of Araqhama, which is a spillover of the original settlement across the Patakancha River. Araqhama is to the west of Ollantaytambo proper, and Temple Hill is to the west of that. It's an interesting choice to put one's temples so far out of town. I wonder what that signifies? The Spanish name of the hill is Cerro Bandalista.
When you reach the top of the staircases, you emerge into a ceremonial center divided in three. The imaginatively named Middle Sector is immediately in front of the staircases (I feel fairly sure it was archaeologists, not the Incans, who named it the Middle Sector). To the south is the Temple Sector, and to the north, the Funerary Sector. The Temple Sector is built out of carved stone, where the others are built from fieldstone. This seems to be a common way the Incans showed the relative importance of various built objects.
I believe this is a view of the top of the stairs and the beginning of the Middle Sector. It's hard to tell because very few people seem to put specific labels on their photo, but it looks to me like these people have reached the top of the staircase:
Given the incredible coolness of the rest of the pretty damned well-preserved Incan ruins, I was very disappointed by Temple Hill. It turns out that the Incans never finished it. Their ceremonial center was under construction.
The unfinished structures at the Temple Hill and the numerous stone blocks that litter the site indicate that it was still undergoing construction at the time of its abandonment. Some of the blocks show evidence of having been removed from finished walls, which provides evidence that a major remodeling effort was also underway. Which event halted construction at the Temple Hill is unknown; likely candidates include the war of succession between Huáscar and Atahualpa, the Spanish Conquest of Peru, and the retreat of Manco Inca from Ollantaytambo to Vilcabamba.
So you get a half-finished gate leading into the Enclosure of the Ten Niches:
The Platform of the Carved Seat behind the Ten Niches:
And the Sun Temple, which I really wish they had finished. I bet it would have been stunning. This is the Wall of Six Monoliths, a part of the temple they did finish:
To give you a sense of scale, here's some pictures with people next to that wall:
I'm not sure those people should really be picnicking on top of 500-year-old monoliths, but it gives you a good idea of scale.
This is the Water Temple, a temple that apparently celebrates the complex irrigation system Pacachuti laid down.
There are also fountains in the Middle Sector, but the presence of a fountain in the Temple Sector implies that the Incans were very respectful of their water and perhaps also the technology which enabled them to have easy access to it, rather than having to haul it from the river all the way up the mountain every time they needed some.
Here's one of the current explanations as to why the Temple District isn't, well, more finished. The war with the Spanish resulted in the Incans having to abandon the city. After the Spaniards took Cuzco, the Incans established Ollantaytambo as a temporary capital:
During the Spanish conquest of Peru, Ollantaytambo served as a temporary capital for Manco Inca, leader of the native resistance against the conquistadors. He fortified the town and its approaches in the direction of the former Inca capital of Cusco, which had fallen under Spanish domination.
The Incans soon abandoned Ollantaytambo for a capital city deep in the jungle. But not before they won one of their few victories against the Spanish:
The huge, steep terraces that guard Ollantaytambo’s spectacular Inca ruins mark one of the few places where the Spanish conquistadors lost a major battle.
The rebellious Manco Inca had retreated to this fortress after his defeat at Sacsaywamán. In 1536, Hernando Pizarro, Francisco’s younger half-brother, led a force of 70 cavalrymen to Ollantaytambo, supported by large numbers of indigenous and Spanish foot soldiers, in an attempt to capture Manco Inca.
This is nitpicky, but can you be considered "rebellious" when you are fighting off an invading force?
The Incans stood on the high terraces and hurled everything they had down on the Spaniards' heads:
The conquistadors, showered with arrows, spears and boulders from atop the steep terracing, were unable to climb to the fortress. In a brilliant move, Manco Inca flooded the plain below the fortress through previously prepared channels. With Spaniards’ horses bogged down in the water, Pizarro ordered a hasty retreat, chased down by thousands of Manco Inca’s victorious soldiers.
OK, I'm sure it wasn't quite like that.
Yet the Inca victory would be short lived. Spanish forces soon returned with a quadrupled cavalry force and Manco fled to his jungle stronghold in Vilcabamba.
Apparently there's a new pedagogy that wants to use technology for deep learning. "Deep learning" develops what they call the 6 C's: critical thinking, communication, creativity, collaboration, character education, and citizenship.
Here is Dr. Michael Fullan describing how this new pedagogy works:
He also wants to use the appeal, some may say the addictive nature of digital technology, to make learning more attractive.
One way of doing this, supposedly, is to use the "flipped classroom," where students watch lectures at home and do homework in class. I see some value in that, but I have a hard time believing that the lectures listened to at home will not suffer from the same TLDR (too long didn't read) issue that all other online material does.
Collaboration is supposed to be a key part of this new pedagogy. As an educator who has attempted to get students to do group work around their computer terminals, I don't agree that digital technology inherently encourages collaboration. Digital technology can be a tool for collaboration when human beings were going to do that anyway, but there's nothing about sitting in front of a computer that necessarily makes students any more excited about doing group work. In fact, almost nobody is ever excited about doing group work, since one or two people in the group invariably end up doing all the work and resent it while the others dislike the additional burden of having to meet with a bunch of other students outside class.
All in all, what I see here is someone trying to make the best out of a bad thing; digital technology saturates everything and it's too late to say whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, or to discuss what ways digital technology might be applied most beneficially, and what technological advances that would require (including significant advances in digital security, for one). Much less can we have the discussion of what down sides digital technology might have, and what areas of life should be conducted through other technologies. Those were discussions that needed to happen in the 80s and early 90s. Instead of having them, we all mindlessly grabbed for the new set of gadgets, and reinforced the basically religious idea that all technological advancement is good and should be spread everywhere.
I'll keep an eye on Dr. Fullan to see if he proves me wrong. It would be great to be proven wrong, and to see digital technology encouraging critical thinking, good citizenship, clear communication, and creativity, instead of, for the most part, dumbing down thinking, spreading propaganda, encouraging people to trollishly misbehave and abuse others (because there are few consequences when you're behind a screen), and making us a kneejerk nation where, when trollish insults are not on hand, we construe them.
Looks like we borrowed the term "picnic," first from the French, then the English:
‘Picnic’ began life as a 17th-century French word: it wasn’t even close to being an American invention. or merely a nonsense rhyming syllable coined to fit the first half of this new palate-pleaser...The first documented appearance of the term outside the French language occurred in 1748, but picnic was rarely used in English prior to 1800 or thereabouts.
But it didn't mean to them what it did to us, at least not at first. It seems likely that to the 17th-century French it meant something more like BYOB--where the diners at a restaurant supplied their own wine. By the time the English were using it, the meaning had expanded to mean something like "potluck;" it wasn't even limited to describing food, but occasionally was used to refer to something like an open mike night! The key concept was of a group where each person contributed something:
Originally, the term described each guest was supposed to make towards the repast, as everyone who had been invited to social events styled as “picnics” was expected to turn up bearing a dish to add to the common feast. This element was picked up in other ‘picnic’ terms, such as ‘picnic society,’ which described gatherings of the intelligentsia where everyone was expected to perform or in some other way contribute to the success of the evening.
Sometime in the 19th century, the habit of holding such gatherings outdoors eclipsed the idea that each guest was to contribute something. The central concept became "eating that is done outside a building."
My Something Blue today is the sapphire:
Sapphires and rubies are actually the mineral corundum in different colors. Corundum has not only decorative, but technological applications, partly because of its amazing hardness. It is the third-hardest mineral known to man, right behind diamonds and, well, fake diamonds, or moissonite.
Moissonite was immortalized for me by Guy Ritchie's movie Snatch:
Sapphires are used as infrared optical components, wristwatch crystals, and wafer-thin insulation for some solid-state electronics. They are also, apparently, used in high-durability windows. I never knew windows could be made of sapphires.
Significant sapphire deposits are found in Eastern Australia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China (Shandong), Madagascar, East Africa, and in North America in a few locations, mostly in Montana.