Samaipata: “El Fuerte”

Over Christmas break I had the pleasure of making my first trip out of Santa Cruz de la Sierra to a small town called Samaipata. The name comes from the indigenous Quechua language and roughly means “place of rest among the mountains.” The great attractions of Samaipata–beyond its cooler climate for city folk like me looking to escape the subtropical heat of Santa Cruz de la Sierra–is its ruins called “El Fuerte.” The Chané lived in this region from A.D. 200-800 and used the grounds mainly for ritual and residential reasons, the Incan civilization dominated the region in the 1400s and used the site for religious, ceremonial, and administrative purposes, and then the Spanish arrived in the 1600s and used it as a fort until abandoning it in favor of establishing a fort in current day Samaipata.  Here are some pictures from the site:


The ceremonial sector behind me is about 720 feet long and 200 feet wide. You may notice that the large slab of stone declines slightly in my direction. At the top of the slab are two long, shallow columns dug into the rock. Our guide told us that the priests would sacrifice animals at the top of the slab and the blood would drain down into two little pools.


It’s too difficult to see in this picture, but carved into the rock are three jaguar emblems.


Niches in the side of the rock where priests likely stored religious items.


Our guide is pointing out into the distance, emphasizing how far one can see from this vantage point. For this reason, the Spaniards used it as a fort and would communicate using smoke signals.


Looking away from the rock toward a gentle slope below. People would gather in this area to hear pronouncements from the priests and/or ask questions of administrative officials.


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