A staircase behind the Sacristy climbs a small hill to the major shrine in Machu Picchu, the Intihuatana. This Quechua word loosely translates as the ’Hitching Post of the Sun’ and refers to the carved rock pillar, often mistakenly called a sundial, which stands at the top of the Intihuatana hill.
The Inca’s astronomers were able to predict the solstices using the angles of this pillar. Thus, they were able to claim control over the return of the lengthening summer days. Exactly how the pillar was used for these astronomical purposes remains unclear, but its elegant simplicity and high craftsmanship makes it a highlight of the complex. It is recorded that there were several of these Intihuatanas in various important Inca sites, but the Spaniards smashed most in an attempt to wipe out the pagan blasphemy of sun worship.
On 21 June, the day of the winter solstice, the Quechua celebrated the most important celebration of the Inca’s and that was the Inti Raymi or Fete’s Sun. This celebration was done because of the fear of the Incas that his father Sun could go away from them, since this is the point in time when the sun is the furthest from earth. In a symbolic act, the Incas made many rituals, in order to tie the Sun to the Intiwatana. But one thing is for sure; this had been used to know exactly the seasons and therefore when was the correct time for sowing and harvesting.