Is this ‘Temple of Fertility’ in Peru Really a Giant Collection of Stone Penises, or is it a Phallic Fallacy?
The megalithic Fertility Temple also known as “Chucuito” on the edge of Lake Titicaca in Peru is special and at the same time controversial basically for a single reason: its “sexuality”. Whether the upright stones are supposed to be phallic or represent magic mushrooms has caused much debate between historians for many years now.
The Inca Carved Stone Penises of Peru
Inka Uyo is a lesser-known site of cut-stone structures located at the site of Chucuito in Peru. It is a part of one of the two plazas that make up the site of Chucuito and according to many archaeologists, it is one of the most intriguing constructions in the Titicaca Basin, as it is an arrangement of carved stones sticking out from the earth within a walled, rectangular ruin.
Inca Uyo fertility temple enclosure ( CC BY NC NA 2.0 )
At first glance, Inca Uyo is a walled enclosure next to Santo Domingo that looks like a garden of giant mushrooms. But upon closer inspection, the 86 carved, mushroom-shaped stones look more like carved stone penises, some pointing up at the sky – possibly toward Inti, the Inca sun god – while others rammed into the ground – toward Pachamama, the Mother Earth goddess.
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The structures were first excavated in 1950 by Harry and Marion Tschopik, archaeologists with expertize in Peru, and who were the ones who first stated that the structures were constructed in "Inca style". The site would be further excavated by Orompelio Vidal during the 1960s, whose work mainly focused on clearing the plaza surrounding structures.
After detailed archaeological research, it has been concluded that the stones are ancient and from local quarries, although there is some debate whether the stones have been moved at some point, since the original excavation did not describe them being arranged upright into rows, as they are found today. Additionally, some experts appear to agree that many stones were collected from other locations and placed at the enclosure.
Although they are ancient, the stones are thought to have been moved from the surrounding area and arranged in rows ( CC BY NC SA 2.0 )
The True Temple’s Purpose is a Mystery
So, the question is: what was the purpose of the site? Officially, the purpose of the temple is still unknown. However, most historians and archaeologists appear to agree that the peculiar structures were part of an ancient religious temple where fertility rites took place in order to cure many women of their infertility.
As Ashley Cowie has reported in a previous Ancient Origins article , many early cultures associated sex with supernatural forces and religious architecture intertwined with such depictions is pretty common and shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. Sexual imagery is found on statues, pottery, paintings, sculpture, dramatic arts, religious buildings, monuments and music. Thousands of years before the written word ancient societies extended their sexuality and sexual practices into the surrounding landscapes and at important dates in agricultural and ritual calendars people got hyper-sexualized and spiritualized at natural places perceived as being abundant with the magic energy of fertilization.
A child plays amongst the phalli, one of which is the size of a small child ( CC BY NC NA 2.0 )
Fertilization Symbols Around the World
Concepts of a female Earth Mother can be found within almost every ancient culture and she was generally associated with gently rounded hills, softly flowing streams, fresh water springs and the deepest caves, perceived as wombs, in which her abundant powers of fertility were worshiped.
In ancient Greece for example, phallic artifacts including amulets, figurines, lamps, ornaments and pottery, were often placed outside houses, in doorways, walls, boundaries, graves. The phallic bird symbol was used in Ancient Greek fertility rituals where participants carried poles with winged members atop. The unveiling of the winged phallus constituted an important rite of Dionysiac celebrations. This example was recovered from Dionysus Temple, Delos Island, Greece, and dated to around 300 BC.
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The phallic bird symbol, found in Dionysus Temple on Delos Island, Greece (Image:Courtesy of Ashley Cowie )
If this doesn’t convince you of the likely purpose of the ‘temple’, then you should learn about the Arches National Park, north of Moab in the state of Utah. Bordered by the Colorado River in the southeast, it is home to more than 2,000 natural sandstone geological formations, including vast arches and balancing rocks. However, the focus of Native American Indian tribal fertility rituals is one of the world’s oldest and largest sandstone yonis. Situated 5,800 feet (1,767.8 m) above sea level, the Arches National Park features some of the loftiest phalluses in the world. This particular specimen is accessible from the south by following a dirt road from Page Arizona to Cannonville, passable for most vehicles in dry conditions but slippery and dangerous when wet.
Naturally occurring phallic symbol in the Arches National Park (Image: Courtesy of Ashley Cowie )
Furthermore, the ancient Indian Vedic cultures took sexual rituals to an entirely different level. Located in deep jungles the 10th century Khajuraho Monuments are a group of Hindu and Jain temples in Madhya Pradesh comprised of purpose built sex temples and carnal chambers. Every square inch of wall has been carved with tens of thousands of highly graphic sexual images to enhance the ritual environment. From depictions of men having sex with animals to bizarre 1 woman to 20 men group sex encounters, these ancient Vedic rituals were hyper-theatrical, complex arts where orgasms were timed, held and released at key stages within the ceremonies. It was in this research and developmental period, where sex corresponded with spirituality, that the seeds were sown for what later became the internationally bestselling love guide - The Kama Sutra.
Khajuraho Stone Monument - India Kamasutra ( Public Domain )
Last but not least, the Gunung Mulu National Park, located close to the southern border of Brunei with Malaysia, beneath densely forested mountain slopes is the largest limestone cave system in the world. Deep within Lang's cave, this penetrating rock formation has been the center piece for sex and fertility rituals for over 1,000 years.
So, can we be sure about this Chucuito’s purpose during antiquity? Of course not, since there’s not enough archaeological evidence to verify our speculations. Is it OK, however, for us to speculate that it was seen as a fertility temple, judging from similar structures? Definitely.
Top image: ‘ Chucuito Fertility Temple. Some phalli are facing the Earth (Paccha Mama – Inca Earth Goddess) and others the sky (Inti – Inca Sky God) ( CC BY NC ND 2.0 )
Chucuito Temple of Fertility.
Available at: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/chucuito
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