Spiritual Significance of Cerro Puñay

Located at a height of 3245 meters above sea level, on the top of Cerro Puñay in the Chunchi Canton of the Chimborazo Province of Ecuador, an ancient pyramid set in a complex of ruined buildings arranged in the shape of a Macaw has been declared as the ‘Spiritual Patrimony of the Peoples and Nations of Humanity’. This declaration was made during the celebration of Inti Raymi (winter solstice) at the archeological site on June 21, 2007. Among the people gathered for this special occasion were indigenous leaders from the Sierra Centro region, along with authorities of the Chimborazo Province and the Ecuadorian Minister of Tourism.

It is not known how long ago the site was actually discovered. Rumors and myths of great wealth and treasures have been lost, as Cerro Puñay has been subject to vandalism, with items of value most likely removed. Many believe that the pyramid is the one spoken of in Quechua legends of a lost pyramid with golden artifacts. It was only in 2002 that the historical and spiritual value of Cerro Puñay was recognized and steps were taken both to preserve it and to promote it as a tourist attraction.

In 2003 archaeologists undertook a survey of the ruins, which are now believed to be the oldest in the country, and through careful study, and using modern technology such as GPS, the ruins were mapped out and it became clear that they took the form of a bird. This was confirmed later by aerial photography. The shape of the pyramid complex is significant, as the Macaw, or Guacamaya, is a considered sacred in Andean Cultures and is a prominent feature on ceremonial jars and pots. It has been suggested that Cerro Puñay may have been a ceremonial religious center for the Canari people who according to legend, are descended from the Macaw.

Cerro Puñay is a popular ecotourism attraction in Ecuador, with visitors traveling from Riobamba and camping on the peak of the mountain overnight. The scenery is spectacular, the pyramid complex is fascinating, and while visitors are enjoying the ancient history, mystery and culture of Cerro Puñay, they are supporting efforts to preserve this important Ecuadorian attraction for future generations.


Thumbnail image by Santiago Montesdeoca