An Intihuatana stone is one of many ritual stones harbored by the Incas of South America. The name means "hitching post of the sun," and indeed, the stones were aranged so as to point directly at the sun on the winter solstice. Each midwinter, the Incas would gather at the stone and hold a ceremony wherein they "tied" the sun to the sky, to ensure its continued progress across the heavens, and stop its northern ascension. During the rest of the year, it could be used to determine the date, observe other astronomical phenomena, and to control agricultural activities.

According to some shamanic legends, Intihuatana stones anchored spirits to the place where they were set, and when a sensitive person touched their forehead to the stone, their minds were open to visions from the spirit world. It was believed that when one of the stones was broken, the deity of the place either departed or died.

When the Spaniards took over the Incan empire, they systematically sought out the sacred stones and destroyed them. The most famous Intihuatana stone is the one set at the highest point of Machu Picchu, Peru, a mountainous retreat for the elite of nearby Cuzco. It consists of a large, flat granite stone, with a thick pillar of stone jutting up out of it - it is this which points to the sun at the solstice. Though it was sought by the Spanish, it was never found, and survived into the 20th century.

That is, it did survive, until September 11, 2000, when during the filming of a commercial by US publicity firm J. Walter Thompson for Cervesur Beer (a subsidiary of Backus & Johnston, Peru's largest beer company) a 990-pound crane fell on the stone, chipping off a thin sliver the length of a ballpoint pen. Reconstruction efforts were underway, and criminal charges were pressed - but any spirit that dwelled in that place is surely gone. The beer company "does not feel responsible for the incident".

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