The exact translation of the qechua word "intihuatana" is "for tying the sun", although it is usually translated as "Hitching Post of the Sun".
It consisted of a column of stone rising from a block of stone. Historians believe that the incas used to perform ceremonies to tie the sun as the winter solstice approached and the sun seemed to disappear more each day.
It is the only intihuatana (there were probably more of them) to remain intact because it was never found by the spanish.
Intihuatana is considered to be one of the most important attractions in Machu Picchu. It is an incredible carved rock built on a hill overlooking the Sacred Plaza. The term "Intihuatana" means "hitching post of the sun" in Quechua. It is believed to have been designed as an astronomic clock used for viewing the stars and constellations. Also it has been suggested that the Intihuatana appears to be aligned with four sacred mountains in the region. Apparently the sun rises and sets during the equinoxes and solstices behind these four mountains.
The Intihuatana at Machu Picchu was the only one the Spanish conquerors did not find and destroy (although with current discoveries, there may be more now).
Every winter solstice in June, the Inca priests would perform ceremonies at the Intihuatana during which they would "catch" the sun to keep it from going further away. The days would then grow longer until the summer solstice, keeping the populace happily faithful.
It is hard to give a must see from Machu Picchu because everything really is worth seeing. Though on the other hand, if you have visited, and NOT seen the intihuatana stone, you have missed something very important. The fence around is something new which has been set up to protect this holy symbol from tourists. The company behind Cristal beers made an ugly crack in the stone when filming a commercial lately. Whole Peru was furious!! Not very good commerical after all ;-)
Earlier I hear they let people touch the stone, and it is said that the most sensitive could feel the strong energy hidden in this ancient stone.
This is the Solar stone
The summer 2000 when a filming team from USA did some commersial, a stand for the beamlamps fell over and hit the stone(!!)
You can se the damage on the right side of the top stone (a corner is gone, aprox 15 cm). It is not possibel to mend it, it was crushed to small pieces.
The peruvians were furious and so was UNESCO, as Machu Picchu is a World Heritage.
The picture shows an altar for offerings, situated under the circular tower. It has probably served as an Intihuatana (something that is binding the Sol)