Exploring Peru’s Ancient Architecture: Mysteries of the Inca Civilization

I found myself at two sites where examples of Inca architecture and design could be observed in its finest form. Here below follows a visual tour.

Immediately noticeable was the combination of strength, functionality, durability and visual appeal. Aesthetics always played a role for the Inca, although it took much, much longer than today to construct buildings, walls and cities. The Incas had no power tools of any kind to assist them in the shaping of stones. It had to be done manually and these varied from hard granite rocks and blocks to pica and limestone. Many of the exact methods applied back then, to split, carve and polish rocks are unknown today, but it is thought that water, copper tools and other stones were used for polishing in order to obtain smooth shapes and surfaces.

In most cases stones were prepared away from the sites where they were to be used, which meant that measurements had to be taken first, then the stones or rather bricks had to be meticulously carved and polished at the quarry and from there transported to the sites for an exact fit on arrival. Needless to say, in today’s context, this was a remarkable feat and points to a highly advanced civilization who used the minimum to achieve the maximum – through ingenuity, intelligence, creativity and hard work, without waste and while remaining in harmony with the environment.

Worth mentioning is that in Machu Picchu we can see cases where there are slight gaps between some of the large carved stone bricks – these unusual spaces are attributed to earthquakes [Image 14]. Resistance to earthquakes was a built-in feature of Inca architecture and afterwards rocks would usually settle back into their places. At Ollantaytambo, The Wall of the Six Monoliths (Image 22) is especially impressive for its precision carving, seamless fit and artistic features, and how these 50 ton rocks were transported remains a mystery.

The Inca’s were not short on technology either and at Machu Picchu, which was once the educational centre of the Inca empire, we can see an Inca sun clock [Image 16], an Inca mirror [Image 17] which was also used to see the reflection of the stars at night, and an Inca Compass [Image 24].

An interesting element of Inca design that I noticed is that in some ways it resembles Egyptian design (for example the doorways) and the first time I heard the local Quechua language in the Cusco area, it had an Arabic ring to my ear, so there may well be some truth in speculation that in ancient times the Incas might have been in contact with the Egyptians – or that their descendants may even have heralded from there.

– by Jean-Jacques

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