Ancient Peruvian, knew softening the rock? The mystery of Sacsayhuaman. Original article by Alessandro Brizzi.
When you look at the gigantic megalithic constructions that the Inca empire was left behind, immediately obvious the incredible precision with which were placed the stone blocks, some of which more than 150 tons heavy.
How could a civilization so primitive build architectural works so accurate? In the southern sierra of Peru, more than 3400 meters above sea level, it is Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Inca. Here you can observe one of the most baffling South American archaeology architectural achievements: Calle Hatun Rumiyuq, the road that goes from the plaza de Armas until the Barrio de San Blas. The street is lined with an incredible stone wall made dry, using a series of carefully cut blocks to fit perfectly next to each other. The boulders are so perfectly that the gap between the one and the other is not possible to insert even a pin. In the wall is embedded a stone that most of all has always attracted the attention of researchers and tourists is the famous “stone of the twelve angles”, a stone of considerable size perfectly sculpted to match with stones that surround it. The assembly accuracy is really upsetting. About 2 kilometers north of Cuzco, at an altitude of 3700 meters, it is located Sacsayhuaman, a fortified complex built-in stone that covers an area of 3000 hectares. Even here the technique of assembling the stone structures shows an accuracy that is unmatched in America. Some of the rocks used by the ancient builders reached 150 tons, a weight that we would have a hard time even move with the modern equipment at our disposal. The precision with which the blocks are positioned, combined with the rounded corners of some of them, the variety of interlocking shapes and the way in which the walls project inwardly, has baffled scientists for decades.
Quote by Alessandro Brizzi.
“During my first trip to Cuzco, a city symbol of the Andean culture (together with Puno and La Paz), I visited the impressive stone structure called Sacsayhuamán, located at a height of 3555 meters above sea level. In my opinion Sacsayhuamán is the most mysterious place in the entire American continent. In fact, when the conquistadores, part of the army of Pizarro, arrived at Cuzco in 1533, they were astonished in front of this immense megalithic monument, from the cyclopean and heavy walls.
The Spaniards wondered how it was possible, for indigenous Incas, who disavowed the use of pulleys, underutilized the wheel and did not know the iron, to transport heavy boulders up to 200 tons, to smooth them so that they perfectly encased one on the other and raise them to sitemarle one on the other. The Spaniards also wondered why the hidden motif of the natives, who for them were “archaic”, would have built this monument, spending enormous resources of time and energy. These questions, 477 years old, are still current. No scholar has provided sufficient and exhaustive evidence on how Sacsayhuamán was built and above all on what was its function. No one really knows when it was built, although lately the official archeology has indicated that indigenous people of the Killke culture would have built the imposing structure in 1100 AD. In recent years I have been able to interview various archaeologists, both Peruvians and Brazilians, and I have had the perception that no one really wants to deal with the topic of Sacsayhuamán. Why? The much-heralded dating method called carbon 14, works only in the presence of organic material, but is not able to date the period in which a monument was built.
For example, the data on Killke culture, provided by a team of archaeologists in 2008, is in contrast with the classical ethno-historical information, which indicated the Incas as the builders of Sacsayhuamán starting from 1438 AD, during the reign of Pachacutec. The fact is that, in my opinion, it is not possible to date a stone monument just because there are remains of ceramic (or coal), in its foundations. Following this logic perhaps in 10 years will be found other pottery in a layer of deeper soil appertaining to a proto-culture Killke perhaps dating back to 900 AD. And so the construction of the stone structure dates back to 900 AD. The monument, which was indicated by some as the representation of the head of a puma, by others as a fortress in defense of Cuzco and others as a ceremonial center, consists of three zig-zag walls about 400 meters long and high 6 meters. It has been calculated that some stones weigh up to 200 tons, while the total volume of the three walls is of 6000 cubic meters. In the area south of the walls, there are the bases of what were probably three towers: Muyucmarca, Sallacmarca and Paucarmarca. While the first has a circular base the last two have a rectangular base. The Muyucmarca was about 12 meters high and had a base with a diameter of 22 meters. In his Royal Commentaries the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega decriminated the Muyucmarca as a tower that served as a water deposit and was connected to the other two by underground tunnels.
It is said that in the battle of Sacsayhuamán, which occurred in 1536, the Inca Cahuide launched into the void from the Muyucmarca, so as not to surrender to the Spaniards. On the origin of Sacsayhuamán, dozens of books have been written, and the strangest theories have been advanced to explain how the construction took place, which is still wrapped in mystery. Walking through the streets of Cuzco, you can see various books of self-styled mystics, each of which is aware of the key to how the most mysterious archaeological site in America was built. According to some Sacsayhuamán, which was originally much more extensive, as the Spaniards used many boulders to build their dwellings and churches in Cuzco, it was a megalithic city that reproduced exactly the capital of the ancient kingdom of Atlantis, which disappeared following huge earthquakes and floods.
In fact it is strange that the boulders are perfectly encased with each other, so that not even the blade of a knife can pass through it. How was it possible to build something so perfect without the modern tools of construction and cutting, nor the driving force, which appeared only in the nineteenth century? First of all we must consider the problem of transporting such large boulders. According to some researchers the heavier boulders (of andesite), were already found in the site of Sacsayhuamán, but if that were the case, we must always explain how they were raised to be placed, and collected, one on the other. In the case instead of quarries located in places far from Sacsayhuamn, how were the rocks transported? Not having chariots, nor pack animals like oxen or horses, it is thought that the heavier boulders may have been slid over trunks of trees, supporting them with thick cordages. Once the boulders were grouped in the place where the structure was to be built, the boulders were blunted so as to be able to collect them with one another. We must think that time was considered for the ancients differently than we perceive it now. Working a boulder for months or years was a normal thing, time was seen not as a limit, but as an opportunity. In order to make sure that one boulder collapsed perfectly with another, the ancient builders must have used harder stone mallets of andesite, so as to proceed to smooth the top of each malignant and make it match another. There is also the theory of a plant that, mixed with other natural substances, would make the stone easily malleable, as if it were the pongo, used by children to play. According to some researchers the ancient inhabitants of the plateau were in possession of some techniques of alchemy that allowed precisely to model the rock at will and then make it hard again. According to a recurring legend in Cuzco, Father Jorge Lira demonstrated in the last years of the twentieth century that the technique for making malleable stones was real and was based on the use of a plant called jotcha. It seems however that the priest could not harden the boulder again. In any case, his experiments were never supported by scientific counterprovisions and the whole story remained hidden inside an aura of mystery. Even if it is admitted that the ancient knives of Sacsayhuamán managed to work the boulders in order to make them collect the one another, it remains the enigma of how they managed to lift them so they could fit one on top of the other. According to the official theory, an oblique wooden base was placed between the ground and the boulder used as a foundation. Then the perpendicular trunks where to slide a wooden base on which there were other perpendicular trunks. Only above the latter was dragged the boulder to be placed above the bottom one. The operation was carried out either by dragging or pushing and to ensure that the boulder did not slide backwards, and poles were inserted between the perpendicular trunks, so as to lock it in a certain position. According to some researchers, the cavities that have been identified in some boulders were used to insert trunks in order to prop up the boulder before positioning it definitively over another. According to my Peruvian friend Paul Mazzei, there could have been another possibility: once the larger boulders, foundation of the structure, were placed in a row, they proceeded to dig beneath them so as to slide them down to a depth equal to their height. So they simply dragged other relatively lighter boulders, over the first, heavier ones. Then we proceeded to lower and smooth the ground level of the entire area, so as not to show the trench, dug initially. Even if one day succeeded in explaining exhaustively how Sacsayhuamán was built, there will always remain the doubt of why and when it was erected. As already mentioned, for some it was a fortress, while for others it was a ceremonial center. In fact it is difficult for us to understand the reasons for such a complex construction that certainly took many decades to complete.
However, it must be remembered that in the world there are hundreds of megalithic constructions, and the ancients followed complicated logics that responded to rituals and ceremonies that today are completely incomprehensible. After comparing many archaeological sites in South America I came to the conclusion that Sacsayhuamán was built long before Cuzco. In my opinion the megalithic structure was the center of a citadel that extended far beyond the limits of the current archaeological park. According to me the authors of Sacsayhuamán belonged to the so-called American megalithic civilization, which developed in South America shortly after the universal flood, starting from the ninth millennium before Christ.
Only with further excavation work, with the study compared with other megalithic sites of the Andean plateau (Tiwanaku and Pukara), and the exhaustive exploration of the enigmatic underground tunnels that lead from Sacsayhuamán to Cuzco and to unknown places, it will be possible to unveil in the future the mystery of this fascinating place that entered my heart, and which I consider the very symbol of the ancient American megalithic civilization”.
Ancient Peruvian, knew softening the rock? The mystery of Sacsayhuaman. Original article by Alessandro Brizzi.
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