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Ancient Architecture : The Incas

10 Elective History




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"Machu Picchu is a late Inca town dramatically sited on the saddle between two mountains, overlooking the Urubamba River, which winds 900 m (3000 ft) below it. Its buildings, all constructed of local stone, use various types of walling, from coursed ashlar to roughly dressed rubble, and incorporate characteristic trapezoidal doorways.


To celebrate his god-like status as "Son of the Sun God", the creator of the Inca Empire, Pachacuti the Conqueror (his name means "World-Shaker"), orders the building of an impossible city in the sky - a sacred residence where he will commune with his fellow gods - the sun, moon, thunder, and mountains. The site, high in the Andes, perched almost two-and-a-half kilometers above sea level, on a narrow ridge of volcanic granite, faces the Emperor's engineers with an almost impossible task. How to make sure the city, where they will erect spectacular temples, altars, residences, and fountains - all built on shifting fractured rock - will resist the torrential rains, landslides, and earth tremors of the region. Brilliantly conceived, perfectly executed, using techniques that even surpass those of today - and mystify architects, engineers, and archeologists - the Inca create their masterpiece: Machu Picchu.

More than a year ago I made a video about the famous Inca or Pre-Inca Stone walls of Peru and I presented the hypothesis that the reason they are made from irregular blocks of stone yet interlock so perfectly is because they are made by stacking cement bags.

Machu Picchu is a testament to the power and ingenuity of the Inca empire. Built without the use of mortar, metal tools, or the wheel, Machu Picchu stands as an archaeological wonder of the ancient world. But why was it built—and deserted?

Inca masonry is highly regarded as some of the most advanced stone work on the planet, especially as it was done by an ancient culture who we’re generally taught only had access to primitive tools and building methods, it’s no wonder why even the top reseachers and scientists around the world are still scratching their heads about how these stones were cut and fit together so perfectly and uniquely. The stone work is truly mezmirising to look at, every block being individually shaped and cut to fit the ones surrounding it, where not a pin, a piece of paper, or a razor blade could be squeezed in the joints, it’s like an elegantly perfect megalithic jigsaw puzzle. The material used for the blocks ranges from limestone in mainly foundation contructions, to granite and andesite which would usually be used for the more prominent constructions or widely visible walls. Some of the most notable places featuring this architecture include Machu Picchu, Sacsayhuaman and Ollantaytambo in Peru.


The Incan empire was built in the 15th century and lasted less than 100 years. Amazingly, in that short time, the Inca created an incredibly organized and productive society. Located in what is now part of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, the Inca were excellent farmers, builders and craftsmen. Students will visit the ruins of the lost city of Machu Picchu, a remarkably well-preserved example of an Incan city. Artefacts like pottery fragments, pieces of cloth, old toys and stone tools help archaeologists piece together a picture of the daily life of the Inca. What happened to the Inca? When the Spanish explorers arrived in 1532, they found the empire in turmoil. In addition, the Spanish brought new diseases, killing people by the thousands. In the end, the Spanish conquered the Inca, destroying their way of life and religion.

Protecting Ancient Heritage eBook

Ancient History Encyclopedia

Inca architecture includes some of the most finely worked stone structures from any ancient civilization.

Machu Picchu


The Inca Empire was able to perform the most extraordinary architecture works that still can be appreciated from the large number of ruins left, all over the mountain system that surrounds the Citadel of Machu Picchu

National Geographic

Temples for worship, houses for living, bathing areas, and a grand plaza for gatherings and games. Only the rock walls remain. Thatched roofs once sat on these structures and shed the heavy rains, but that’s not all they had to withstand.