Sacsayhuamán ruins spark amazement at Incan ingenuity

16 Jan

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As the famous Quechuan-Spanish author Garcilaso de la Vega wrote:

This fortress surpasses the constructions known as the seven wonders of the world.  For in the case of a long broad wall like that of Babylon, or the colossus of Rhodes, or the pyramids of Egypt, or the other monuments, one can see clearly how they were executed.  They did it by summoning an immense body of workers and accumulating more and more material day by day and year by year.  They overcame all difficuties by employing human effort over a long period.  But it is indeed beyond the power of imagination to understand how these Indians, unacquainted with devices, engines, and implements, could have cut, dressed, raised, and lowered great rocks, more like lumps of hills than building stones, and set them so exactly in their places.  For this reason, and because the Indians were so familiar with demons, the work is attributed to enchantment.

Textbooks and Garcilaso couldn’t prepare us for seeing Sacsayhuamán in person.  This  archeological site is overlooking Cusco, about 12,500 feet above sea level, and its walls contain boulders so precisely cut that a piece of paper will not fit between many of them — even after 500 years and dozens of earthquakes. Though appearing to be a fortress, many researchers believe it was actually a temple devoted to sun worship.

It remains a wonder how humans used nothing but handmade rollers, ramps, levers and chisels to mine, transport, carve and precisely fit together boulders weighing up to 200 tons!

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