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Who Taught the Ancient Inca Stonmasons

Who Taught the Ancient Inca Stonmasons

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Who Taught the IncaStonemasTohenir s Skills?A Comparisoonf Tiahuanaacnod I ncaC ut-StonMe asonryJEAN-PIERREP ROTZEN,W ITH STELLAN AIR,Departmenot fA rchitectureU, niversityo f CaliforniaB, erkeleyTheuse of dressed stone in architectural construction inpre-Colombian South America has a long history of development[Figure 1]. One of its early manifestations appears, forexample, at Cerro Sechin, in construction from sometimebefore c. 1000 B.C. There it takes the form of an enclosure wallcomposed of large dressed granite stones engraved with basreliefsdepicting grisly war or sacrifice scenes and forming akind of frieze. If at Cerro Sechin dressed stones are still looselyfitted, well-joined cut-stone masonry emerges in the northernAndes at Chavin de Huantar between about 900 and 400 B.C.In the southern Andes, elaborate cut-stone masonry and carvedstelae from the beginning of the Early Intermediate Period arefound at Pukara.1 It was left to the Tiahuanacans to raise theart and techniques of cut-stone construction to unequaledmaturity and perfection at Tiahuanaco between c. 200 B.C andA.D. 1000, an era stretching from the Early Intermediate intothe beginning of the Late Intermediate Period. In the LateIntermediate Period there appears to have been a lull in thiskind of construction; no major new centers were built, norwere there any architectural or technological innovations. Inthe Late Horizon, however, the art and techniques of cut-stoneconstruction experienced a revival and attained new heightsunder the Incas.There is a persistent argument that the astounding Incastonework was not an indigenous invention, but rather aderivative of Tiahuanaco masonry, and that to build theirmonuments the Incas did not use their own artisans, butimported Qollasuyu stoneworkers from the Lake Titicaca area.This argument rests, in part, on two sixteenth-century sources.The first, Pedro de Cieza de Le6n, recorded:... I have heard Indians state that the Incas made the great buildings ofCuzco in the form they had seen in the rampart or wall one can see inthis village [of Tiaguanaco].2Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa wrote:... he [the Inca ruler Pachacuti] went down the valley and river ofYucay to a place that now they call Tambo, ... where he made somemost lavish buildings. The construction and stonemasonry [italics ours]of these were made by captives, the sons of Chuchi Capac, the greatsinchi of Collao, whom ... he had defeated and killed in the Collao.3There is little question that the Incas conquered the areaaround Lake Titicaca and visited the site of Tiahuanaco [Figure2] some time before 1470, nor is there any doubt that theyenlisted men from the Lake Titicaca area to serve as constructionworkers. However, the role these workers played in thedevelopment of Inca construction techniques is questionable.Garci Diez de San Miguel, who in 1567 inspected the Chucuitoprovince for the Spanish crown, reported that the Incas hadrecruited Lupaqa mit'ayoq (impressed laborers) from the Qollasuyu(the southeastern quarter of the Inca Empire, whereinlay Tiahuanaco) in large numbers to build houses in Cuzco.4Presumably, the Qollasuyu stonemasons had maintained areputation as fine craftsmen. Given the scarcity of such inspectionreports, however, it is not known how many mit'ayoqf romother areas of the Inca Empire were enlisted for construction.
 
Therefore, the percentage of mit'ayoq from Qollasuyu withinthe Inca construction forces could have been negligible. Theevidence from Chucuito is hardly conclusive.Even if the mit'ayoqf rom Qollasuyu were a major constituentof Inca construction labor, what skills they actually broughtto Inca construction is not known. As noted above, there is acritical time lag between the collapse of Tiahuanaco and therise of the Inca empire. Graziano Gasparini and Luise Margolies,who first raised this argument, stated that there was "aproblem in demonstrating the continuity of stonemasonryeven among the Lupaqa masons who went in such greatnumbers to Cuzco. In fact, between the Tiwanaku [Tiahuanaco]monuments and the Inca construction there lie severalcenturies without buildings of cut stone. Indeed there are noexamples of that technique during the Late IntermediatePeriod."5Is it possible that the technology used by the Tiahuanacanssurvived over the several hundred years after the demise ofTiahuanaco and before the growth of the Inca empire? Andhow much of Tiahuanaco itself was left for the Incas to see?The best answer to the latter question is that of Cieza de Le6n,146 JSAH / 56:2, JUNE 19971 CAJAMARCA fCHAVINDEHUANTARCERRSOE CHINPERULIMAMACHUPICCHU-"OLLANTAYTAMBOcuzcoo PUCARAAREQUIPAp,I" 1 LAPAZPACIFICO CEAN BB OLIVIACHI LEItI :i
 
ARGENTINAFIGURE I: major ancient sites (italics) with cut-stone masonry in modem-day Peruand Boliviawho visited the site in 1549, less than twenty years after the firstSpaniards marched into Cuzco. His description leaves onewith the impression of a site partially in ruins, wasted away bycenturies of erosion, and partially in a state of abandonedconstruction.6 What can be seen today does not seem to differmuch from Cieza's account, yet it is known that since Cieza'svisit the site has suffered enormous damage inflicted by treasurehunters, builders, and railroad construction. Thus, wecan be confident that the Incas could have seen at least asmuch of Tiahuanaco's architecture and construction as we dotoday. With respect to the question of the technology's survival,several visitors to sites of both cultures have remarked onperceived similarities between Inca and Tiahuanaco architecture.Therefore, we turn to the architectural remains themselvesfor an answer.Tiahuanaco influence in the stonework at the Inca site of
 
Ollantaytambo has been noted by Heinrich Ubbelohde-Doering and by Alfons Stfibel and Max Uhle, among others.Ubbelohde-Doering saw a similarity between construction atOllantaytambo and the Temple of Pumapunku at Tiahuanaco.He based his argument on the T-shaped cramp sockets, thesharpness and straightness of the edges, and the precision ofthe angles he saw on blocks at both sites.7 Stfibel and Uhlelikened Ollantaytambo's great upright monoliths to those ofTiahuanaco and found similarities in stones elaborated withwhat they believed to be right angles.8 In his own work atOllantaytambo, Jean-Pierre Protzen took issue with some ofUbbelohde-Doering's observations, and showed that the perfectionhe and the Stfibel and Uhle team saw is not what itseems to be. He, too, questioned Tiahuanaco influences onInca stonework.9The position of Gasparini and Margolies, and Protzen'sskepticism regarding a Tiahuanaco derivation of Inca stoneworkand architecture may well be justified, but it should benoted that they made their arguments in the absence of athorough study of Tiahuanaco construction practices. Manyresearchers, from Alcide d'Orbigny to Javier Escalante, havedescribed various architectural features or construction detailsat Tiahuanaco, but to date there has been no comprehensivetreatment of the subject.'0The many building stones strewn about the site and recentexcavations at Tiahuanaco yield a wealth of interesting detailsregarding the cutting and dressing of stones, as well as theirfitting, laying, and handling."1 Preliminary investigations ofthese details and observations made during the 1993 and 1994field seasons lead us to argue that Tiahuanaco masonry differssignificantly from Inca masonry, that Tiahuanaco constructiontechniques are radically different from those of the Incas, andthat at Tiahuanaco itself, more than one technique was used.MASONRY BONDSThe Incas used an amazing diversity of joint patterns, ormasonry bonds, in the construction of their walls. Althoughmany authors have attempted to classify the various bonds,there is no agreed-upon nomenclature. An examination offour types--cyclopean, convex polygonal, concave-convex polygonal,and scutiform--reveals that all are executed withbeveled, often deep-seated joints which give the walls thepleasing chiaroscuro effect under sunlight that is so characteristicof Inca architecture [Figure 3]. There is no correspondencebetween these Inca masonry bonds and masonry bondsfound at Tiahuanaco.Similarities between Inca and Tiahuanaco masonry, if theyPROTZEN/NAIR: INCA STONEMASONS 147J- ,.//r,4yfr.4/Ab/(V~l(~/ICrSNot.kKaMirVi4 y 1PA .I Klnr .l -?I WxNi A

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