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Lost Civilizations of the Andes (2)

Lost Civilizations of the Andes (2)

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Lost Civilizations of the Andes
David Pratt
January 2010
Part 2 of 2 
Part 1Part 2
5.‘Inca’ stonemasonry6.‘Inca’ sites7.Tiwanaku
5. ‘Inca’ stonemasonry
Most Inca buildings were made out of fieldstones or semi-worked stones set in mortar, while others had adobe walls, usually with stone foundations. Butsome of the buildings attributed to the Incas use precisely cut and shaped stones closely fitted without mortar – yet not even a knife blade can be insertedbetween them. Sometimes more or less rectangular (ashlar) blocks were used, but instead of being straight, each side is usually wavy, yet fits snugly withthe neighbouring block. The most advanced stonework makes use of polygonal blocks, with as many as 12 angles or more, which interlock perfectly with allneighbouring blocks; some of the polygonal blocks are truly cyclopean, sometimes weighing 100 tonnes or more. Such stonework staggers the imagination.As regards lateral joints between blocks, the close fit observed from the front of the wall is sometimes only a few centimetres deep and the interior of the joint is filled with rubble. But in many instances, the snug lateral fit extends through the entire thickness of the wall, just as the bedding (horizontal) jointsdo. Such walls are essentially earthquake-proof. The fact that ‘Inca’ walls tend to incline inwards by 3° to 5° also contributes to their stability.
Fig. 5.1
Wall in Cuzco. Polygonal stones usually have pillowed(convex) faces and bevelled, sunken joints.To cut, shape and dress stone blocks the Incas are believed to have used hammer stones such as river cobbles, mostly made of quartzite, weighing up to10 kg. The masons allegedly achieved a perfect fit between adjacent stones mainly by trial and error: first they shaped a block on the ground, then theyplaced it in the wall to check the fit, then lowered it again to chip off more rock. This process was repeated again and again until a perfect fit was achieved.Other researchers argue that once the first block had been carved and fitted in place, the masons somehow suspended the second boulder on scaffoldingnext to the first one, and traced the shape of the first onto it so that it wouldn’t need to be repeatedly lifted into place and lowered again; this technique isknown as ‘scribing and coping’.Jean-Pierre Protzen conducted experiments that convinced him that the trial-and-error method was the most likely method used for shaping stones.
Hetook a rough, rectangular block of andesite, measuring 25 by 25 by 30 cm, then pounded it into a more regular shape. He also pounded out a concavedepression in a larger stone, into which the bottom of the small stone he had already shaped fitted snugly. The hammers he used had a hardness of about5.5 on the Mohs scale, roughly the same as the andesite block, but the hammer stones were tougher than the andesite, which fragmented easily.
Lost civilizations of the Andes (2)1
Fig. 5.2
The Protzen method.The welded rhyolite stones used at the ‘Inca’ site of Ollantaytambo had a hardness of between 6 and 7 on the Mohs scale. Protzen does not mentionperforming experiments with that type of rock. Nor did he try to shape many-angled, interlocking stones. Nor did he experiment with multi-tonne blocks. It isabsurd to think that stones weighing 100 tonnes or more were repeatedly lowered and lifted during the fitting process! Nor has anyone been stupid enoughto try and demonstrate that precision fitting of cyclopean, polygonal blocks could be achieved with the scribing and coping method.Pounding a block with a hammer stone leaves scars, or pit marks, and in the case of limestone, it produces whitish discolouration in or around the scar.Protzen sees the fact that the stones used in Inca walls bear similar scars as proof that only his own method had been used. He cites several writers fromthe time of the conquest in support of his view. Garcilaso de la Vega, the son of a conquistador and an Inca princess, wrote in 1609 that the Incas ‘had noother tools to work the stones than some black stones ... with which they dressed the stone by pounding rather than cutting’. Jose de Acosta, a Jesuit priesttravelling with the conquistadors, wrote in 1589: ‘All this was done with much manpower and much suffering in the work, for to fit one stone to the other,until they were adjusted, it was necessary to try the fit many times.’
There is no doubt that such techniques were used during Inca times. But was that theonly method the Incas used? And more importantly, were all ‘Inca’-style buildings really constructed by the Incas? Or was the polygonal, cyclopeanmasonry the work of a far earlier culture?
Fig. 5.3
Blocks are covered with small scars, which are finer at the edges than inthe centre of the face, suggesting that different sized hammer stones were used.
The Kachiqhata quarry is located about 5 km from Ollantaytambo, in a ravine on the opposite side of the Urubamba river and 400 to 900 m above the valleyfloor. It supplied the rose rhyolite (also known as porphyry or red granite) for the Sun Temple at Ollantaytambo. The Rumiqolqa quarry is located 35 kmsouthwest of Cuzco and supplied much of the andesite used in the imperial capital. Both quarries have networks of access roads leading to the pointswhere the building stones were retrieved. At least 40,000 cubic metres of dirt and rocks had to be moved to build the elaborate network of roads, ramps,and slides connecting the Kachiqhata quarries with the main building areas. At Kachiqhata, stones seem to have been selected from rockfalls, while atRumiqolqa rock was broken off the face with metre-long bronze pry bars or wooden sticks, according to Protzen.Protzen says that the polish and striations on some of the block faces at Ollantaytambo show that they have been dragged most of the way from thequarries along ramps and roads. The megalithic blocks at Kachiqhata had to be launched down a slide with an incredible 40° slope ending in a 250 mvertical drop. They then had to be transported across the river and up to the fortress. Protzen wonders how this was done with blocks weighing up to 140tonnes. To drag a 140-tonne block up the ramp at Ollantaytambo, which has a 10° slope, would require 2400 men, and Protzen says it is difficult to seewhere they could have stood as the ramps are only 6 to 8 m wide. Other unsolved problems, he says, are the techniques for tying ropes to the blocks andthe methods for manoeuvring and lifting the huge stones into place. He also points out that, unlike the blocks from Kachiqhata, the blocks quarried at theRumiqolqa quarry were fine-dressed at the quarry but show no drag marks at all; he has no idea how the dressed blocks were transported.Garcilaso de la Vega tells of a disaster that occurred while the Incas were transporting a large stone from a quarry to Ollantaytambo. The stone is known as‘sayccusca rumi’ (‘tired stone’) and measures 6.2 m (20’4") long, 4.6 m (15’2") broad, and 1.1 m (3’6") thick. It was brought across the river but abandoned780 yards from the ascent to the ruins. He writes:The historical truth, as related by the Ynca Amautas, who were the wise philosophers and doctors in the time of their idolatry, is that more thantwenty thousand Indians dragged the stone with stout cables. They proceeded with great difficulty, as the road was very rough, and passed upand down many steep mountains. Half the people hauled upon the cables in front, while the other half held on behind ... In one of these steepplaces (where, through carelessness, they were not all hauling with equal force) the weight of the stone overcame the force of those who held it,and it slipped down the hill, killing three or four thousand Indians who were guiding it. Notwithstanding this disaster, they raised it up, andbrought it to the place where it now lies.
Many unfinished blocks display ‘work marks’ or ‘cutting marks’. There are three distinct patterns: roughly circular cups; approximately square-shaped pans;
Lost civilizations of the Andes (2)2
and parallel troughs. Similar marks are found on blocks at Tiwanaku in Bolivia, and also on parts of the unfinished granite obelisk (and surrounding rock) atAswan in Egypt, which is believed to have been shaped with balls of dolerite.
Fig. 5.4
Work marks: cups, pans and troughs.
Fig. 5.5
Unfinished obelisk at Aswan. It would have weighed 1168 tons andstood 41.75 m high, but was left unfinished because of a flaw in the rock.
Lost civilizations of the Andes (2)3

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