Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Amazing Ruins of South America – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding the apparent vitrified stones at Sacsayhuaman above Cuzco in Peru.
Vitrification of stonework at Sacsayhuaman complex above Cuzco in Peru

    If these rocks were indeed vitrified, as some historians claim, their ancient builders ought to have possessed some yet unknown means by which they were able to soften, melt and in some cases vitrify enormous masses of rock, making it extremely easy to carve stone as hard as granite and andesite in any kind of desired shapes and angles. In fact, experts have suggested several prominent features of these “vitrified” rocks that include:
• A shiny, glossy appearance that reflects light like a mirror;
• The presence of a “layer” on the surface of the stone, where the apparent vitrification is visible;
• Evidence of vitrification in places where it would be illogical or simply impossible to achieve a similar level of polish by any other more conventional technique (such as hammering, chiseling or polishing with an abrasive substance such as sand or quartz powder);
• An evident discoloration or change in color and texture of the stone in areas where the vitrification phenomenon is apparent;
• Marks in the stone or other evidence that might suggest that the stone was indeed molten or softened at some point during construction;  
• The sockets where metal clamps would have been inserted to join together adjacent blocks of stone are often visible in stones that bear traces of vitrification (with the sockets or T-Grooves also showing signs of vitrification)
    The vitrified stonework in the vestiges of Peru are stones that have been melted to a point where the molecular modification caused by high temperatures (over 1900ºF) changes the stone’s natural texture and produces a skin or surface layer providing a metallic sheen, which gives the stone strength and precision.
The shiny surface and molded forms are easy to see in these various stoneworks at Sacsayhuaman

    At the present time, there is a lot of debate in archaeological circles over the ancient examples under study at Sacsayhuaman and the complex of monuments and stonework surrounding it. However it is well known that the stones so treated, though much older than more recent stonework, has required no restoration at all, while the following stonework has had to be restored.
Left: A later wall requiring restoration because of its constant deterioration of the stone; Right: Stone that had gone through the vitrification process when originally constructed, though older, still requires no restoration at all

    The most interesting part of this is that the composition of the limestone used at Sacsayhuaman is very different than where the vitrification was added. This was a man-made process, for it does not happen in nature. In fact, the main body of the stone shows the spectral composition for limestone—high levels of calcium, carbon, oxygen and minor trace elements are the constituents of limestone. This is not unusual since the University of Cusco recognize the Sacsayahuaman archaeological park as being a karst landscape. Many cave systems are made in limestone bedrock and the sample was from this sort of cave. However, this cave was worked on by people in the past as is clear by all who visit the site.
    Now, the Vitrified Surface of the stone shows a very different spectrum of elements to the limestone body. The glaring difference is that Silicon is the predominant component with much higher concentrations. The trace elements of Aluminum and Magnesium are also significantly higher than the body of the stone. Oxygen is also present in double the quantities found in the body. The quantities of Calcium and Carbon are much lower than the body sample. The Silicon, Aluminium and Magnesium indicate that a material was added to the surface of the stone. The oxygen may have been part of this matter or it may have been introduced as part of oxidation during an aerobic heating process. This could have been during the formation of silicate, SiO2.
Left: Shine shows the vitrified stonework; Right: Cross section shows the vitrified stone as the top layer and the normal limestone beneath (the indentation is for a connector, probably brass, poured into the openings to seal the two stones together)

    The analysis of the intermediate region between the surface and body of the stone shows a gradation of compositions. This is a surprising result, and implies either the surface layer was somehow ground and mixed with the body of the stone, or the body limestone somehow merged/melted with the surface layer. Lastly and most unlikely, the limestone constituents could have been a part of the added surface layer. If this last were true the second and third spectra would have been more similar. Thus, as stated earlier, the body stone of limestone is different from the surface layer, which seems to have been changed due to high temperatures and pressures. That is, it was added to the stone during the working of the stonework.
    In addition to the stone itself, the stonework is also of great interest. As an example, inside the Coricancha (Qorikancha, Korikancha, Qurikancha, or Quri Kancha—the ancient opulent gold Peruvian temple beneath the Spanish Santa Domingo Cathedral built on top of the partially destroyed ancient site in the 16th century) in Cuzco, below Sacsayhuaman, stones and niches bear traces of perfectly drilled holes and grooves whose purposes is unknown (it has been speculated they might have held golden plaques, doors, hinges or other ornaments). Some of the holes were drilled in the hard granite for a depth in some cases exceeding 20 inches and with a diameter of up to 1½ to 2 inches.
An interesting niche inside the Qorikancha, with remarkably drilled holes and unresolved grooves whose purpose is unknown today

    One can only wonder at the exact precision such holes were made in ancient times with non-power tools that seemed perfectly drilled through the stone, and also at what purpose the holes served.
Drilled holes in stone showing both the precision and the tool marks inside the holes (light is a flashlight at the other end

    Once again, returning to the origin of these articles, is that while Mesoamerica has some very interesting buildings and history, it cannot compare with Andean Peru in presenting structures, artifacts and questions that simply have not to-date been answered and very likely will never be answered given the complexity of the ancient Peruvian beginnings. The structures these first Peruvians built can still not be fully explained today, nor can so many of their artifacts associated with their building skills and techniques. That Peru has the oldest structures found anywhere in the Americas is without question and more and more ancient sites are being discovered as the years progress and techniques, money and interest expand in South America to increase discovery.

4 comments:

  1. I'm fascinated by these drill holes. My expertise as a geologist is drilling. It is obvious they had the technology or actual drilling equipment to drill these holes. They certainly did have the wheel. These holes weren't chiseled - they were drilled. Jarom 1:8 says they had machinery. No question about it looking at these photos.

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  2. Does the similar stonework in ancient Egypt have the same vitrified surface as the ones in South America?

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    1. I don't know of any, certainly on the large constructions. However, many of the large constructions originally had a layer of other material completely covering it. Also, I believe that a study of some of the large blocks (not all!) show evidence of being formed in place (ie. bubbles within the block being more prevalent towards the top than the bottom). The type of stone the Egyptians worked with was generally quite different from what was used in South America.

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    2. My understanding is some of the Egyptian pyramids were built of limestone. The obelisks were igneous rock. South America had both just like the Egyptians. Looks to me that the Nephites were more advanced in their technology than the Egyptians. Which would make sense because they were of the House of Israel and were taught the things of God.

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