Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Inca and Pre-Inca: Let’s Be Realistic About This – Part III

Continuing with “Were the Inca the builders and creators of the fantastic construction found in Andean Peru?” 
    As we outlined in the first two posts on this subject, in pre-Columbian times, societies in Andean South America involved elaborate hierarchies of social and political structures where kinship affiliations and interchange kept them together. What anthropologists like to call the “minimal socio-economic unit” or what we call “households” today, were divided and grouped into what we called earlier the ayllu—a land-owning social unit, or family, including related families, cooperating together.
    This was the setting or culture of the first Inca grouping that began toward the end of the 1300s, which managed to organize a massive Empire in a matter of a short 86 years. What skills, expertise, and accomplishments outside this organization (or within it) that took place is also important to understand in addition to the obvious organizational skills possessed by this group.
    The first question to be addressed, is whether or not the Inca were responsible for all the building accomplishments that have been attributed to them within that short 86-year-period, or was it the accomplishments of a previous culture, or group of cultures that inhabited the Andean landscape. The first question that will help answer that is did the Inca actually have the skill, time, and knowledge that would have enabled them to build Sacsayhuaman as historians have credited them with the accomplishment? To those who had spent years studying the Inca and the cultures that preceded them, few, if any, still consider the Inca to have accomplished what is now found in Andean Peru—which is especially born out when we look at the difference between pre-Inca time and actual Inca examples:
Examples of Sacsayhuaman construction. Note the odd angle cuts and perfect fitting of huge stones

First of all such construction takes time, plus a great deal of knowledge and manpower—something the Inca would not have been willing to spend with wars on every front and requiring manpower to fight, mop up, control and govern an ever increasing conquered population who were seldom happy living under the yoke of Inca rule. In fact, the Inca conquered over 100 different societies in coastal regions, pampas, mountains and forests, amounting to some six to nine million persons—few people, in any age, accept foreign rule without mounting some type of resistance which needs to be constantly controlled and eliminated, and six to nine million in 100 different cultures would have required a great deal of time and manpower and most important attention, which would have placed any other non-essential matters on a lower-priority level.
    Such constant overseeing of conquered groups require a great deal of time and effort in seeing that they live, work, and provide for the good of the conqueror. Such time, effort and energy would normally take up most of the time of a burgeoning empire being built up in such a short time, which would not leave much time and effort for massive, time-consuming construction of major buildings and roadways that were built with such attention to unnecessary detail during such a growth period.
More examples of the perfectly cut and fitted stones of the ancient Peruvians where not even a knife blade or piece of paper can be slipped in between the rocks

This work is described as having dry stone walls constructed of huge stone blocks. The workers carefully cut the boulders to fit them together tightly without mortar. Of these walls and the stonework, Pedro Pizzaro, who entered Cuzco on November 8, 1533 with his conquering brother, the illiterate Francisco Pizarro González, said upon first seeing them, "on top of a hill they had a very strong fort surrounded with masonry walls of stones and having two very high round towers. And in the lower part of this wall there were stones so large and thick that it seemed impossible that human hands could have set them in place...they were so close together, and so well fitted, that the point of a pin could not have been inserted in one of the joints. The whole fortress was built up in terraces and flat spaces." (Relación del descubrimiento y conquista de los reinos del Perú, i.e., "Relation of the discovery and conquest of the kingdoms of Peru, 1522-1548,” Vol. 1-2, originally published in Spain, 1571, translated into English by Philiop Ainsworth, 1921, New York).
    On the other hand, we have examples of Incan stonework that show their lack of ability, skill, and expertise when trying to repair earlier pre-Inca walls as well as building their own walls.
Two walls of Inca stonework fitted between 1400-1500 A.D. Top: An earlier, ancient Peruvian wall (large stones) repaired where part of it had broken away and replaced by the Inca with the small stones showing the poor Inca handiwork; Bottom: Inca stonework of the stone era forming the base of a later building constructed on the older ruins

Another example of Inca stonework is the lower wall around the Church of Santa Domingo in Cuzco. When the Spanish arrived, there was an ancient Peruvian temple in the Valley, the Coricancha (Qorikancha, Quechua for “gold enclosure”), with walls built of perfectly cut and fitted stones of immense size. Reports by the first Spanish who entered Cuzco tell that over 4,000 priests were housed in and served the Coricancha, that ceremonies were conducted around the clock, and that the temple was fabulous beyond belief. The wonderfully carved granite walls of the temple were covered with more than 700 sheets of pure gold, weighing around 4.5 pounds each; the spacious courtyard was filled with life-size sculptures of animals and a field of corn, all fashioned from pure gold; the floors of the temple were themselves covered in solid gold; and facing the rising sun was a massive golden image of the sun encrusted with emeralds and other precious stones. At the center of the Coricancha, marking a place the Inca called Cuzco Cara Urumi (the ‘Uncovered Navel Stone’) was an octagonal stone coffer, which at one time was covered with 121 pounds of pure gold.
Top: the black stone is that of the original Coricancha built by ancient Peruvians and occupied by the Inca when the Spanish arrived—theyh tore down the temple, leaving these black stone walls, and built a Spanish style cathedral on top of the ancient Peruvian walls and foundation; Bottom: The Inca built the stone walls below the original ancient Peruvian walls. Note the Inca stonework that is rough, ill fit, and very poor in workmanship compared to both the ancient Peruvian wall and the Spanish cathedrawl atop it

This building was mostly destroyed after the war with the Spanish conquistadors, with stones carried away for other construction, leaving only the large, interconnected walls that the Spanish could not destroy, which now stands as the base or foundation for the Spanish cathedral built on top of it called the Church of Santo Domingo.
    In this demolition of the Coricancha temple, the Spanish stole the extensive gold and golden artwork and melted it all down, and shipped it to Spain. It is of interest to note that centuries later, major earthquakes destroyed the Spanish church built atop the ancient Peruvian stonework walls, but the original stone walls, built out of huge, tightly-interlocking blocks of stone, still stand as a testimony to the ancient Peruvians superb architectural skills and sophisticated stone masonry. Interestingly, the low stone walls built around the complex were also not affected by the quakes.
(See the next post, “Let’s Be Realistic About This – Part IV,” for more information about the early Inca, who they were, where they came from, and the accuracy of their achievements)

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