Friday, February 1, 2013

Different Cultures or the Same? Part II

Continuing from the last post, another interesting building technique that is unique to the Peruvian Andes in all the Americas, is the trapezoidal window and doorway openings in the stone buildings found there. It is claimed that such construction and interlocking cuts strengthened the structures so that earthquakes had little if any impact on the huge stone walls and buildings, that were fully capable of withstanding earth shaking quakes for a couple of millennia.
Top: Trapezoidal window openings: Left: Ollantaytambo; Center: Sacsayhuaman; Right: Runquracay; Bottom: Trapezoidal doorways: Left: Machu Picchu; Center: Sacsayhuaman; Right: Ollantaytambo
In addition, there are trapezoidal openings in far flung areas throughout Peru, showing a similarity of design and engineering knowledge not limited to the Cuzco area and surrounding region, but found in numerous places throughout Peru.
Additional trapezoidal openings in far flung areas across Peru: Ingapirca; Pisaq; Waynapicchu; Coricancha Cuzco; and Runquracay
In addition, another engineering fete that sets the Andean area apart in the Americas are the remarkable terraces found throughout Peru on hillsides, mountains, and even in lower valleys. These artificial agricultural terraces are referred to as andenes or andinas, and function to create arable land for agricultural crops in the steep Andean Mountains.  The purpose of the terraces were three-fold: 1) Terracing a zone increased the surface area available for crops; 2) Terracing prevented soil erosion and surface runoff; and 3) Using terraces facilitated irrigation.  In areas such as Machu Picchu, irrigation was accomplished via natural artesian springs, but in other areas, canals and ditches were built to transport the irrigation water to a given area.  Many of the agricultural terraces that were built dating back to B.C. times still survive and are actively used to produce crops today.
In Peru, where high mountains and very hilly topography exists, along with narrow valleys with limited land space, the terracing of farmland was absolutely essential. The Peruvian people who first settled this area in the last millennium B.C., took advantage of the sloping hills and built rock-faced walls to terrace the land and increase crop production. At Moray, they even built sunken terraces to again make the best use of limited land space. Obviously, having an agrarian background when they settled there, they knew to use different types of earth for different species of plants, and since some plants require more moisture, they built aqueducts to transport water and controlled the quantity of water used accordingly.
The building of these stepped terraces is quite complex, and took not only extensive labor and time, but also required engineering knowledge to build such a defense against possible landslides, floods, and water accumulation. The rocks used for creating the steps were so placed as to strengthen the sides of the mountains and eliminate winter floods, cave-ins, and mudslides, thus protecting the villages and buildings in the valley below. In fact, such a flood could have destroyed their agricultural fields and homes in the valleys. Higher ground protects the plantations from disaster. The Vilcanota River can be terrifying when its affluents and intense rain increase its volume. Recently, in early 2010 it has shown its force once again, twisting railway lines, demolishing buildings.
Undoubtedly, one of the major factors in the success of the ancient Peruvian people was their advanced agricultural technology.  Many of the world's important crops, such as potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), maize (Zea mays), quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), kiwicha (Amaranthus sp.), and avocados (Persea americana), were bred and cultivated by the ancient Peruvians and by their descendents, the Quechua people, who are one of the indigenous people living in the Andes Mountains of South America, and even later by the Inca, to whom undeserved credit is given for the creation and operation of these ancient terraces.  
Andean terraces, called andenes, are remarkable fetes of engineering and construction. They are built on steep hillsides, with staggered angles and rock walls, each level about 8 feet high and unscaleable
Left: Moray Terraces; Right: Patallactla Terraces
Left: Chincheros Terraces; Right Choquequirao Terraces
Left: Phuyupatamarca Terraces; Right: Colca Valley Terraces
Left: Llactapata Terraces; Right: Ollantaytambo Terraces
Left: Yumina Arequipa Terraces; Right: Pisac Terraces
Left: The stepped terraces at WiƱay Wayna; Right: Maury Terraces
Left: Tipon; Right: Bolivia 
The point of all this is simply to show that while archaeologists and anthropologists insist that these many cultures were separate and at different time periods, their guesswork is not always consistent with the facts. Such information as shown above leads us to suggest that many of these so-called cultures were, in fact, the same groups of people that continued over a very long period of time, perhaps from the beginning clear up to the conquest period.

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