Monday, February 11, 2013

If the stones could talk …

There is much written about the Incan Empire. How large it was, how short lived it was, the customs and the culture of the people who built the huge stone temples, farmed the endless system of terraces and built the roads from Cusco in four direction. But in reality — it is only theory, because all that remains of this great empire and those that came before — are polished interlocking stones.

There is no written language to give us clues, only the decorations on shards of pottery found during archeological excavations or robbed from the graves of their well preserved mummies. And until recently, much of the pottery found all over Peru was not even correctly classified. Interestingly, there’s a linear evolution in the styles of pottery. The motifs found on Pre-Incan and Incan sites make it clear that the early peoples of Peru worshipped similar gods, ate similar foods, and led similar lifestyles. But many pieces of the puzzle are still a mystery.

For instance, it is hard to imagine how the Inca temple at Sacsayhuamán in the shape of a puma, which reportedly took over a hundred years to build, could have been accomplished without any written or at least symbolic plans that could have been passed down from work manager to work manager to complete the work. Or how the enormous stones were moved into place, or even the simple question of how they cut these large stones.

Some things are easier to piece together. The extensive terraced mountainsides surrounding every archeological site in Peru clearly indicate that the Incan civilization, and the cultures preceding it, were serious farmers. The results of their collective agricultural experimentation have provided the modern world with thousands of varieties of potatoes and other tubers. Their knowledge of micro-climates and how to utilize them for different crops was phenomenal.

I am not an historian or an archeologist, but there are clear links to the past that we have witnessed in the five weeks we have travelled through Peru visiting archeological sites and the towns, villages and cities that are within, alongside and on top of the stones laid hundreds of years previous. You can feel the connection to their rich heritage in every aspect of their lives. The deep connection to mother earth is evident in the way they rotate their crops and the way they use the barter system to manage their agricultural work and exchange of goods. From what we have learned, the many cultures that lived here through the last couple mellenia were communal in nature, and we have witnessed that modern day rural Peruvians still follow this model.

It is clear when viewing the clean shapes of the interconnecting stones at any of the archeological sites in Peru that the people who built them were very precise and organized. They planned their cities with geometrical precision. Their systems for moving water were so well planned that they are still in use today. They worshipped the earth and the sun and took great care not foul that which provided them with life. Modern day Peruvians follow the same traditions. Their streets and their homes are spotless. Their fields are beautifully planted. They live in harmony with nature leading simple lives. They work hard and celebrate hard with respect and recognition for Pachamama and Patchatata that make their lives possible.

So when you view these photos taken of what looks like piles of stones, consider the huge contribution the architects of Cusco, Machu Picchu, Sacsayhuaman, Ollantaytambo, Pisac and endless other Incan and Pre Incan cities had on the culture of modern Peru.

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