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Machu Picchu


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Title: Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu
  • M. Anderson, 2006

  • The legendary 'Lost City of Machu Picchu,
    located high in the Peruvian Andes, is without a
    doubt the most important tourist attraction in
    Peru and one of the world's most impressive
    archaeological and civil engineering sites.

  • The natural setting on the eastern slope of the
    Andes encompasses the upper Amazon basin with its
    rich diversity of species.
  • The whole archaeological complex covers
    approximately 5 square km. It is situated in the
    high jungle.
  • Its climate is semi-tropical, warm and humid.

  • The Ancient City was built by the Incas on the
    summit of "Machu Picchu" (Old Peak).
  • It overlooks the deep canyon of the Urubamba
    River in a semi-tropical area 120 km (75 miles)
    from the city of Cusco at 7,000 feet above sea

  • Machu Picchu was probably the most amazing urban
    creation of the Incan Empire, with its giant
    walls, terraces and ramps, which appear as though
    they have been cut naturally into the rock
  • This site was so well constructed that even after
    5 centuries of neglect in the Peruvian jungle,
    only the thatch and reed roofs are missing.

Machu Picchu
The valley below and the zig-zag road leading up
to Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu
  • Machu Picchu was a complex of temples, palaces
    and observatories and was believed to be the home
    of the Inca ruling classes.
  • From here, high priests made observations and
    calculations enabling them to chart the heavens -
    a knowledge which gave them both religious
    authority and temporal power.

  • Machu Picchu is also one of the Inca's best kept
    secrets, since they did not leave written records
    and Spanish chronicles make no mention of the
    citadel, it remains a mystery.
  • The City was discovered in 1911 by the American
    Yale professor, Hiram Bingham.

  • The building style is "late imperial Inca"
    thought to have been a sanctuary or temple
    inhabited by high priests and the "Virgins of the
    Sun" (chosen women).
  • Excavations revealed that of the 135 skeletons
    found,109 were women. No signs of post Conquest
    occupation were unearthed.

Machu Picchu
  • The original entrance to the complex is on the
    southwestern side of the citadel at the end of
    the Inca Trail, a short walk away from "Intipunko
    " (Sun Gate), the ancient final check point to
    Machu Picchu.
  • The present entrance on the southeastern side
    leads to the agricultural section.

Machu Picchu
  • The complex can be divided in three distinct
    sections Agricultural, Urban, and Religious.
  • The urban section starts at the wall that
    separates it from the agricultural area, this
    group of buildings were constructed on the ridge
    that descends abruptly to the Urubamba valley.

3 Distinct Sections
  • View of left side from above. Urban on left,
    agricultural on far right. Religious upper left.

  • Intihuatana
  • (alter)

The central plaza that separates the religious
from the urban section, has a great rock in the
center. The religious section contains splendid
architecture and masonry works. One of the most
important and enigmatic is probably the
Intihuatana shrine, this block of granite was
presumably used to make astronomical
  • Curved outer temple of the Sun wall.
  • The "Temple of the Sun", is a circular tower with
    some of the best stonework of Machu Picchu.
  • Its base forms a cavern known as the Royal Tomb.
  • Recent studies show that the actual purpose was
    for astronomical observance.

  • The agricultural area consists of a series of
    terraces and channels that serve dual purpose, as
    cultivation platforms and as retention walls to
    avoid erosion.

Residential / Agricultural
  • Looking up terraces to huts.

Some smaller buildings next to large terraces are
part of this section and thought to have served
as lookout posts.
  • In the southern part of this section are found a
    series of niches carved on rock known as "the
    jail" with elements that include man size niches,
    stone rings would have served to hold the
    prisoner's arms, and underground dungeons.

  • The group of refined structures next to "the
    jail" is known as the "intellectuals' quarters",
    with tall walls, nooks, and windows built with
    reddish stone.
  • They are considered to have been accommodations
    for the Amautas (high ranked teachers).

One of the buildings has several circular holes
carved on the rock floor named the "mortar room"
believed to have been used for preparation of
  • The largest urban section in Machu Picchu is
    located on the north western part. It is reached
    by a 67 steps staircase and involves a group of
    buildings not as finely constructed as other
    parts of the complex.

Huayna Picchu
  • Huayna Picchu, young peak, is as much a part of
    the site as the buildings of the citadel, the
    towering granite peak overlooks Machu Picchu to
    the North with a steep well preserved original
    Inca path, well worth the one hour climb for an
    astounding view of the citadel and the entire

  • Hiram Bingham found many objects of stone,
    bronze, ceramic and obsidian, but no gold or
  • There should have been fabulous riches of these
    metals comparable to those found at the 'Temple
    of the Sun' in Cuzco where even the garden
    contained life-size gold replicas of maize and
    other plants.

The Fall
  • The Peruvian scholar Dr Victor Angles Vargas
    thinks the city became depopulated toward the end
    of the 15th century before the Spaniards arrived.
  • Perhaps the city was ravaged by a plague so
    terrible it was permanently quarantined by the
  • What brought this about is one of the deepest
    enigmas surrounding this sacred site.

Only from the nearby hilltop observatory of
Intipunku, can you visualize the full extent of
this great engineering and architectural site.
  • Machu Picchu sits on the top of a mountain
    ridge so where did the Inca get their water?
  • In 1976, Ken Wright-the president of Wright Water
    Engineers, of Denver decided to find out. After
    all, who better to study the Inca water supply
    than a water engineer?
  • Wright spent the next 20 years seeking permission
    from the Peruvian government to study water
    engineering at Machu Picchu.
  • In 1994 he was finally granted permission by the
    Peruvian government, with political coaxing from
    President Clinton.

The Questions
  • Wright soon discovered that the Incas had
    accumulated a practical knowledge of hydrology,
    hydraulics, drainage, and foundation engineering.
  • "They had a perfect site," notes Wright, but its
    suitability would have been apparent only to a
    trained engineer.
  • The slopes were steep how would buildings be
    prevented from sliding downhill in a heavy rain?
  • How would drinking water be made accessible?
  • And from what source would the water come?

Urban Planning
Left side of ruins. The Citadel is a stupendous
achievement in urban planning, civil engineering,
architecture and stone masonry.
  • Wright discovered that the Inca must have planned
    the city carefully before building it.
  • First, the Inca engineers had to determine the
    exact location of the spring and whether it would
    meet the needs of the anticipated population.

Urban Planning. Water Source 1st
  • The Wright team found that the spring, on a steep
    mountain slope to the north of Machu Picchu, is
    fed by a 16.3 ha tributary drainage basin.
  • After conducting an inflow-outflow
    evaluation, the team also concluded that the
    spring draws on drainage from a much larger
    hydrogeologic catchment basin.

Urban Planning
  • There was no urban sprawl in this mountain
    retreat of about 1,000 residents thoughtful
    consideration was made before the first stone was
  • The placement of the residence of the Inka (the
    title of the ruler is used today to name the
    people) was determined by the location of the
    mountain spring.
  • The Inca engineers built the canal at a slope
    that allowed gravity to pull the water at just
    the speed they desired for the citys use, then
    they used that information to place the royal
    residence, as well as, the city.

Natural Springs to Canal
  • A natural spring flows from a geological fault
    above the city on the steep side of Monte Machu
  • The Inkas gathered drinkable water from the
    spring by building a wall in a cut in the
    mountainside that they had made.
  • This stone wall was made to let water through,
    unlike their watertight stone canal into which
    the spring poured.

Enhancing the Water Source
  • The Inca enhanced the yield of the spring by
    building a spring collection system set into the
  • The system consists of a stone wall about 14.6 m
    long and up to 1.4 m high.
  • Water from the spring seeps through the wall into
    a rectangular stone trench about 0.8 m wide.
  • Water from a secondary spring enters the canal
    about 80 m west of the primary spring.
  • The Inca also built a 1.5 to 2 m wide terrace to
    allow easy access for operating and maintaining
    the spring works.
  • The spring system still works today, after some
    minor repairs and cleaning were done.

The System
  • Special consideration was given to the water
  • a stone canal brought water to the city from a
    mountain spring
  • fountains were built throughout the city for
    different purposes
  • drainage and irrigation systems were on integral
    parts of the city.

Conveying the Water The Canal
  • Before the city could be built, the Inca
    engineers had to plan how to convey the water
    from the spring-at an elevation of 2,458 m-to the
    proposed site on the ridge below.
  • They decided to build a canal 749 m long with a
    slope of about 3 percent.
  • Within the city walls, the water would be made
    accessible through a series of 16 fountains, the
    first of which would be reserved for the emperor.
  • Thus the canal design determined the location of
    the emperor's residence and the layout of the
    entire city of Machu Picchu.

The Canal
  • The Inca built the water supply canal on a
    relatively steady grade, depending on gravity
    flow to carry the water from the spring to the
    city center.
  • They used cut stones to construct a channel that
    typically ranged from 10 to 16 cm deep and 10 to
    12 cm wide at the bottom.
  • Wright's team concluded that the nominal design
    capacity of the channel was about 300 L/min.

  • The canal lost little water due to its tight
    fitting stones and additional clay sealant.
  • The canal was so well built that today, after 500
    years it would work after minor repairs (mostly
    clearing old landslides that have filled the
    canal way).
  • During the cities occupation the canal was
    maintained by an Inka access road.
  • The 749 meter (2,457 foot) canal ended at the
    first of 16 fountains built in the city.

Canal to the Fountains
  • The canal descends the mountain slope, enters the
    city walls, passes through the agricultural
    sector, then crosses an inner wall into the urban
    sector, where it feeds a series of 16 fountains
    known as the stairway of fountains.
  • The fountains are publicly accessible and
    partially enclosed by walls that are typically
    about 1.2 m high, except for the lowest fountain,
    which is a private fountain for the Temple of the
    Condor and has higher walls.

The Fountains
  • At the head of each fountain, a cut stone conduit
    carries the water to a rectangular spout, which
    is shaped to create a jet of water suitable for
    filling an aryballo -a typical Inca clay water
  • The water collects in a cut stone basin in the
    floor of the fountain, then enters a circular
    drain that delivers it to the approach channel
    for the next fountain.

  • The order of the fountains shows the social
    hierarchy of the city.
  • The first fountain is, of course, in front of the
    residence of the Inka.
  • The second and third fountains are by temples
    (used by the religious class).
  • The third fountain (by the Temple of the Sun-El
    Torreon) can be bypassed with a sort of stone
    faucet by passing the water though an
    underground stone conduit (stone plumbing).
  • Fountains 4 to 15 are for public use and the
    final fountain is by the Temple of the Condor.

  • The fountains were designed for convenience the
    water flowed over a stone lip, making the
    filling of water jugs easy.
  • Their drainage system shows the Inka people
    appreciated water sanitation.
  • The fountains basins drained through stone
    conduits past the remaining fountains.
  • This prevented dirty water from flowing into
    fountains down stream.

Fountains to drainage
  • The Inca understood the importance of pure
    drinking water.
  • The surface drainage system generally directed
    agricultural and urban storm water runoff away
    from the water supply canal.
  • The Inca apparently did not use the fountains for
  • The emperor, for example, had a bathing room with
    a separate drain, so that bathing water did not
    reenter the water supply.

  • View of terraces and rain channels from thatched

Perhaps the most visually striking features of
the drainage system are the agricultural
terraces. Machu Picchu includes 4.9 ha of
agricultural terraces, which are held in place by
stone retaining walls. In addition to maximizing
the land available for farming, the terraces also
protected the agricultural sector from erosion.
  • Funerary caretakers hut sits atop the terraces.

Wright conducted soil analyses that showed that
the Inca constructed the terraces with subsurface
drainage in mind. The Inca layered each terrace
for efficient drainage, with a layer of stones at
the bottom, followed by gravel, sandy material,
and topsoil.
The Terraces
  • The terrace structures also promote good surface
  • The slope of the terraces generally directs water
    toward a system of drainage channels that are
    integrated with stairways and other structures.
  • These channels direct the drainage water to a
    large, east-west main drain that runs through the
    center of Machu Picchu, separating the
    agricultural and urban sectors.
  • Gravity flow carries runoff into the main drain
    from both sectors, taking it safely away from the

Urban Drainage
  • In the 15th century, the buildings in the urban
    sector would have been covered with thick
    thatched roofs.
  • Because of the density of buildings with
    impermeable roofs, Wright estimated that about
    60 of the water yield from the urban area would
    have occurred as surface flow.

Plaza Drainage
The Inca constructed their plazas in the same way
as the terraces, with a deep subsurface layer of
rock chips. The plazas received runoff from
other areas of Machu Picchu, and the subsurface
layer of rocks helped the water to penetrate the
ground quickly.
Drainage in the Urban Sector
  • To deal with the runoff problem, the Inca
    incorporated about 130 drainage holes into the
    walls and other structures at Machu Picchu.
  • They also integrated numerous drainage channels
    into stairways, walkways, and building interiors
    to carry runoff to the main drain.
  • One especially carefully constructed channel
    drains water away from the entrance to the
    emperor's residence.
  • To direct water away from building foundations,
    the Inca carved channels that would collect the
    water that dripped from the roofs.

  • Machu Picchu's well-designed drainage
    infrastructure is one of its most remarkable
    secrets. It is also one of the keys to its
    longevity, says Wright "They built for
    permanency. They didn't do anything halfway."
  • At Machu Picchu, drainage was a serious problem.
    The site rested on top of a ridge with a roughly
    50 percent slope and received almost 2,000 mm of
  • For their city to endure, the Inca had to find a
    way to keep it from sliding down the mountain.
  • Flooding is controlled by two methods
  • 1st a level area of the canal is designed to
    overflow into a terrace field for irrigation
  • 2nd was an overflow outlet by fountain 4 and the
    main stairway (like slue-ways on modern civil
    engineering projects).

Sewage System
Machu Picchus sewage system was built right into
the walls of each new building.
  • This intricate system has as least 127 drainage
    outlets and is a good representative of Inka
  • The Inkas enjoyed a system superior to their
    European contemporaries who suffered from
    diseases caused by open sewers in the streets.

Back-up Water Supply
  • Wright's team discovered another, previously
    unknown series of fountains on the eastern side
    of the ridge, downhill from Machu Picchu.
  • These fountains received their water not from the
    canal but from intercepted groundwater drainage.
  • The Inca had to identify the dry-weather
    groundwater flow locations to concentrate the
    flow for use in the fountains.
  • Adjacent to some of the fountains, an important
    trail connected Machu Picchu to the Urubamba
    River in the valley below.
  • After clearing away the dense forest undergrowth,
    Wrights team restored the water flow to this
    second series of fountains for probably the first
    time in 450 years.

  • Life in the Incan empire was measured by a
    thousand year cosmic cycle called an Inti, which
    means 'Sun'.
  • This thousand year cycle was then divided into
    halves, each of which was referred to as a
  • During the 500 years of the eighth Pachakuti,
    Pachacuteq, the greatest spiritual leader of the
    Incas and the builder of Machu Picchu ruled.
  • This was a time of light when the Inca Empire
    flourished and there was expansion and good