Stone Masonry and Engineering at Machu Picchu: No Aliens Needed

Stone Masonry and Machu Picchu

I recently received and email challenging me to produce a coherent explanation of the architecture and stonework of Machu Picchu and other megalithic sites. The questioner wanted to know how anyone else other than aliens could have produced these sites. My initial response was simply to tell him the basics-that these civilizations had left us truly discernible clues as to how the work was done. That was kind of lazy of me (hey, I was on the road).  Now that I’m back, I’ve decided the topic would make a good re-entry into PaleoBabble for me and readers.

Sorry, it isn’t aliens. I’m also sorry that I don’t have anything sexier than studies by geologists, anthropologists, and engineers to offer. Data is boring, I know.  Oh, well.  At any rate, it’s worth noting that many people like my emailer have basically not read anything in the scientific literature about these sites. Instead, they come armed with books by Zecharia Sitchin, or Erich von Daniken, or the latest HBO special propping up the ancient alien hypothesis.  There viewers and readers are told how impossible it is to get stones lined up adjacently to each other so closely that a playing card can’t go between them.  Or that the stones came from quarries hundreds of miles away. Both of these ideas are inaccurate and, frankly, disparaging to the Inca.

Here are a few articles on the Inca that deal with Machu Picchu and other sites. I trust they will be interesting and informative.

Jean Pierre Protzen, “Who Taught the Inca Stonemasons Their Skills? A Comparison of Tiahuanaco and Inca Cut-Stone Masonry,” The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 56, No. 2 (Jun., 1997), pp. 146-167.

Jean Pierre Protzen, “Inca Quarrying and Stone Cutting,” The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 44, No. 2 (May, 1985), pp. 161-182

Susan A. Niles, “Niched Walls in Inca Design,” The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 46, No. 3 (Sep., 1987), pp. 277-285

One note of warning on these articles. They are not light reading. This is real scholarship, not the fluff produced by Sitchin, von Daniken, etc.

145 thoughts on “Stone Masonry and Engineering at Machu Picchu: No Aliens Needed

  1. This article is quite dated, but
    I’ll leave a comment. I’ve honored the OP and read the articles which he stated proves how the ancients constructed primitive megalithic sites.
    In fact, the articles do not prove anything. I’d like to point out that the OP wrote off every single comment suggesting an alternative method. Yet the articles he posted which supposedly prove how they were made, in fact quite plainly state they do not know how ANY of the construction was done, and simply are hypothesized ideas based on some knowledge of a similar culture or guesswork based on what seems to make sense. There are no factual discoveries here, just theories. The OP has faith in what the scientists or archeologists have written, because it’s what is widely accepted even though some of the theories are completely contradictory to what is known about the cultures. For instance, stating that Incas used bronze tools, is a fact based in archeological findings. Bronze tools CANNOT grind or cut granite. The article then guesses that maybe “hammer stones” were used, yet there is no evidence of hammerstones anywhere…. but the OP accepts that as an explanation of how things were constructed. Also, complete guesswork on the quarrying and transport of large multiton megalithic stones. It is a fact that it is an engineering impossibility to move such stones using modern equipment and technology today, yet you want me to “believe ” it was done with logs and ropes and human muscles. I’m not making an alien argument, I’m making the argument that these so called understandings of how these wonders of archeology and history were made is simply guesswork considering there is NO real evidence on how they were constructed. It’s more likely that these civilizations were far more advanced than we credit them for. As for
    Our own science and understanding of history is completely flawed. Every following
    Year proves last years theories and discoveries as incorrect. Remember, just a short time ago the molecule was the smallest particle, and Pluto didn’t exist to modern astronomy, even though it was documented thousands of years ago by the Sumerians. My point is open your mind.

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