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.