To many, Machu Picchu is the crowning achievement of the Incas. Like an ancient lost city, the ruins lay hidden from the world for centuries, even the Spanish invaders, until they were ‘revealed’ to archaeologist Hiram Bingham in 1911. Yet, for all its spectacular majesty, Machu Picchu is not the only impressive legacy of the Incas. I visited several ruins in Peru: Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, Machu Picchu, Qenqo, Sacsayhuaman, Pisaq, Qoriqancha—all magnificent.
But, there’s an anomaly at Peru’s ancient archaeological sites. It doesn’t take a trained eye to see that there are three distinct and very different styles of stone construction, easy to overlook or ignore if you’re in a hurry. The conventional wisdom is that the Incas did all the masonry during their brief reign in the 13th-16th centuries. When the Spanish invaders arrived, everything was already in place. They made assumptions and recorded what they saw. Without a written language, the Incas cannot tell their own story.
Is there more than meets the eye?