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How Did the Incans Make Machu Picchu Earthquake Resistant?

Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, is believed to have been built in 1450 AD. The city was made to inhabit around a thousand individuals. But despite it being built in the 15th century, its architecture was considered highly advanced for its time.

Machu Picchu was constructed using the “ashlar masonry” engineering technique. Granite slabs were cut to fit perfectly with each other without the need for mortar. Its construction allows it to be “earthquake resistant.”

How was Machu Picchu Constructed?

Pachacutec Inca Yupanqui, the ninth ruler of the Inca civilization, was an empire builder. Yupanqui initiated conquests that helped the Inca grow exponentially, dominating most of Ecuador and Chile. With his many wins, many archaeologists believed that the ruler ordered the construction of Machu Picchu as a royal estate.

The construction started around 1450 and spanned the terms of two Incan rulers, where archaeologists suspect its completion at around 1490. However, during its construction, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake hit the area, causing deformation on many of the walls of the first structures built. The damages sustained by Machu Picchu motivated the Incan engineers to devise improvements on how they constructed the later structures. (Source: Live Science)

The Incans improved their approach in making the structures of the royal estate to ensure that it could withstand seismic events such as earthquakes. The Incans moved away from their traditional assembling of smaller stones in a more rustic architecture. They developed and perfected trapezoidal structures using giant stone blocks at the base and narrower, inward inclined upper walls. (Source: Peru Travel Blog)

Each stone used was precisely cut to accommodate and fit each other without using mortar or any bonding substance available at the time. The carved granite stones were carved with such precision that even a piece of paper wouldn’t fit the crevices between the rocks.

Without modern tools, the Incan workers could build about 170 buildings and standardize their dimensions. The stones were cut; similarly, windows were made to be typically a length of a forearm, and the space between them was about two forearms.

Another challenge that the Incans championed was transporting the massive granite stones. The royal estate is built on a steep mountainside, and without heavy equipment, archaeologists hypothesize that the ancient civilization could design clever ramps and levers.

The Incan engineers also figured out the most efficient drainage system for the city. According to researchers, without the excellent design of the drainage system, Machu Picchu would have already eroded after centuries of rainfall and earthquakes. The town was built with the thought of rainwater flowing into one main drain that would empty into the rainforest below the city. (Source: Discover Magazine)

Other Interesting Facts about Machu Picchu

Despite the advanced architecture used to build the supposed royal estate of the ninth Incan emperor, there are other interesting facts about the ancient city. Here are a few of them.

Machu Picchu Gained a New International Title

In 2007, an internet poll helped the ancient city gain the title of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Machu Picchu is a No-Fly Zone

In the early nineties, the Peruvian government allowed helicopter fly-ins. This resulted in permanent damage to the native flora and fauna of the landing areas. The government quickly recanted this privilege.

The Tourist Spot Has Its Own Passport Stamp

Tourists can have their passports stamped in Machu Picchu as it has its unique passport stamp.

(Source: Peru For Less)

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