Sacsayhuaman is a strange site for sure. We started in the upper lot, wandering through a cave to the upper pools and the upside down staircase. Now the tour guides are overheard telling the story of how the stairs were cur upside down, but when you walk around the side you can clearly see where the stairs were cut into the face of a huge volcanic rock that in massive earth movement shifted forward and broke off. What is strange is that a later culture came along and removed rock from the top of the break off or this could have been a side piece when everything was upright. Here we find saw and polishing marks on the underside of the staircase out of view of the casual walker by but since I was on a mission to continually find tool marks. They began popping out at me. Thanks to Jason for the pic of me in my discovery moment.
Once you get behind the great volcanic slides the immensity of the site unfolds beneath you. There in front of you is an odd triple set of stairs cut to near perfect tolerances and squared corners and oddly perfectly flat. And then there beneath you are the walls, all of a chrystaline andesite, all massive and once again the story being told doesn’t fit what we are seeing. These massive stones fit within a piece of papers width though some have shifted due to earthquakes in the area, which allows me to look into the grooves back about a half to full meter. Like Cusco in the valley below, these stones were curved back into the niches to create even more of a jigsaw fitting. The guides are overheard telling the story of men moving the stones from around the valley (which is partially true as many of them did not come from this site) but then wedging them into place with trees, removing them, cutting them with copper chisels and bashing them out with stone mind you, then wedging them back into place and so on and so on until getting a perfect fit and then heat treating them into place at 1000+ degrees fire temperature.
Ummm I think not. Firstly again we are now above Cusco at and above 12,000 feet. Not a lot of trees other than gnarled shrubs grow at this altitude so no one is rolling or wedging these car sized boulders into place or wedging them in and out to recut to precision with copper tools. Andesite is between 6-8 on MOHS scale of hardness and copper is between 2.5-3 meaning, copper is going to break when it touches Andesite stone. Secondly who is wedging stone 3 and 4 into place and removing it and putting into place again and again to perfection. So having no clue as to how these stones were cut perfectly to fit a stone of similar composite, but different strata, is beyond me.
I was even thinking about how these walls (4 layers that we know of that stretch 6-8 city blocks if not more) would be constructed in a 3D application where you do not have the constraints of lighting and gravity and can cut and manipulate your meshes at will—it would still require 100’s of hours if not more… to create and render. At one point Yousef and I sat and stared at one wall with a white stone in the middle and understood that yes the bottom stones hold the structure, but the stones on top of these require the weight and angle of the stones around them to work, so which stone do you start with. We concluded you would put the wall up all at once not piece by piece, which of course doesn’t logically make sense.
So with the wedging in and out of place of 50-170+ ton boulders (thats 100,000 lbs to 350,000 lbs) with tree shrubs seems out the window, as does the cutting and shaping with copper and stone (something of equal or harder value would need to be used – hardened steel was not invented then “or was it” and diamond is not found in the S. America). Instead the tools were plowing through the material with ease and fast enough for the tool to skip, leave a mark and polish the surface as it goes.
Lastly the melted look of the rock, well with a plasma-torch today we can reach 1000+ degrees with pressurized gas, but of course the torch is not very big as a result and the light is a bit blinding. A fire with non-existent wood at that altitude and horrific winds, will not reach 1000+ degrees nor would I want to be the one standing there to keep the fire going along that large of a structure. Also how long does granite need to be exposed to vitrify? So we again are left with the mystery of who is building this site, when, why, and with what technology as there is evidence stating its use in antiquity.
Thanks Brien (cave) and others for some photo borrows..