What do Incan building techniques reveal about the technological development of the Incan civilization? Photo credit: Domenica toscano


The group's research focused specifically on the building techniques used to build Inca structures. The entire project was done by tenth grade students from Colegio Menor, and was based in the Incan civilization. The research was done during the first two months of the year two thousand seventeen, and in class. Additionally, some of the research was also done in the country of Peru. During the first days of February, some group members had the opportunity to visit Peru, to collect evidence for the research paper. They visited different sites such as Machu Picchu, to gather different pieces of evidence that were related to the group's research question. The methods used to analyze our research questions was asking the tour guides what methods did the Incas have to build their structures, we also used Google Scholars and EBSCO host database to gather information because they are academically legitimate sources. Using the information gathered, our group was able to reach a conclusion about our research question.

Entrance to the Temple of the Sun in Ollantaytambo (photo credit: Domenica Toscano)

Research Question: What do Incan building techniques reveal about the technological development of the Incan civilization?

The research question is based on the building techniques and engineering used by the Incas in the construction of their cities, and how these features help us understand the technological development of the Incas. This research question will allow a complete and specific investigation about how the Incas built their amazing structures in cities like Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu. The investigation will enable a better understanding of the different architectural techniques the Incas used and the degree of technological advancement within. This question allows us to understand how quickly some civilizations developed when the Incas lived. Furthermore, it enabled us to analyze how do people keep improving architectural techniques throughout the years.

Terraces in Ollantaytambo (photo credit: Domenica Toscano)

Hypothesis: The building techniques used to build Incan structures show how the Incas technological development depended on both human labour and the use of natural materials.

Machu Picchu and other Inca ruins show the technological advancement of the Incas through the building techniques used to construct these structures. They did not have modern-day methods, so they used human labour and natural materials to build the structures. We hypothesized that the Incas built these structures by using ramps and levers to transport the rocks. The ramps and levers were human made and the rocks were moved with human force. Our hypothesis can be confirmed or rejected by observing Incan structures as well as asking the guides questions about what methods were used.

Giant Rock Structures in Sacsayhuaman (photo credit: Domenica Toscano)

Research Methods: Information was gathered from different places like websites, journals, books, and the tour guides in the trip. The information allowed us to analyze the question and the Inca development.

The research was divided into two sections; a part of the research was done at school, while some pieces of information were gathered at Peru. In class, the group used information found in Google, Google Scholar and the EBSCO database, since there are articles that are from published books and journals. The information gathered about the building techniques in the Inca civilization is relevant because it helped answer the research question. The information gathered is credible because by investigating about the author that wrote the article or book, a conclusion can be reached about whether the source is reliable or not. With the websites used, it was possible to develop an analysis of the topic by selecting facts that informed the group about Incan buildings.

The group had the opportunity to visit Peru because of the academic field trip, while visiting Cusco we had the opportunity to continue the research. The group listened to the different guide’s explanations, which later really helped the group advance in the research. The information gathered in Peru about the Inca building techniques is relevant because it was based in different primary sources that the group was also able to appreciate during the visit. With the firsthand information handed by the Peruvian tour guides, the group was able to continue the development of the analysis of the research question by supporting the earlier claims about the Inca technological development with first handed evidence.

City of Ollantaytambo (photo credit: Domenica Toscano)

Conclusion: Building techniques used by the Incas reveal how technologically advanced they were.

After careful research and analysis our hypothesis must be rejected. The lack of clear and certain information made it difficult to find a reliable response to our hypothesis. Despite the absence of information about architectural methods used by the Incas, it was possible to gain some insight about the technological development of the Incas. As there are a lot of assumptions about how the Incas built their cities, some information is known and proven, and by researching it was possible to understand more about the Inca’s development.

Even though the hypothesis cannot be confirmed, is possible to learn information about the location of the stones used to build the Incan structures. Even though it is hard to collect information about how was it that the Incas build their temples, there is information found on Ancient Wisdom’s website about Peruvian architecture, this explains that the stones used to build Incan temples were located 9 or 20 miles away from the construction and that the stones contained steps, platforms, and depressions that were probably caused by fortifications (April, 2012). This information about the location of the rocks used to build the structures helped people understand how difficult it was to transport the rocks from place to place.

The Incas used several materials to build their structures. Some of the materials used were Yucay limestone, green Sacsayhuaman, diorite, porphyry, and black andesite. There is some information and facts about the shapes of stones the Incas used, and how did they shaped them to construct, historian Mark Catwright (2014) explains that:

Marks on the stone blocks show that they were mostly pounded into shape and not cut. Blocks were moved using ropes, logs, poles, levers and ramps (tell-tale marks can still be seen on some blocks) and some stones still have nodes protruding from them or indentations which were used to help workers grip the stone.

By using those methods, perfection was achieved by the Incas to build their structures.

Information about how did the Incas place the rocks in place so perfectly is still a mystery, Incas did not only manage to build such complex buildings but they also decorated them in an mesmerizing way. The rocks that the Incas used were decorated for some important Incan buildings with natural pigments. Additionally, the Incas also used to cover some of the walls in very thin gold sheets to illuminate the inside of the buildings. The details the Incas included in their buildings demonstrated how perfectionist they were.

Rock-Made Wall in the City of Cusco (photo credit: Domenica Toscano)

The Incas were very advanced; their structures and everything they managed to built are a clear example of that. The Inca civilization was one of the most technologically advanced there has been. They were able to build walls of rocks that would fit perfectly with each other, like a puzzle, and those walls have stood there since they were built until now without moving an inch. By watching how successful the Incas were with their building techniques, architects from around the world look at these buildings to find an answer to how they did it, but no one has found an answer yet.

As stated before, the hypothesis was not fully answered because of the lack of certain data and information that would have allowed a more direct and complete answer. Mostly everything has remained a mystery, making the analysis difficult and incomplete. These missing aspects about the Inca life, more specifically about the building techniques they used, did not allow a meaningful analysis that helped answer the question. Despite not proving the hypothesis, all the members of the research group were able to learn specific small details about the building of Inca cities such as Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu. Visiting the sites became really important for the analysis because most of the members of the group were able to actually see and listen how the Incas developed. This gave the group a lot of help because we were able to analyze primary sources, that gave us certain clues about the Incan empire. Even though the group lacked crucial information to answer the question, we were able to learn and understand how advanced the Incas were compared to other civilizations that lived in that time.

Machu Picchu Ruins (photo credit: Domenica Bayas)

Works Cited:

Aguas Calientes Machu Picchu Pueblo, Cusco Peru – Información de Aguas Calientes MachuPicchu - Ciudad de los Incas. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.aguas-calientes.com/

Guia Turística. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://co.unsaac.edu.pe/contabilidad/ollantaytambo.html

Home > Peru Destination > Cusco Travel information > Aguas Calientes Information. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.peru-explorer.com/cusco/aguas_calientes_information.htm

Inca Architecture. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.ancient.eu/Inca_Architecture

Machu Picchu. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.enjoy-machu-picchu.org/architecture.php

Nuestros Mejores Lugares. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.machupicchutravel.net/

Peru, P. (n.d.). Perú Travel. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.peru.travel/es-pe/que-hacer/milenario/santuario-machu-picchu.aspx

Toscano, D. (2017). Entrance to the Temple of the Sun in Ollantaytambo. [Camera Photograph]. Self-published.

Toscano, D. (2017). Terraces in Ollantaytambo. [Camera Photograph]. Self-published.

Toscano, D. (2017). Giant Rock Structures in Sacsayhuaman. [Camera Photograph]. Self-published.

Toscano, D. (2017). City of Ollantaytambo. [Camera Photograph]. Self-published

Toscano, D. (2017). Rock-Made Wall in the City of Cusco. [Camera Photograph]. Self-published.

Bayas, D. (2017). Machu Picchu Ruins. [Camera Photograph]. Self-published.

Whitaker, A. (n.d.). Sacsayhuaman, Peru. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.ancient-wisdom.com/perusacsahuaman.htm

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