How did religion affect the life of the Incas especially in their architecture as seen in Machu Picchu and its surroundings? Doménica Aguirre, Alejandra Montero, Ana Cristina Cordova, Julián Serrano, and Mateo Rivadeneira - Photo Credit: unknown

Coricancha-Photo Credits: Unknown


This project is about the relationship between Incan religion and their architecture. It will talk about how the buildings in the Incan Empire were influenced by their polytheistic religion. The project will demonstrate the precision with which the Incas positioned and located their buildings, playing tributes to their gods. The investigation for this project was conducted during an academic field trip to Peru in February 2017, as well as previous background research done in class time in Quito. We used all sorts of online sources, such as articles, online encyclopedias, and credible websites. We also used primary sources and interviews that we collected on our academic field trip, in Machu Picchu and its surroundings. As 10th grade students in Colegio Menor, we can conclude that most of the Incan building were influenced in many way by their religion. Most stone that were used for Incan construction was placed carefully and had a special meaning. Overall, after all the research and information we gathered we can say that religion did directly influence Incan architecture and that all their building pay tributes to their gods and their beliefs, making every building special in their own way.

Sacsayhuaman-Photo Credit: Unknown

Research Question: How did religion affect the life of the Incas especially in their architecture as seen in Machu Picchu and its surroundings?

This research question was created by our group based on a common interest which was the influence of Incan religion in their architecture. Around 1,000 CE the Inca Empire was developing and expanding their territory. They built and rearranged buildings, making it evident that their religion impacted their architecture greatly. Our group became intrigued with this effect, so we created a research question that sets an specific guide for the investigation of how Incan polytheistic religion influenced the architecture in Machu Picchu and its surroundings. This question allows us to relate and understand why Incan structures were build in certain ways. In addition, it focuses on how Incan building precision affected their daily lives and their connection to the sun, which was one of their principal gods. Overall, this question will be completely answered by providing evidence that will allow the reader and ourselves to fully understand the connection between Incan religion and their architecture.

Photo Credit: Jared Dif

Hypothesis: Incan polytheistic religion affected the life of the Incas because it had a great impact on their architecture and buildings in Machu Picchu and its surroundings as their beliefs are reflected in their constructions by paying tribute to their gods.

Our hypothesis answers our research question completely, allowing us to further develop how religion affected buildings in the Incan Empire. It allows us to organize our information in a certain way where we can use relevant data to confirm or reject it. Based on our hypothesis, we can infer that Incan buildings were thoroughly planned before they were constructed, so that their gods were present. For example, most of the buildings in Machu Picchu were constructed in a way so that on June 21st, which the summer solstice, the sun aligns with the windows and doors. Additionally, we claim that Machu Picchu, and its surroundings demonstrates the effects religion had on its buildings, and we will be able to prove or reject this after our trip to Peru.

Water Temple in Tambomachay - Photo Credit: Ana Cristina Cordova

Research Methods: For our research we used two main sources, which include academically credible sources available on the internet and primary first hand sources from our observation during our trip to Peru. Both these methods helped us understand the connections between Incan architecture and religion.

For our research, we chose to use academic and museum websites so that we could have access to credible and thorough information. One of our sources came from Encyclopedia Britannica, which is a reliable source thanks to its unbiased information, reflected through their great history of providing credible sources, and the fact that it is composed by scholars. This website provided us with background information, which was useful during our trip to Peru. We also used National Geographic as a source because this organization main objective is to spread accurate information. This group is composed of many people who specialize in different fields such as, historians, anthropologists, biologists, and paleontologist, whose main objective is to publish research within their field.

Furthermore, our time in Peru gave us a lot of firsthand information, which was provided by our guides and through our observations. We asked the guides questions, in order to gather information that supported our question and hypothesis. We also took pictures of the museums and ruins we visited, such as Machu Picchu, to obtain visual evidence of what we saw. Overall, with all the information we collected, not only from reliable sources, but from the first hand primary sources we obtained during our trip, we consider that we have enough information to prove or disprove our hypothesis and answer our research question fully.

Cusco- Photo Credit: Johanna Nylander

Conclusions: Religion affected the life of the Incas especially in their architecture as seen in Machu Picchu and its surroundings by using their architectural skills to apply them when constructing religious temples.

We can confirm our hypothesis as Machu Picchu and its surroundings clearly show how religion affected Incan architecture. The ruins observed during the trip shows how Incan lifestyle, and their construction skills helped them achieve spectacular religious temples and other buildings.

Observations in the ruins of Machu Picchu, which is a hidden Inca city and one of the seven wonders, and its surroundings support our claim that religion affected Incan architecture. The Temple of the Sun in Coricancha, located in Cusco, was considered the most sacred and important site in Incan religion. Its architectural structure resembles a sun with rays shining in all directions, in honor of Inti who was the most revered god. These rays were known as ceques (Cartwright 2014). Ceques were a system of imaginary lines that radiated from Coricancha, which not only served as a religious purpose, but also helped divide the city into districts (World History in Context 2012). Ceques were composed of 328 shrines organized along the roads of 8 towns, (referred previously as ceques) (Bauer 1992). Coricancha is a clear example that shows evidence for our hypothesis and demonstrates how religion impacted architecture.

Inca religion was very important. It was so important indeed that they even used a different type of rocks when constructing a temple. According to Hirst, “The shaped stone architecture (sometimes called 'pillow-faced') is among the finest in the world, with large stones sanded into tight jigsaw like patterns. Pillow-faced architecture was reserved for temples, [...] and royal residences like Machu Picchu”(2017). Machu Picchu was one of the honorable places where this unique type of architecture was used. Based on this information we can conclude that religion affected the architecture of various places including Machu Picchu because it was so important it got its own kind of architecture.

Beyond, serving as an archaeological site, Machu Picchu and Coricancha serve as evidence that the architecture in the Inca empire was influenced by religion. To conclude, Incan architecture was influenced by their religion as seen in Machu Picchu and its surroundings and as a group we can state that we have proven our hypothesis. We can say this based on the existence of the ceques and the special architecture (pillowed-face architecture) used in Machu Picchu and its surroundings.

Ollantaytambo Photo Credit- Ana Cristina Cordova

Works Cited:

Bauer, B. (1992). Ritual Pathways of the Inca: An Analysis of the Collasuyu Ceques in Cusco. Latin American Antiquity, 3(3), 183-205. doi:10.2307/971714

Cordova, A. (2017). Cusco. (Cell Phone Photograph). Self-Published.

Cordova, A. (2017). Ollantaytambo. (Cell Phone Photograph). Self-Published.

Cartwright, M. (2014, March 9). Coricancha. Retrieved January 17, 2017, from

Coricancha view. (Online Photograph). Retrieved March 28, 2017 from

Inca Religion. (Online Photograph). Retrieved March 28, 2017 from

Hirst Archaeology Expert, K. K. (2017, January 09). What Science Knows about the Culture and Economy of the Inca Empire. Retrieved January 17, 2017, from

Nylander, N. (2017). Cusco. (Cell Phone Photograph). Self-Published.

Nylander, N. (2017). Cusco. (Cell Phone Photograph). Self-Published.

Sacsayhuaman. (Online Photograph). Retrieved March 28, 2017 from

Wright, K. R., Witt, G. D., & Valencia Zegarra, A. (n.d.). Hydrogeology and Paleohydrology of Ancient

Machu Picchu. Retrieved January 17, 2017, from

Machu Picchu - Photo Credit: Johanna Nylander
Travel Quote- Photo Credit: Ibn Battuta
Created By
Domenica Aguirre


Created with images by capobleu2a - "machu picchu peru incan"

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