Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design

1/14/2014

Machu Picchu: Building With What You Have

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

While reminiscing my travels over the latter part of 2013, I realized that every place I visited had its own temperament. Whether because of its history or because of the people that continually surround it, each site is somehow infused with a feeling.

For Peru's Machu Picchu, that trait was determination.

If I were a builder in Incan times, I would have probably dropped by jaw at the thought of building something in the middle of a tropical mountain forest almost 8,000 feet above sea level. "Impossible!" The voice in my head would scream. But it wasn't for the Incans.

A citadel built out of stone fit seamlessly without the use of mortar, Machu Picchu was built about 500 years go without the use of wheels, iron, or steel.

There are more tourists than this picture suggests. Yet another of Machu Picchu's feats of wonder.
It is a majestic sight to see, to be sure, but it is also a hefty hike. I wasn't even hauling stone up to build the citadel and I was huffing and puffing as I wandered around Machu Picchu's sanctuary. It must have taken so much backbreaking labor to build a complex that until now mystifies researchers. (It might have been used as a military stronghold, ceremonial ground, or imperial retreat.)

Though I was tempted to agree with another fellow tourist when said tiredly, "It's just a bunch of rocks. Once you've seen one, you've seen them all." Machu Picchu was different. It wasn't simply piled rocks, but boulders specifically placed and pathways meticulously planned. Our guide had mentioned that even the beguiling terraces that ring the site help prevent soil erosion and served as part of a water distribution system for agriculture. Amazing.

Despite the hassle of going to Machu Picchu, the constant jostle of tourists, and the physical strain of climbing the mountain, this site does deserve its place in UNESCO's World Heritage list. If for nothing else, its presence reminds all who come just how much can be accomplished by pure grit and perseverance.

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