Prior to the arrival of eager Spanish colonizers, the Inca had already established a sprawling, multi-country empire with their own language, government, and religion. As the Inca had no written language – they kept records with a system of knotted cords called “quipu” – what’s known about this ancient civilization has been culled from the written accounts of outsiders and the striking remains that the Inca themselves left behind.
Many of these remains can be found in the Andes of Peru. Some remains are physical, like the Maras salt ponds or, even more famously, Machu Picchu. Others are more intangible, like the art of weaving by Quechua women or the practices of local shamans. By exploring the Andes on our luxury tour Mythical Machu Picchu Journey, Kelley Ferro immerses herself in the history of the once great empire in this episode of #TravelTogether:
While Machu Picchu may tower over other Incan ruins, both in height and reputation, a lesser known site of ruins displays how remarkably advanced the Incan empire was. The Moray terraces – a series of soil terraces constructed much like an amphitheater – are an example of the empire’s knack for architecture and scientific innovation.
Image: Kelley looks over the Moray terraces; photo courtesy of Brandon Widener
Because of the lack of written records by the Inca, many speculate about the purpose of the terraces. Some suggest the terraces are an amphitheater. It is more widely accepted, however, that the site’s purpose is agricultural, a kind of pre-Columbian laboratory. Since there is a great diversity in Peruvian produce, some hypothesize that the Inca grew a variety of crops on the terraces. Each terrace acts as a kind of “microclimate” due to the temperature changes on each level. At its most extreme, the difference in temperature between the highest level and the lowest level is about twenty degrees Fahrenheit. There also appears to be an underground system that prevents the terraces from flooding even after the heaviest rains, though the specifics of how the system works continue to be unclear.
Regardless of their purpose, the Moray terraces and other Incan ruins let us peek into the world of the Inca centuries ago. They give us a glimpse of a society that was sophisticated and innovative, and whose influence continues to endure in Peru's culture today.
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