Machu Picchu

Ancient Plumbing Marvels: Machu Picchu

What can we learn from the past? As experts who have studied Machu Picchu know, a lot.

What is Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu was suspected to be built in the 1450s by the Inca people. There’s some dispute among experts as to what the compound was meant to be—some say the over 150 buildings comprised of houses, temples, baths, and sanctuaries were a secret ceremonial center, and others believe it to be a royal estate.

Why is Machu Picchu Important?

There are many reasons the citadel is considered to be one of the New Seven Wonders of the World:

  • Surviving history. Many Incan cities (like many native settlements) were destroyed during the Spanish invasion and fall of the Incan empire. Machu Picchu—sitting atop a mountain—was hidden and is now one of the most well-preserved archeological sites of the ancient world.
  • Unbelievable architecture. The Inca people are known to be some of the most advanced masons in the world. The stones used to build the city’s structures were cut with a specialized technique that allowed stones to stay together without mortar. The technique is so precise that not even the blade of a knife can fit between the stones!

The architecture of the citadel is impressive, but modern-day engineers have been astounded by the planning of the city, which allowed for farming and the retrieval of fresh water.

The Ancestors of Modern Engineering

One of the most impressive advances made by the Inca people was their impressive drainage engineering.

Machu Picchu is located on a mountain peak over 7,000 feet above sea level. Farmland on a mountain top is relatively scarce, but the Inca had a solution. They created hundreds of man-made terraces lining the side of the mountain to grow crops. These terraces were built with drainage and soil erosion in mind and even helped to protect the mountain from landslides and erosion. The Inca built the terraces in such a way that irrigation systems weren’t needed—the naturally high levels of rainfall in the area simply followed the drainage system to water crops as it flowed down the terraces.