What was the technology of the Incas

Polish architect proves the existence of two Inca measuring systems

When planning the buildings in the famous Machu Picchu in Peru, the Incas used two types of units of measurement. One was based on a module of 42 cm, the other - 54 cm. While the former was expected by the scientists, the second came as a surprise.

These results come from the doctoral thesis of Dr. Anna Kubicka from the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Science and Technology in Wrocław, which was recently awarded the Prime Minister's Prize.

Dr. Kubicka said that research on the Incas' measuring system so far has mainly relied on chronicles from the 16th and 17th centuries written by colonizing Spaniards, as well as their dictionaries of the Quechua language used by the Incas. These sources contain information about anthropometric measurements (measurements based on human body parts). However, the values ​​assigned to them were not known.

Scientists speculated that since the average Inca human was about 1.6 meters tall, Inca cubits (arms) could be between 40 and 45 cm tall.

Kubicka carried out metrological analyzes based on measurements made in 2010-2017 during field research at Machu Picchu. The field measurements were carried out by staff from the Machu Picchu Archaeological National Park together with the team from the 3D scanning and modeling laboratory headed by Professor Jacek Kościuk from the University of Science and Technology in Wrocław. Anna Kubicka, a PhD student at the time, joined his team. The Kościuk team began working there in collaboration with Professor Mariusz Ziółkowski from the Center for Pre-Columbian Studies at the University of Warsaw.

The researcher found that the Incas used two modules (or quanta) to measure their buildings. The basic module was 42 cm long and corresponded to the length of the elbow. The second module, measuring 54 cm, is a previously unknown dimension and does not result directly from the length of a part of the human body. Kubicka calls it the "Königsell" because the unit was used to measure buildings of higher rank. The "royal yard" was associated with representative and residential complexes of the Inca elite, while the other, basic yard was associated with complexes of farm buildings, workshops and buildings for the Yanaconas (the servants of the Inca elite).

When asked if their find brought anything new about the knowledge of Machu Picchu, Kubicka says that the complex was built at one point, in the first half of the 15th century. Therefore, the metrological data obtained from it are not required, for example, to determine the age.

Kubicka said: “On the other hand, the question was whether there were modular differences due to different building traditions of the people who came as workers from different regions of the Inca Empire. In Machu Picchu we have different stone styles, which are also used depending on the function of the building or building complex ”.

However, it turned out that despite the differences in construction method, only two measurement systems were used. Kubicka believes this is evidence that the surveying of the map of Machu Picchu was overseen by imperial engineers who used their own measuring system.

Further research will show whether Dr. Kubicka identified the measuring system was also used in other places in Inca Peru, as it has not yet been examined by anyone.

According to Kubicka, however, it cannot be ruled out that the units of measurement may have changed over time before the Incas came. It is possible that a common system of measurements was introduced along with the stone-working technologies borrowed from the Tiwanaku culture.

For their analyzes, Dr. Kubicka used the cosine quantogram method, which was developed in 1974 by the British researcher Kendall, to analyze measures of length in megalithic structures. In simple terms, it consists of looking for an indivisible unit of measurement (quantum) in a series of measurement data, the multiple of which is the length of individual architectural elements.

Research at Machu Picchu was funded with a grant from the National Science Center.

| According to a report from PAP - Science in Poland

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