Top image: Sun over Moray, Sacred Valley of the Incas, Peru.
The Inca were an illustrious ancient civilization, whose sprawling empire stretched from Ecuador to the north, to central Chile in the south. Many of the remnants of their incredible civilization are found today in Peru, both along its coasts, and in its rugged highlands. The Inca were enigmatic in many ways - possessing incredible architectural skills that often defy all sense of logic. They were true ancient engineers - and many of their secrets are forever lost to time. Here are 10 of their most famous engineering marvels.
1. The Lone Jewel on the Mountaintop, Machu Picchu
Perhaps the most famous of all Inca ruins is the magnificent Machu Picchu , the self-sufficient citadel and royal residence. Today, it is considered as the most recognizable symbol of the Inca, and for years it was called their “Lost City”. The site is situated on a 2,430-meter (7,970 ft) mountain ridge, in inhospitable terrain where one would never imagine a settlement to stand. And yet, the ingenious Incas managed to create a thriving community so high up in the mountains.
View from south to north. To the left you can see the Hanan sector of the city (with the pyramidal structure of the Intihuatana hill) and to the right the east sector, separated by the main square. In the background the Cerro Huayna Picchu.
Machu Picchu is located above the Sacred Valley, 80 kilometers (50 mi) northwest of Cusco, with the important Urubamba River flowing past it. The important citadel was likely built as a royal estate for Emperor Pachacuti, also calledPachacutec (1438–1472), sometime around 1450 AD. However, it was abandoned just a century later, as the Spanish Conquistadors ravaged the Inca Empire .
The entire citadel of Machu Picchu is an engineering marvel in itself - a pitch-perfect commune that was created on top of a steep mountain point. And even so, it had all the comforts of life - storage buildings, housing, incredible agricultural terraces, as well as a stunning Temple of the Sun. For centuries all of these structures were hidden beneath dense foliage, until their rediscovery in 1912. Today, it remains an incredible window into the ingenuity of the ancient Incas.
2. The Impregnable Citadel of Sacsayhuamán
The vastness of the Inca empire had to be defended from any would-be attackers. The mighty citadel of Sacsayhuamán is a mind-boggling archaeological site located on a hill overlooking the city of Cusco, Peru. The site is believed to have been built by the Inca civilization during the 15th century, during the reign of Sapa Inca Pachacuti, and served as a military fortress and religious center.
Sacsayhuamán, Cusco, Perú
The thing that Sacsayhuamán is most noted for are its massive stone walls, which feature impressive stonework and some truly awe-inspiring engineering feats. The impregnable citadel walls were constructed using massive stone blocks that weigh up to 200 tons, and were fitted together so tightly that it is said a piece of paper cannot fit between them. How did the Incas achieve such an incomprehensible architectural feat? Many theories exist, but none can say for certain how the process looked like. The site also features a number of other structures, including temples, palaces, and fountains, all of which captivate with their grandeur.
Today, Sacsayhuamán is a popular tourist destination and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is an incredible feat of human skill, and one of the most renowned Inca sites.
3. Qhapaq Nan, The Great Inca Road
In order to control such a large empire and to make everything function as it should, the Inca had to create a reliable road network. It wasn’t an easy task, but they did it, nevertheless. The result is Qhapaq Nan , also known as the Great Inca Road - a vast network of roads and footpaths that spanned more than 20,000 miles (more than 32,000 km) throughout the Andes Mountains of South America. The road system served as a vital communication and transportation network for the Inca civilization and connected many of their major cities and settlements.
The Qhapaq Nan was built over several centuries, beginning around the 15th century AD, and was constructed primarily using stone and gravel. The road system features numerous impressive feats of engineering, including suspension bridges, tunnels, and switchbacks. The roads were also lined with waystations and storage depots, which provided food, water, and shelter for travelers. The Great Inca Road connected the coastal and the mountainous parts of the empire, making traveling easy and less dangerous.
Today, many sections of the Qhapaq Nan are still in use, centuries later - it was that well-made. And it only serves as proof of incredible Inca skill.
4. Ollantaytambo and its Impregnable Walls
The Inca city of Ollantaytambo is an archaeological site located in the Sacred Valley of Peru , approximately 72 kilometers (45 miles) northwest of the city of Cusco. It is believed to have been built by the Inca civilization during the 15th century AD and served as a military, religious, and agricultural center.
Ollantaytambo is renowned for its truly impressive fortress, which features massive stone terraces and walls that rise up to 60 feet high (18 m). And once again, science was baffled by the skill and mastery with which these stone walls were built. Some of the pieces are incredibly heavy, but still placed with absolute precision and a tight fit. The site was strategically placed as to defend against attacks from hostile neighboring tribes, and played an important role in the Inca resistance against Spanish conquistadors. Its position and impregnable walls made it an easily defendable site.
In addition to the fortress, Ollantaytambo features a number of temples, palaces, and other structures, all of which showcase the remarkable engineering and architectural skills of the Inca civilization. The site also features a sophisticated system of canals and aqueducts, which were used for irrigation and water management. In its heyday, Ollantaytambo was a sprawling Inca city that had all the comforts of life, and was also well protected. It is a bustling city today as well, and many original Inca structures, houses, and doorways are still in daily use.
Ollantaytambo is a very popular tourist destination and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. When traveling to the area, you cannot miss visiting it.
5. The Stunning Terraces of Moray
One of the foremost accomplishments for which the Inca were praised was their mastery of agriculture in an otherwise inhospitable and rugged terrain. With their unique system of terraces and irrigation, they became the true masters of growing crops. And the Inca city of Moray is an ideal example of this. It is an archaeological site located in the famed Sacred Valley of Peru, approximately 50 kilometers (31 mi) northwest of the city of Cusco. It consists of several terraced circular depressions in the ground, which were used by the Incas for agricultural experimentation and research.
The circular depressions at Moray range in depth from approximately 30 to 150 feet (10 to 45 m) and are arranged in a series of concentric rings. The terraces were likely used to simulate different microclimates, which allowed the Incas to experiment with different crop varieties and growing conditions. The temperature difference between the top and the bottom levels of these terraces can be as much as 5 °C (9 °F), allowing for different growing conditions. Furthermore, the terraces are connected by a complex system of channels and canals, which allowed for precise control of water flow and irrigation.
Moray is believed to have been built during the 15th century AD by the Inca civilization and served as an important agricultural research center. The site is considered a remarkable example of Incan engineering and agricultural innovation and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
6. Tipon Showcases the Hydraulic Engineering of the Incas
Ancient water spouts at Tipón, Peru
Did you know that the Incas also mastered hydraulic engineering ? Their majestic city of Tipon is a remarkable example of this. This archaeological site is located in the Cusco region of Peru, approximately 15 kilometers (10 mi) southeast of the city of Cusco. It is situated on a hillside at an altitude of about 3,400 meters (11,154.86 ft) above sea level and covers an area of approximately 6.5 hectares. Tipon was built by the Inca civilization around the 15th century AD and likely served as a royal estate and an agricultural center. The site contains a sophisticated system of terraces, canals, and aqueducts, which were designed to irrigate the crops and gardens that grew on the terraced hillsides. The engineering prowess of the Incas is evident in the precision of the stonework and the complexity of the hydraulic system. The terraces are so well built that they remain incredibly well preserved today.
One of the most impressive features of Tipon is the extensive system of water channels and fountains, which were used for both irrigation and aesthetic purposes. The channels are made of finely cut stone and are carefully aligned to maximize water flow. The fountains are adorned with intricate carvings and were likely used for ceremonial purposes as well.
7. Raqch’i Venerated Viracocha
Religion played a great role in the daily lives of the Incas. Their once-majestic city of Raqch'i is located in the southern highlands of Peru, and is believed to have been built by the Inca civilization during the 15th century AD and served as an important administrative and religious center.
Central wall of the Temple of Viracocha in Raqch 'i, Peru. The bases of the circular columns that in the past supported the roof of this large temple are still visible.
Raqch'i is renowned for its massive temple complex, which features a rectangular courtyard surrounded by a series of impressive, titanic stone walls. The temple is truly enormous, and measures 92 meters (302 ft) by 25.5 meters (84 ft). It is dedicated to Viracocha, the great creator God of the Inca, and their most important deity. The temple complex also includes a number of smaller buildings and structures, as well as a sophisticated system of irrigation canals and terraces.
The site is also notable for its extensive agricultural terraces, which were used to grow crops such as potatoes, quinoa, and corn. The terraces feature a complex system of irrigation channels and are a testament to the impressive engineering skills of the Inca civilization - in all spheres of their lives.
8. Pisaq, The Royal Estate and its Irrigation Canals
Built in the Inca heyday during the 15th century AD, Pisaq (Písac) was an important royal estate and city, which served as a religious and agricultural center. Its ruins are situated some 20 miles (33 km) northeast from Cusco.
Pisaq is renowned for its truly impressive agricultural terraces that leave every visitor in awe. They were used to grow crops such as corn, potatoes, and quinoa (the staples of Inca diet) - with incredible success. These terraces feature a truly sophisticated system of irrigation canals and are a testament to the impressive engineering skills of the Inca civilization. The level of expertise with which they were constructed allowed them to remain almost perfectly preserved - after centuries.
The site of Pisaq is also notable for its monumental stone structures, which include a series of temples, palaces, and other buildings. It was an important city of the Inca. Alas, it was completely devastated and destroyed in the 1530s by the Spanish conquistadors, headed by Francisco Pizarro . The modern settlement of Pisaq arose in the shadow of these noble ruins.
The Pisaq residential area.
9. Choquequirao Sanctuary
Nestled in the breathtaking Andes Mountains of Peru, just a stone's throw away from the world-famous Machu Picchu, lie the majestic ruins of Choquequirao, an ancient Incan citadel city whose lofty position and ambience won’t fail to invoke a sense of wonder and grandeur. Built in the 15th century AD as a sacred sanctuary and royal estate, this awe-inspiring site remained hidden from the eyes of the world until the early 20th century.
Spanning a vast area of 1,800 hectares, Choquequirao boasts an impressive collection of well-preserved structures, from sprawling plazas to ornate temples and residential quarters. However, its most striking feature is a colossal terraced complex that spans over 2,500 square meters and comprises two levels of buildings, agricultural terraces, and a serene ceremonial fountain. These terraces were built on steep hillsides and rugged terrain, and were even so a functioning source of abundant crops.
Left: Main Plaza at Choquequirao. Right: Remains of Inca houses at Choquequirao
Despite its undeniable allure and stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, Choquequirao remains a hidden gem due to its remote location and challenging accessibility. It takes a lot of hiking in rugged terrain in order to reach the site. But even so, for those who dare to venture away from the beaten path, this hidden treasure offers a unique and captivating glimpse into the fascinating daily life and religious practices of the Inca people. Don't miss out on the opportunity to discover one of Peru's most extraordinary and least-known wonders!
10. Tambo Colorado, the City of Colored Houses
Tambo Colorado is an Incan archaeological site located in the Pisco Valley of Peru, and was built during the reign of the Inca emperor Pachacutec in the mid-15th century. This unique city served as a strategic administrative and military center for the Inca Empire, after the region was annexed from the Chincha culture.
The name Tambo Colorado means "Red Tambo" in Spanish, referring to the red color of the adobe walls. It is likely that all the buildings in the town were adorned with bright colors, and many of them can still be seen today. The site covers an area of about 6 hectares and includes several well-preserved buildings, including a large central plaza, residential quarters, and administrative buildings. Observing these majestic ruins, we can understand the complexity of the Incan Empire, and the importance of keeping the coastal and highland regions connected and controlled.
Panorama of Tambo Colorado.
One of the most notable features of Tambo Colorado is the complex network of channels and canals that were used for irrigation and agriculture. Wherever the Incas chose to settle, they brought their advanced knowledge of agriculture with them. The site also includes a number of rooms and chambers that were used for storage and as living quarters. This means that Tambo Colorado had all the necessities for the thriving life of many citizens.
For full references please use source link below.
What did the Inca build with their engineering skills? ›
The Inca's greatest technological skill was engineering. The best example is their amazing system of roads. The Incas built roads across the length of and width of their empire. To create routes through steep mountain ranges, they carved staircases and gouged tunnels out of rock.What was the most impressive engineering feat of the Incan empire? ›
Rope suspension bridges were one of the Inka's innovative engineering solutions. The Inka engineered more than 17 different types of bridges to connect the complicated terrain.What engineering feat made it possible for the Inca government to control such a vast empire? ›
Most notably, the Great Inca Road (Qhapaq Ñan), a network of more than 40,000 kilometers (km) of roads, bridges and other structures, was an extraordinary engineering feat that had a great and lasting impact on the expansion, development, administration and control over their land.What is the best proof the Incas were good engineers? ›
It is renowned for its intricate stonework, terraced fields, and advanced water management systems, which demonstrate the Incas' exceptional engineering and agricultural skills. What is this? The terraced fields at Machu Picchu are another remarkable feat of Inca engineering.
“Primarily because the Inca controlled water,” Fiori says: They observed its natural course and directed it, preventing erosion. As someone who spent 35 years teaching engineering, I know we can learn much from the Inca, who intuitively grasped how to build structures that harmonized with nature.What engineering advances did the Incas not have? ›
The Inca, however, didn't have a lot of basic technologies we often consider important to advanced societies. They didn't use the wheel for transport, they didn't have a writing system for records, and they didn't even have iron for making tools.What is considered the greatest example of Incan engineering quizlet? ›
What is considered the greatest example of Incan engineering? The road network. What event marked the start of the downfall of the Incan Empire?What man made feature is known as the greatest engineering feat of the ancient world? ›
1. The Great Wall of China (built over centuries from the 7th century BC to the 17th century AD)How did Incas engineer their building to be earthquake proof? ›
They are famous for their mortarless and earthquake-proof technique of fitting finely chiseled, jointed stone blocks into one another – so closely, in fact, that a razorblade could not be slide between them – and this highly detailed work was accomplished mainly with hammerstones.How were the Incas able to build such a strong empire? ›
Well-devised agricultural and roadway systems, along with a centralized religion and language, helped maintain a cohesive state. Despite their power, the Inca were quickly overwhelmed by the diseases and superior weaponry of Spanish invaders, and the last bastion of their immense empire was overtaken in 1572.
What feats of engineering did the Incas accomplish that were unequaled elsewhere in the Americas? ›
Although the Incas lacked both a written language and the concept of the wheel, they accomplished feats of engineering that were unequaled elsewhere in the Americas. They built large stone structures without mortar and constructed suspension bridges and roads that crossed the steep mountain valleys of the Andes.Which ancient civilization had the best engineering? ›
The ancient Romans were famous for their advanced engineering accomplishments. Technology for bringing running water into cities was developed in the east, but transformed by the Romans into a technology inconceivable in Greece.Who was the most powerful figure in the Inca Empire? ›
1438–ca. 1471). Pachacuti is regarded as the greatest of the Inca emperors.What are 3 things the Incas are known for? ›
The Incas began as a small tribe that steadily grew in power to conquer other civilizations all down the coast from Colombia to Argentina. They are remembered for their contributions to religion, architecture, and their famous network of roads throughout the region.What two types of technology were unique to the Inca? ›
Some of their most impressive inventions were roads and bridges, including suspension bridges, which use thick cables to hold up the walkway. Their communication system was called quipu, a system of strings and knots that recorded information.What did Inca engineers develop for agriculture? ›
They developed resilient breeds of crops such as potatoes, quinoa and corn. They built cisterns and irrigation canals that snaked and angled down and around the mountains. And they cut terraces into the hillsides, progressively steeper, from the valleys up the slopes.What did the Inca built? ›
The most famous Inca architectural heritage is Machu Picchu, it is considered the best example of its architecture. Other ruins include the Fortress of Sasahuaman, Coricancha Temple and Ollantaytambo among others.
The Incas were magnificent engineers. They built a system of roads and bridges across the roughest terrains of the Andes. Through their system of collective labor and the most advanced centralized economy, the Incas were able to secure unlimited manual labor.What types of technology did the Incas build? ›
The Incas developed thousands of techniques for metalwork, stonework, and cloth. They were precise and talented. They developed all sorts of farming and agriculture technologies too. Their roads, too, were something to marvel at.What tools did Incas use? ›
Copper and bronze were used for basic farming tools or weapons, such as sharp sticks for digging, club-heads, knives with curved blades, axes, chisels, needles, and pins. The Incas had no iron or steel, so their armor and weaponry consisted of helmets, spears, and battle-axes made of copper, bronze, and wood.
What did the Incas build their empire without the use of? ›
Anthropologist Gordon McEwan wrote that the Incas were able to construct "one of the greatest imperial states in human history" without the use of the wheel, draft animals, knowledge of iron or steel, or even a system of writing.What is one thing the Incas were famous for? ›
Famed for their unique art and architecture, they constructed finely-built and imposing buildings wherever they conquered, and their spectacular adaptation of natural landscapes with terracing, highways, and mountaintop settlements continues to impress modern visitors at such world-famous sites as Machu Picchu.Who destroyed Inca civilization? ›
|Location||Western South America|
|Result||Spanish victory Inca Empire destroyed Last Inca emperor Atahualpa executed Resistance broke out but ultimately destroyed|
|Territorial changes||Former Inca lands incorporated into the Spanish Empire|
Just as the ancient Romans did, the Inca connected their vast empire with a system of roads. Undaunted by the geographic challenges they faced, Inca engineers built their roads across plains, deserts, rivers, ravines, and mountain passes up to 15,000 feet high.What are some great engineering marvels? ›
- The Channel Tunnel.
- Akashi Kaikyo Bridge.
- International Space Station.
- Burj Khalifa.
- Millau Viaduct.
- Hoover Dam.
- National Stadium (Beijing, China)
- Palm Islands.
Ancient Greece developed machines in both civilian and military domains. The Antikythera mechanism, the first known mechanical computer, and the mechanical inventions of Archimedes are examples of early mechanical engineering.What is the greatest engineering and architectural achievement in the world during the ancient era? ›
The Great Pyramids of Giza
Perhaps the most iconic ancient architectural achievement of all time, these three pyramids dominate the landscape of the Giza plateau.
Shear walls, cross braces, diaphragms and moment-resisting frames are central to reinforcing a building. Shear walls are a useful building technology that can help transfer earthquake forces. Made of multiple panels, these walls help a building keep its shape during movement.How were the Incas able to cut their building materials so precisely? ›
To cut and dress stones, the Incas used simple river cobbles of various sizes as hammers. These tools and their fragments are found in abundance in the ancient quarries scattered among roughed out building blocks and in the quarrying waste.How did Inca engineers keep the city from sliding down the mountain? ›
They constructed more than 600 terraces to prevent the city from sliding down the mountain and even designed a water supply system with a length of about half a mile (1 kilometer). Architecture was especially important for the Incas.
What were 3 of the Incas greatest achievements? ›
The Incas built roads across the length of and width of their empire. To create routes through steep mountain ranges, they carved staircases and gouged tunnels out of rock. They also built suspension bridges over rivers. Thick rope cables were anchored at stone towers on either side of the river.Why were the Incas so easy to conquer? ›
Spanish Technology Gave Them an Insurmountable Advantage
The Spanish were greatly outnumbered, but their horses, armor, and weapons gave them an advantage that proved too great for their enemies to overcome.
The empire reached its peak after the conquests of Emperor Huayna Capac, who reigned from 1493 until around 1527. At its peak, the empire included up to 12 million people and extended from the border of Ecuador and Colombia to about 50 miles [80 kilometers] south of modern Santiago, Chile.Which civilization had the most advanced technology? ›
The Roman Empire was one of the most technologically advanced civilizations of antiquity, with some of the more advanced concepts and inventions forgotten during the turbulent eras of Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages.Who is the first engineering in the world? ›
The first engineer known by name and achievement is Imhotep, builder of the Step Pyramid at Ṣaqqārah, Egypt, probably about 2550 bce.Which ancient empire was the most advanced? ›
Arguably the New World's most advanced pre-Columbian civilization, the Maya carved large stone cities into the jungles of southern Mexico and Central America, complete with elaborate plazas, palaces, pyramid-temples and ball courts.Who is the first God engineer? ›
|Consort||Ghritachi or Gayatri or three wives — Rati, Prapti and Nandi.|
|Children||Sanjna, Vishvarupa, Barhismati, Chitrangada, Nala|
Bhagwan Vishwakarma is considered to be the godfather of construction and creation among all the Gods in the Universe. He has been said to be first host of creation.What made the Incas powerful? ›
Well-devised agricultural and roadway systems, along with a centralized religion and language, helped maintain a cohesive state. Despite their power, the Inca were quickly overwhelmed by the diseases and superior weaponry of Spanish invaders, and the last bastion of their immense empire was overtaken in 1572.Were the Incas stronger than the Aztecs? ›
Incas were more powerful, because they were much more unified (and their organisation was definitely superior) than Aztecs. Aztecs, in fact, had no empire. ... They were both good in civil engineering, Inca's were incredibly advanced and efficient in agriculture, but Aztecs were also good in this field.
Who was the last powerful Inca ruler? ›
Atahuallpa, the 13th and last emperor of the Incas, dies by strangulation at the hands of Francisco Pizarro's Spanish conquistadors. The execution of Atahuallpa, the last free reigning emperor, marked the end of 300 years of Inca civilization.What were the Incas skilled at building? ›
The Incas were certainly skilled stonemasons. They used granite or limestone to build their cities, these materials were available locally. To cut the rocks they used stones, metal tools made of bronze or copper, pieces of wood and water.What building did the Incas build? ›
Machu Picchu in modern day Peru was built around 1450 AD and has been named as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is said that the structure/town was built for the Incan emperor Pachacuti. The amazing wonder was discovered by a History professor, Hiram Bingham, in 1911.What technology did the Incas develop? ›
The Incas developed thousands of techniques for metalwork, stonework, and cloth. They were precise and talented. They developed all sorts of farming and agriculture technologies too. Their roads, too, were something to marvel at.What technology did the Incas create? ›
Some of their most impressive inventions were roads and bridges, including suspension bridges, which use thick cables to hold up the walkway. Their communication system was called quipu, a system of strings and knots that recorded information.What advances did the Incas make in building and farming? ›
Yet the Incas, and the civilizations before them, coaxed harvests from the Andes' sharp slopes and intermittent waterways. They developed resilient breeds of crops such as potatoes, quinoa and corn. They built cisterns and irrigation canals that snaked and angled down and around the mountains.What was unique about the construction of Inca buildings? ›
What was impressive about Inca architecture? The most impressive feature about Inca architecture is their stone masonry. Stones were quarried without modern tools and transported large distances where they were shaped and fitted into place.What tools did the Incas use? ›
Copper and bronze were used for basic farming tools or weapons, such as sharp sticks for digging, club-heads, knives with curved blades, axes, chisels, needles, and pins. The Incas had no iron or steel, so their armor and weaponry consisted of helmets, spears, and battle-axes made of copper, bronze, and wood.Who built the Inca? ›
The founder of the Inca dynasty, Manco Capac (Manqo Qhapaq), led the tribe to settle in Cuzco, which remained thereafter their capital.Were the Incas engineers? ›
The Inka Empire expanded and thrived, in part, because of its engineering prowess.
What tools did the Incas use for farming? ›
Generally made from cobble stones, farming tools like the hoe, clod breaker and foot plough were used to break up the soil and make it easier to aerate and plant crop seeds. Farming was celebrated with rituals and songs.What were Incas known for? ›
The Incas began as a small tribe that steadily grew in power to conquer other civilizations all down the coast from Colombia to Argentina. They are remembered for their contributions to religion, architecture, and their famous network of roads throughout the region.What important technology did the Inca not develop? ›
The Inca, however, didn't have a lot of basic technologies we often consider important to advanced societies. They didn't use the wheel for transport, they didn't have a writing system for records, and they didn't even have iron for making tools.Did the Incas invent brain surgery? ›
Today, trepanation is known as a craniotomy. The Incas performed trepanations using bifacial, obsidian tools to create incisions in patients' skulls. In later years, bronze and copper tools were used for these same procedures.Were the Incas advanced? ›
The Inca culture was a very advanced civilization and was led by 13 Incas, who were in charge of governing a people divided into social classes. Quechua was the official language and its main god was the Sun.