A team of Polish archaeologists working in Peru, using an advanced laser scanning method, discovered unknown structures on the territory of the Machu Picchu National Park, invisible to the naked eye due to the dense jungle.
According to Nauka w Polsce, a laser scanner was installed on board the unmanned aerial vehicle. With his help, archaeologists have explored a large area covered with jungle. It is the dense vegetation that makes classical studies difficult. The research project started several years ago. Its purpose is to study the Chachabamba Inca ceremonial complex located in the Machu Picchu National Archaeological Park.
It is assumed that this complex was built at the beginning of the 15th century, but until recently it was not possible to confirm this. The fact is that most of the territory is covered with tropical forest. The researchers were helped to solve the problem by a laser scanning device, the so-called LiDAR. In the images obtained with this device, vegetation is not displayed, but those structures that are hidden under it are visible.
“As a result of our research, we were able to find a number of unknown structures in this park,” says Dominika Seckovskaya of the Andean Research Center at the University of Warsaw. According to her, the analysis of the photographs helped to establish that the central part of the ceremonial complex was a huge rock with altars, steps and a groove carved into it.
The latter, according to the assumptions of archaeologists, was used for some kind of liquid. It is possible that ritual drinks flowed down it, but it is possible that it could be the blood of sacrificial animals. There was a small square in front of the rock, along the edges of which several buildings were erected. Also, the square was surrounded by small ritual baths. In total, there were about one and a half dozen of them, they were used for ritual ablutions. Water was supplied to them using a fairly well thought-out system.
Laser scanning has revealed previously unknown channels through which water entered the ceremonial complex from a nearby river. It was found that it was supplied through an analogue of pipes made of stone blocks. This system was partly underground. Interestingly, the water, having passed through the ceremonial center, returned back to the river thanks to a similar reverse flow drainage system. The radar also helped in the study of buildings found on the outskirts of the ceremonial complex.
“In total, we found a dozen small buildings, erected in both circular and rectangular layouts,” Sechkovskaya said. “We assume that these buildings were inhabited by the people who ran this complex.”
In a word, these could be houses of ministers, including priests. Laser images helped to determine that these buildings were constructed much less carefully than the ritual structures in the central part of the complex. According to Sechkovskaya, the radar helped detect signs that the complex was mainly followed by women. This is also indicated by objects found during previous excavations carried out by a joint Polish-Peruvian team. The artifacts found then are associated with weaving, and only women were engaged in this craft in the Inca state.
Archaeologists also used laser scanning data to build a hydrodynamic model of the channels that fed the baths. Thanks to this, it was possible to establish that it was not used for economic needs, but had a purely symbolic character. This confirmed the earlier hypothesis that the water in Chachabamba played a sacred role.