For nearly a century, the Incan Empire was the largest in pre-Columbian South America. Their reign was untouchable and their influence, all-encompassing. During it, what is now Cuzco, Peru served as its political epicenter.
The city, declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983, is chock-full of ancient Incan structures that stand as strong today as they did the day they were built. But among all of their incredible feats of engineering, one stone in particular receives the most attention.
Incan architecture is heralded as some of the most innovative and advanced for its time. What’s known as “the 12-angled stone” is the quintessential display of their ingenuity.
The stone is renowned as one of the greatest ancient architectural feats in the world, and year-round, crowds of tourists come to see it in person.
If one day you choose to take a trip to see it, expect a wait – a very long one.
However, some are confused as to why a “simple stone” is given so much acclaim. For those people, context is needed.
If you consider its weight – roughly 1,000 pounds – and the fact that masonry at that time was done with a hammer and chisel, its unique and perfect shape become exponentially more impressive.
The fact that the structure has lived through 700 years of storms, cold, and earthquakes, yet looks as though it was just built, is an overwhelming testament to the Incas unparalleled craftsmanship.
The Inca civilization is well-known for its advanced masonry work, much of which can still be seen today in Machu Picchu and Sacsayhuaman in Peru. Their large dry stone walls display huge blocks that had been carefully cut to fit together tightly without mortar and with levels of precision unmatched anywhere else in the Americas. The stones are so closely spaced that a single piece of paper will not fit between many of the stones. This precision, combined with the rounded corners of the blocks, the variety of their interlocking shapes, and the way the walls lean inward have puzzled scientists for decades. The method used to match precisely the shape of a stone with the adjacent stones is still unknown.
The Incas created an interconnected network of channels to receive water that came down the hill and fed into the Viscacha River. However, it is unclear whether the Inca channeled the water for agricultural or ritual purposes, or both. The Inca culture revered waterholes, lakes, and glaciers, which were viewed as sacred places of origin.