The nation of Peru holds many ancient secrets. Great archeological and agricultural feats wrapped in mystery, thanks mainly to the arrival of European explorers 500 years ago. Their ruins remain, but what are they? Why did they exist? And how did they do that?

Alien Nazca lines

Nazca Lines

These gigantic ancient land drawings are one of the most baffling archeological mysteries of all time. Visible only from a great height, these drawings—sometimes reaching 890 feet in length—have caused an abundance of crazy theories, all of which have done very little in the way of answering one key question: why do they exist?

They quite neatly depict animals; spiders, monkeys, fish, birds and a plethora of wildlife. But then there are the more mysterious drawings, which some claim to be astronauts, spacecraft, even aliens. Are these drawings signs for our extra-terrestrial friends? Or are they offerings to the gods? A part of a ceremonial ritual? 

The images, created somewhere around 200 BC and 600AD, were made by a technologically savvy bunch known as the Nazca people.

“...the lines were created by scraping a 10 to 30cm layer of iron oxide off of the dry desert floor. 
Due to the incredible dryness and consistent weather of the area this was all it took to create
images that have lasted for well 1500 years.”

—AtlasObscura

It is likely that the people would have walked the lines in ceremonial procession (probably while under the influence of a ceremonial drug) in honour of an agricultural god. An alternative suggestion is that this tech-savvy bunch were able to view these images themselves from a great height and were perfectly capable of constructing a hot-air balloon. Others have claimed this theory is exactly that: hot air! Whether Godly, otherworldly or quite simply artistic, no one knows the true relevance of these drawings—but as long as they are there, they should be admired.

 

Grisly Qenqo Temple

Qenqo temple

When the Incan Empire was completed destroyed by Europeans in the 16th Century, their temples lost all meaning. Other than gigantuan structures assumed to be temples, not much is known about the Incan worshipping rituals.

The Qenqi Temple is carved from a huge monolith spanning an entire hillside, quite an architectural feat! Man-made tunnels meet natural crevices to create a huge ampitheatre. But what happened here? The general consensus is grim: it seems that this may have been the location of many sacrifices to Moon and/or Sun gods. But with no remains to verify, this is mere speculation.

Qenqo, in Quechua, means labyrinth or zig-zag. It is named thus because of the zig-zagging canal cut out of its rock formation. But what sort of fluid did it contain? Holy water? Chicha (corn beer)? Blood? These are just three potentials suggested by experts. All three point to a death ritual. Was this a place where the transition from life to death was made? Where the dead were judged, embalmed and blood sacrifices made? Of course, we don’t know for sure—we can only make an educated guess.

 

Agricultural Experiment Moray

Agricultural Moray

The Incan people left behind a wealth of ruins of architectural splendor and complexity. One of the more simple ruins—commonly known as Moray—is a series of descending, perfectly circular rings, all varying in size. This lush green arena, reminiscent of an amphitheatre, may be something of an agricultural experiment.

Studies reveal that the soil used on the terraces is native to other parts of the Inca region. The temperature of the rings differ by as much as 15 degrees from top to bottom—a great variation in climate not found anywhere else in the Incan empire—allowing them to explore the types of crops they could produce. 

 

Sacsayhuaman: A Herculean Game of Tetris

Sacsayhuaman tetris

Those Incans again! It would be wonderful to think what we might know today if the mysteries of their engineering ingenuity had not died with them. I suppose we have our European ancestors to thank for that.

Sacsayhuaman is an absolute marvel. These huge blocks of stone fit together so compactly that no mortar is needed. The site itself was perhaps once even greater than its remains. It is thought that a much larger complex once stood on top, but it was looted by the 16th-century explorers. All we are able to see today is the mere remains of the outer wall—the rocks that were too big to move. These blocks were custom-carved to fit any given spaces; there are no patterns to the brick-work at all. But could such a grand structure really have just been left to this sort of chance, with no design and/or planning?

 

Machu Picchu in the clouds

Machu Picchu

High in the Andes, 11,000 feet above sea level, sits Machu Picchu: a city floating among the clouds. This high destination was abandoned around the time that the European settlers arrived. It became overgrown, hidden, and forgotten until its rediscovery in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. Let us not forget that the Andes are absolutely monstrous, towering high over the neighbouring mountains, steep and menacing. Yet here, at its peak, there is a city. How? Why? Again it is not clear. A place of pilgramage? A place to be closer to the gods? A place of ritual? A new metropolis? Or quite simply a retreat?

Unfortunately, like many of the mysteries of Peru, we can only ever speculate. But there is only one way to experience the lingering spirituality of these places, and that is to visit them. We may not get any closer to solving their mysteries, but we can get closer to the ingenuity of our ancestors.

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