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  • Incan stonework

    How did the Inca fashion stones into such perfectly fitting shapes? I'd seen photos of this stuff before, but until I saw it last week I had no idea that the stones were so big. To give you an idea of size, here is me (6' 3") posing in front of a wall at the fortress on the hills above Cuzco. The modern repairs at the top are to fill gaps left by stones which the Spanish "borrowed" to build the city below.



    These stones may have been quarried nearby -- a granite outcropping showing glacial scraping is only a hundred yards away. The stones could have been moved on log rollers. For chisels the Inca had access to copper and bronze.

    But I can't imagine how they could have cut out and raised these stones. Here is an even larger one (that's my brother Robert, posing). A guidebook says some of the stones weight 300 tons. I haven't found any plausible explanations, so I'll ask you guys to submit your conjectures. You have more experience in shaping and moving heavy objects than most archaeologists.

    Last edited by aostling; 11-20-2007, 03:11 PM.
    Allan Ostling

    Phoenix, Arizona

  • #2
    One, a vast supply of slave labor. You can do almost anything if you have enough warm bodies to throw at the problem.

    And two, many of the stones were fitted by rubbing. The workers basically slid them back and forth along each others' surfaces until they wore together. All they needed were vine ropes, plenty of water, some tied logs or scree piles as scaffolding, and lots and lots of slave labor.

    It's the same as the Egyptian pyramids. Yeah, they didn't have cranes or steel or even horses, and yeah, some of the blocks weighed a hundred tons or more, but still, put a hundred and fifty thousand men on the job and tell them it has to get done or they're going to be put to death, and you can bet your sweet bippy they'll figure out a way to do it.

    Doc.
    Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)

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    • #3
      As far as moving the rocks, the same way as the Egyptians - flying saucers. I though everyone knew that.
      As far as the fitting together of those joints, the same way you or I would do it with a couple of bits of steel or CI that we want to match closely.
      They scraped them to fit. They rubbed the two mating surfaces together and scraped or chiselled off the high points that showed up as scuff marks. Repeated as needed until they had the required number of dots per inch.
      One thing they did have was time and labor. They didn't have to finish the job by the end of the shift.

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      • #4
        I believe you'll find the stones are fitted so closely together by pushing them together and then sawing thru the joint repeatedly with another piece of thin sandstone until the where off the high spots and are left with flat faces. The better question to have asked would have been, When sawing these stones to mate perfectly, how did they keep the blood from their blistered fingers off the stone?

        I've seen this process done on the idiot box. We got a new idiot box! Did I mention it? It's twice as dumb as the old ones so everything that is said is repeated till you are ready to vomit then the programs over and it's on to the next.
        - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
        Thank you to our families of soldiers, many of whom have given so much more then the rest of us for the Freedom we enjoy.

        It is true, there is nothing free about freedom, don't be so quick to give it away.

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        • #5
          Its simple, they are Heisenburg stones.
          Firstly they measured them really really precisely. As a result they didnt know where they were... Then they figured out that they were precisely stacked up in a wall, but now they were no longer certain how big they were. That even explains the wonky sizes

          Dave
          Just south of Sudspumpwater UK

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          • #6
            Neil B

            There might be an easier way than to remove all the stone by lapping. Start with one stone and chisel the sides as flat as possible. Finish off with small rubbing stones. Next place a stone with a similar (but negative) shape a few feet to one side. Make a large "caliper" (could actually be a rod or a bit of string) and keeping this horizontal mark out the 1st stone's side profile on the 2nd stone. Chisel to line, use "caliper" tool again to finish side profile, then perhaps lap the two stones for final fit.

            The bigger issue for me is why the seeming random shapes. Was this perhaps to conserve stone? Or maybe it was a form of earthquake defence?
            Neil B.

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            • #7
              i would think it would be just the shape they wind up being. similar to how you grind a telescope mirror.

              blood, sweat and whip lashes!

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              • #8
                Originally posted by NSB
                The bigger issue for me is why the seeming random shapes. Was this perhaps to conserve stone? Or maybe it was a form of earthquake defence?
                Yes, the shapes (and the mortar-free tight fit) are surely to resist the frequent earthquakes in the region. Here is a guy (a stranger) posing in front of the "12-angle stone," an Inca foundation now incorporated into a modern building a block from Cuzco's central plaza. We went to a gourmet restaurant which had Inca walls, the ultimate cachet in dining.

                Allan Ostling

                Phoenix, Arizona

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                • #9
                  How many hundreds of years would it take of rubbing those stones together to make them fit that close? Have you ever seen a 300 ton stone moved and machined within a few thousandths of an inch by slaves with copper tools? How long do you think it would take to drag a sandstone sheet between two blocks to flaten it? How did they make the flat sandstone plate to do that? How many plates would it take to do that given they will wear out? How did they press them together to obtain the fit?

                  I don't think they were built by anyone from this planet. Have you ever read the histories of the Inca's and Egyptians? How about the Easter Islands? Are you aware that they said they were visited by people from other planets? How about the map of the Earth that shows it from hundreds of miles above that was found in a monistary in the 1700's?

                  Why did all the civilaztions of the world have a story of a great flood at nearly the same time?

                  There is a belief that the Egyptians did not build the pyramids but they were built long before they came to power. Perhaps the Inca's just used the existing pyramids in South America as well. What about all the figures in the land scape in South America that is only visible and reconizable from great height? Who did that and why? What about the Inca's callender that ends in 2012 with the prediction of a catastrophe on the Earth? What does that mean?

                  There are so many things in the world that are not proven by the silly guesses of anthropoligists that claim to know the truth. We may never know the truth-----untill we die-----will there be an afterlife-------I hope there is------so I can learn the truth, we sure won't learn it here.
                  Last edited by Carld; 11-20-2007, 06:58 PM.
                  It's only ink and paper

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                  • #10
                    I don't know why we keep marvelling at these ancient engineering achievements. Obviously the tour guides and the local experts want to make it seem more than what it really is, since it keeps drumming up more business and publicity. Frankly, I think it's because somwhere in history (probably the Victorians who romanticized about everything), we got the notion that ancient people were stupid and used brute force to accomplish things.

                    I'm of the opinion that ancient people were just as smarts as people of today, and if anything probably more resourceful and ingenious. If we look at the engineering achievements of human throughout history, you'd find that there's actually nothing particularly spectacular or out of the ordinary. Very often, you see generations after generations of failed attempt to build something, and only later in history do they succeed. Pyramids of Egypt are a good example of this. Half completed pyramids which was abandoned doesn't make a good magazine cover and it certainly doesn't attract any tourist.
                    Last edited by rotate; 11-20-2007, 07:32 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Simple,when you don't have bills to pay,don't have to drive back and forth to work,don't have to go shopping and don't have the family milling around looking for excuses to consume your every waking minute you have lots of time to build things.

                      My bet is the average Inca man kissed his wife and kids in the morning and went to work at the rock pit/temple/pile-o-rocks where he had tons of peace and quiet to merrily chip away all day while the wife and kids tended the livestock,grew the food and cooked dinner

                      Seriously thou,if you took two stones and set them close together in good relation to each others profile and then selected which stone you intened to chip/fit to match the others face.At that point all that is required is a sharp stick of a given length to use as a "scribe" between the two surfaces chipping off material wherever the stick won't fit between the two stones.

                      Infact material could be removed from both faces in an economizing move to save time since the resulting profiles would still match each other.
                      I just need one more tool,just one!

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                      • #12
                        There is a thread on http://www.practicalmachinist.com/ub...ic/34/533.html
                        that talks about the same type of issues, although not quite as ancient. I don't think we are giving these ancient peoples credit for being smart and very skilled. You take some really sharp stonemasons with generations of experience behind them, with top notch professional crews, and unlimited budgets and its probably amazing what can be accomplished. When there is a need, man will rise to the challenge.
                        Last edited by daryl bane; 11-20-2007, 07:39 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Whoops.......
                          Last edited by topct; 11-20-2007, 08:54 PM.
                          Gene

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                          • #14
                            I want to see the back sides of those stones.

                            They were put back together as from where they were split. In other words, as they were split off or out of the quarry then they were reasembled in that position. Just polished off a bit.

                            There would be some clues in the quarry itself.

                            As to the moving of them, I picture a wheel and lots of pry bars where needed.
                            Gene

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Carld
                              How many hundreds of years would it take of rubbing those stones together to make them fit that close?
                              -Quite a few. If you read up on the history of various sets of ruins, you'll see that most of them took several decades or even several hundred years to complete.

                              As I recall- corrections welcomed- that Cheops' pyramid was started when Cheops was a teenager, but wasn't completed until something like a decade after his death at age seventy or eighty-something.

                              And again, when you have thousands and thousands of slaves, why have them all working on just one stone at a time? Even if it took many months to fit a single stone, if they're working on dozens and dozens of stones all at once, work still progresses rapidly.

                              Have you ever seen a 300 ton stone moved and machined within a few thousandths of an inch by slaves with copper tools?
                              -Yes and no. There's no question that masons could work stone even without copper, using simple mallets and wooden wedges. Bash a harder stone (like flint) on a softer stone (like granite or even limestone or sandstone) and you can do considerable shaping.

                              Besides, who says they're shaped to "within thousandths of an inch"? Those gaps are close, yes, but that's like saying a tire is "fitted to within thousandths" to the ground. If I set an anvil on a concrete floor, you won't be able to slip so much as a sheet of paper in between them, but you wouldn't try to claim they're "fitted to within thousandths", would you?

                              In any case, lapping, as already described, CAN produce some very close fits- "close" as far as stonework is concerned, of course.

                              How long do you think it would take to drag a sandstone sheet between two blocks to flaten it? How did they make the flat sandstone plate to do that? How many plates would it take to do that given they will wear out? How did they press them together to obtain the fit?
                              -Never underestimate a person's cleverness, especially when it's "Do this or we'll kill you".

                              How did they press them together? They're rocks. Let gravity do the work.

                              I don't think they were built by anyone from this planet.
                              -You can't be serious. Just because you can't envision stone-age peoples forming stonework walls through the labor of many thousands of slaves, over a period of centuries, the obvious answer, then, is "space aliens did it"?

                              Have you ever read the histories of the Inca's and Egyptians? How about the Easter Islands? Are you aware that they said they were visited by people from other planets?
                              -I'm also aware that Jim Jones used to say that God was speaking to him personally, that John Gacy claimed that voices in his head told him what to do, and that Pat Robertson said God told him that gays were responsible for 9/11.

                              Besides the fact that those claims are little more than wishful thinking by people wanting to interpret stone-age hierogyphics through the prism of their modern viewpoint. I know of one case where a so-called "flying saucer" shown on an Egyptian tomb wall, was actually a representation of an eye (of either Horus or Anubis, as I recall)- a depiction of one of their Gods watching over them, as it were.

                              How about the map of the Earth that shows it from hundreds of miles above that was found in a monistary in the 1700's?
                              -Ben Franklin drew fairly accurate maps. Why is this a mystery? Are you saying it was impossible to draw maps before the advent of human flight?

                              Why did all the civilaztions of the world have a story of a great flood at nearly the same time?
                              -One, "at nearly the same time", in this case, means "a period of several hundred years", and two, because late-stone-age and early-copper-age man were nomadic agrarian tribesmen. They encamped where there was fresh water (lakes, streams) and farmed where the soil was good and water was available (river deltas, shorelines, etc.)

                              And almost any body of water, over a sufficiently long period of time, is bound to flood once or twice, whether from extra-heavy rains, a fast early-spring thaw, ice dams in the river, geological activity, you name it.

                              Even ocean-side settlements were vulnerable to flooding; as in Sri Lanka just a few years ago.

                              There is a belief that the Egyptians did not build the pyramids but they were built long before they came to power.
                              -A belief by those that only know of pyramids from reading a Deepak Chopra book, maybe. Actual researchers, however, are quite firmly sure they know when they were built, by whom, and roughly how long it took. Yes, there's almost certainly minor errors of a year or two here and there, but to say that, say, Cheops' pyramid was built before Cheops, simply shows a great deal of ignorance to the known facts at hand.

                              Perhaps the Inca's just used the existing pyramids in South America as well. What about all the figures in the land scape in South America that is only visible and reconizable from great height?
                              -So? I recall doing similar designs in the show as a child, making shapes- or my name- in 20 or 30 foot tall/long figures. Again, why is this sort of thing mysterious? Early man drew pictures on the walls, and when no such walls were available, he drew pictures in the sand.

                              Is that so difficult to believe that "space aliens" is a more logical answer, to you?

                              What about the Inca's callender that ends in 2012 with the prediction of a catastrophe on the Earth? What does that mean?
                              -It means the makers of the calendar didn't bother continuing to compute the dates that were, to them, thousands of years into the future. Have you bothered to find out what day of the week your birthday falls on, in the year 4,058? Why not? Because it's useless information you don't need, right?

                              It took a great deal of effort to calculate such things back then, and even more effort to record the data- actually carving the information into stone tablets. They calculated up to several thousand years into their future, and very likely expected that, if they reached that point, they'd simply task a few more priests to keep going from there.

                              There are so many things in the world that are not proven by the silly guesses of anthropoligists[...]
                              -As opposed to the silly guesses of believers in space aliens, people who only read about pyramids in the National Enquirer, and people who don't know the difference between Incan, Aztec and Olmec?

                              [...]so I can learn the truth, we sure won't learn it here.
                              -Not if you believe that aliens built the pyramids, no.

                              You do know that the X-Files wasn't a documentary, right?

                              Doc.
                              Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)

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