Machu Picchu and other Inca sacred sites were intentionally built on intersecting fault lines. That is the conclusion reported by Rualdo Menegat, a geologist at Brazil's Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, on 23 Sept. 2019 at the Geological Society of America (GSA) Annual meeting in Phoenix.
According to Menegat, the fault network at Machu Picchu offered the Incas the advantages of rocks that could be shaped more easily, and the faults channeled snow melt and rainwater straight to the site.
Menegat presented the results of a detailed geoarchaeological analysis that suggests the Incas intentionally built Machu Picchu -- as well as some of their cities -- in locations where tectonic faults meet. "Machu Pichu's location is not a coincidence," says Menegat. "It would be impossible to build such a site in the high mountains if the substrate was not fractured."
Using a combination of satellite imagery and field measurements, Menegat mapped a dense web of intersecting fractures and faults beneath the UNESCO World Heritage Site. His analysis indicates these features vary widely in scale, from tiny fractures visible in individual stones to major, 175-kilometer-long lineaments that control the orientation of some of the region's river valleys.
Menegat found that these faults and fractures occur in several sets, some of which correspond to the major fault zones responsible for uplifting the Central Andes Mountains during the past eight million years. Because some of these faults are oriented northeast-southwest and others trend northwest-southeast, they collectively create an "X" shape where they intersect beneath Machu Picchu.
Menegat's mapping suggests that the sanctuary's urban sectors and the surrounding agricultural fields, as well as individual buildings and stairs, are all oriented along the trends of these major faults. "The layout clearly reflects the fracture matrix underlying the site," says Menegat. Other ancient Incan cities, including Ollantaytambo, Pisac, and Cusco, are also located at the intersection of faults, says Menegat. "Each is precisely the expression of the main directions of the site's geological faults."
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Related reading: Messiah's Sign in Creation; How Incas Used Geological Faults to Build Their Settlements; GSA Website Report