The rock experience 3 (Moray, Ollantaytambo, Salinas de Maras)

Moray – the unusual Inca ruins

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Moray lies in a remote area of the Sacred Valley. The site consists of several terraced circular depressions, the largest of which is approximately 30 m (98 ft) deep. As with many other Inca sites, it also has an irrigation system. The purpose of these depressions is uncertain, but their depth, design, and orientation with respect to wind and sun creates a temperature difference of as much as 15 °C (27 °F) between the top and the bottom (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moray_(Inca_ruin)).

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It is widely believed, that the ruins were once an agricultural laboratory used by the incas. The circular terraces that lie here are thought to have been used as an agricultural research station. Due to the different temperatures from top to bottom, it is thought that the incas used the terraces to test crops and experiment with them. The micro climates at the different levels made it possible to study wild vegetation, and adapt crops for human consumption fx Peru has more than 2,000 varieties of potatoes, which all leads back to the incas agricultural work (Source: https://www.theonlyperuguide.com/peru-guide/the-sacred-valley/highlights/moray-ruins/).

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In rainly season 2009-2010 the Region of Cusco received huge amounts of water, which lead to permanent damage to the ruins of Moray. The terraced levels of the complex, which are constructed from stone and compacted earth, were damaged extensively as the excessive rain waters undermined the ground beneath the structure. A temporary wooden support structure was erected to prevent further collapse until reconstruction work could begin. They are still working on the reconstruction of the terraces today.

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Salinas de Maras – Since pre-Inca times, salt has been obtained in Maras by evaporating salty water from a local subterranean stream

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The highly salty water emerges at a spring, a natural outlet of the underground stream. The flow is directed into an intricate system of tiny channels constructed so that the water runs gradually down onto the several hundred ancient terraced ponds. Almost all the ponds are less than four meters square in area, and none exceeds thirty centimeters in depth. All are necessarily shaped into polygons with the flow of water carefully controlled and monitored by the workers (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maras,_Peru).

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The altitude of the ponds slowly decreases, so that the water may flow through the myriad branches of the water-supply channels and be introduced slowly through a notch in one sidewall of each pond.

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As water evaporates from the sun-warmed ponds, the water becomes supersaturated and salt precipitates as various size crystals onto the inner surfaces of a pond’s earthen walls and on the pond’s earthen floor. The pond’s keeper then closes the water-feeder notch and allows the pond to go dry. Within a few days the keeper carefully scrapes the dry salt from the sides and bottom, puts it into a suitable vessel, reopens the water-supply notch, and carries away the salt. Color of the salt varies from white to a light reddish or brownish tan, depending on the skill of an individual worker.

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The salt mines traditionally have been available to any person wishing to harvest salt. The owners of the salt ponds must be members of the community, and families that are new to the community wishing to propitiate a salt pond get the one farthest from the community. The size of the salt pond assigned to a family depends on the family’s size. Usually there are many unused salt pools available to be farmed. Any prospective salt farmer need only locate an empty currently unmaintained pond, consult with the local informal cooperative, learn how to keep a pond properly within the accepted communal system, and start working. It is agreed among local residents and pond workers that the cooperative system was established during the time of the Incas, if not earlier.

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Geologically speaking, Salinas de Maras lies above the Maras Formation in the Cusco Department of the Andes. The source of the spring water is believed to be from a deep halite deposit within the Maras Formation, dating to 110 million years ago. Geologists believe that millions of years ago, an ocean covered much of central Peru. During the Andean orogeny (mountain building event), these ocean waters were trapped inland, and through evaporation, formed halite deposits that are now the source of the hypersaline spring water (Source: http://www.saltoftheearthco.com/salinas-de-maras/).

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Ollantaytambo – the  royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti (Inca emperor)

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Around the mid-15th century, the Inca emperor Pachacuti conquered the region, and built the town and a ceremonial center. Here in Ollentaytambo you have the history all around you.

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Pachacuti rebuilt the town with sumptuous constructions and undertook extensive works of terracing and irrigation in the Urubamba Valley. The town provided lodging for the Inca nobility, while the terraces were farmed by yanakuna, retainers of the emperor.

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Terraces at Ollantaytambo were built to a higher standard than common Inca agricultural terraces; for instance, they have higher walls made of cut stones instead of rough fieldstones. This type of high-prestige terracing is also found in other Inca royal estates such as Pisaq. You can also find them at Chinchero and Yucay, which we didn’t visit.

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The Sun Temple wlEmoticon-sun The rock experience 3 (Moray, Ollantaytambo, Salinas de Maras)

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The main access to the ceremonial center is a series of stairways that climb to the top of the terrace complex. At this point, the site is divided into three main areas: the Middle sector, directly in front of the terraces; the Temple sector, to the south; and the Funerary sector, to the north. The Temple sector is built out of cut and fitted stones. The main structure of the whole sector is the Sun Temple, an uncompleted building which features the Wall of the Six Monoliths.

Checking out the construction of the temples. The stone “gribs” was used as support from wooden beans, that allowed the Inca’s to cave the stones, until they were fitting perfectly together. The unfinished structures at the Temple Hill and the numerous stone blocks that litter the site indicate that it was still undergoing construction at the time of its abandonment.

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Storage houses

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The Incas built several storehouses or qullqas, that was built out of fieldstones on the hills surrounding Ollantaytambo. Their location at high altitudes, where more wind and lower temperatures occur, defended their contents against decay. They are thought to have been used to store the production of the agricultural terraces built around the site. Grain would be poured in the windows on the uphill side of each building, then emptied out through the downhill side window (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ollantaytambo). We really like how we could walk around and explore the ruins.

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As Ollantaytambo is surrounded by mountains, and the main access routes run along the Urubamba Valley; there, the Incas built roads connecting the site with Machu Picchu to the west and Pisaq to the east.

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As we left the site, we walked between the irrigation canals, that still flows through Ollantaytambo village today

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11 ruins down and only 1 to go. In the next post we are visiting the most famous of Inca ruins here in Peru “Machu Picchu”.

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