More than a hundred years ago, history professor Hiram Bingham III stumbled upon the lost city of Machu Picchu. If it weren’t for him, the mysterious engineering marvel of the Inca civilisation would have remained hidden. Atop a Peruvian Andes mountain, 8,000 feet above sea level in the Cusco region, sits the citadel of the Incas–Machu Picchu, surrounded by River Urubamba.
The Inca ruin exhibits extraordinary masonry with terraces, buildings, fountains and temples. Such advancement in architecture, during 14th century AD, has left historians and explorers baffled. Archaeological studies reveal that the Incas constructed forts and walls with finely-cut polygonal or regular blocks of stones which fit like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Their mastery over stone work prevented buildings from collapsing in this earthquake-prone region. The speciality of these structures is that the Incas did not use any mortar between the stone blocks, and yet the entire city is made of white granite! Surprisingly, even to this day, a knife blade cannot be inserted between these stones.
The masonry is just the tip of the iceberg. The master planners that they were, the Incas excelled at terrace farming, laying extensive road networks and building powerful armies. Incas had all the major attributes to be ranked a civilisation–architecture, urbanisation and technology. But they lacked one important parameter to be officially considered a civilisation–a language script. So, in the absence of written records, whatever is known of the Inca civilisation is mostly because of the Spanish conquerors and their history.
In the absence of written language, Incas developed a unique way to keep their records–Khipu. They used knotted strings that hung from horizontal cords, kind of like abacus. It is believed to be Incas’ way of accounting. Though many studies suggest Khipu was non-numerical, others argue it resembles the modern binary system. No Khipu has been deciphered till date, leaving room for speculations.
Amidst all the good things that kept the Incas going, mounting rebellion among the subjects stuck out like a sore thumb. To add to the troubles, the Incas were fighting a battle in Ecuador, when a small pox epidemic hit the empire, killing several subjects mercilessly. However, the ultimate downfall of the Incas is attributed to the Spanish invasion. The civilisation of Incas barely existed for about a hundred years, before they were brought down by the Spanish.