Technologies of the Gods

Atlantis Rising readers and regular watchers of the History Channel are familiar with some amazingly sophisticated high technology that highlighted the ancient Old World. Examples include the Eastern Mediterranean “Antikythera Device”—a 2,100-year-old analog computer designed to calculate astronomical positions; Minoan Crete’s Phaistos Disc—a baked clay artifact impressed with movable type 32 centuries before Guttenberg re-invented the same process; a dynastic Egyptian pregnancy test that preceded our own by more than four thousand years; and many other specimens of advanced application. Far less well known are comparable, but different, achievements which can be found throughout the Americas. Among the most astounding—if generally unappreciated—instances of pre-Columbian greatness is an ancient North American copper mining operation that originated more than five thousand years ago.

More advanced are the monumental walls of South America’s Andean Civilization. Outstanding are its ramparts outside the old Incan capital of Cuzco, Peru. “Perched atop a high hill,” writes archaeologist Michael E. Moseley, “one side of the complex ran along a cliff with a commanding view of the city… Each wall employed the finest and most impressive of Inca polygonal masonry, including individual stone blocks weighing from ninety to more than one hundred twenty metric tons.” More than 18,000 cubic feet of cut stone were so precisely fitted that a single piece of paper still cannot be inserted between the dry-masonry blocks. “Construction supposedly employed 30,000 workers, who labored for several generations,” writes Moseley, “at altitudes above 11,000 feet, although no one knows how long ago they began building the site, when they completed it, its original purpose, or how it was made and dressed.”

This last enigma particularly intrigued Ivan Watkins, Professor of Geology at Minnesota’s St. Cloud University. Unimpressed by mainstream speculation about Inca labor gangs pounding, hammering, and grinding the blocks before polishing them with abrasives, he was the first scientist, in 2003, to investigate the finished surface of Andean stone masonry, hitherto overlooked by archaeologists. Watkins found that the methods supposedly used to work the granite blocks did not match visual evidence provided by microscopic study. All the various minerals—particularly quartzite—on a surface struck repeatedly with crude, pounding tools are unevenly fractured. But no such fracturing appears on Sacsayhuamán’s exterior, which far more resembles a ceramic glaze. Heat, he knew, is capable of reducing quartz fragments to a melted substance to fill in irregularities for a smooth surface.

 

Kemo D. 7

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