New research has concluded that a huge, powerful earthquake struck Machu Picchu during the time it was being constructed in 1450, which has left damage to the famous structure that is still visible today. Because of this earthquake, the Incas became highly skilled at building strong, seismic-resistant buildings that would remain intact despite future earthquakes of this kind.
According to the Peruvian Times, scientists working with the Cusco-Pata Research Project have discovered that a 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck while the Incan Emperor Pachacutec was having his future palatial estate of Machu Picchu constructed. The new study on the earthquake that hit Machu Picchu in 1450 began in 2016 and was undertaken by the Geological, Mining and Metallurgical Institute (Ingemmet), with the assistance of other researchers from the UK, Spain, and France.
As project coordinator Carlos Benavente explained, it was clear after examining Machu Picchu that one specific type of architecture was being put into place when the earthquake suddenly struck.
“What we can see is that there was already construction underway with one type of architecture under Pachacutec. Then, we believe in the middle of that construction of Machu Picchu, there was a major earthquake.”
Damage is abundantly clear today particularly in the area of the Temple of the Sun as well as in many of the ceremonial centers, as Benavente has noted.
“We see openings between rocks and stones, which is not typical of the Incas because they employed an impeccable, perfect construction. Some edges of the rocks are broken, which means that in the undulation of the earth, they hit each other, which caused the breaks. After that, they continued the building in a different manner to complete what would become Machu Picchu.”
Outside of Machu Picchu, Benavente also stated that there is “no doubt” that the powerful earthquake which struck in 1450 also caused major damage in Tipon, Tambomachay, Cusco, and Sacsayhuaman. Because of the shocking experience of such destruction, the Incas decided that it would be wise to stop using such small stones when constructing walls and buildings and became known for their trapezoidal structures that were resistant to earthquakes which included very narrow upper walls that were combined with enormous stones sitting near to the base.
According to Benavente, it was the shock of this earthquake in 1450 which taught the Incas how to build for many geological disasters which included not only major tremors but also landslides and avalanches.
The Cusco-Pata Research Project, which helped to determine that there was a major earthquake in Machu Picchu in 1450, will be continuing with their work and many observations into the next year.