Favorite recent and insightful quote I have read recently:

Favorite quote I have recently read: "The word temple comes from the Latin templum, which signifies an extended open space that has been marked out for the observation of the sky. In what manner is such a space marked out? According to Dr. Hugh Nibley, the word templum, "designates a building specifically designed for interpreting signs in the heavens--a sort of observatory where one gets one's bearings on the universe." The root "tem-" in Greek and Latin denotes a "cutting" or intersection of two lines at right angles, the point where the "cardo" and "decumanus" cross, hence where the four regions come together." Matthew Brown - "The Gate of Heaven"

Friday, November 4, 2011

Peru Rocks...

While giving some thought and starting to write this post last week we felt a 6.9 earthquake in the temple. The Peruvians just smiled knowingly as I must have had a bit of a surprised look on my face. We have had two very noticeable earthquakes in the last several months, both in the range 6.9 on the Moment Magnitude Scale. It has replaced the Richter Scale which suffered problems in representing both the accuracy of the power of a quake and quakes at distance from the seismograph station.
Stonework of the Coricancha, the principal temple of the Inca in Cusco.
The earlier quake felt as though the temple were on jello. It kind of shook or jiggled whereas the more recent was pendulum-like.  We could feel the building moving back and forth which was a peculiar sensation.  Peru is a very active seismological area and a part of the Pacific Rim of Fire.  The subduction of the Pacific or Nazca Plate under the SouthAmerican Continent has pushed up the Andes Mountains and is responsible for this seismic activity. The plates move together at the rate of slightly more than 3 inches a year. This could mean that Hawaii is getting closer to Peru accordingly.
Little remains of this once most magnificent Temple of the Sun in Cusco,
now the foundation for a monastery.
We had previously read that no one was killed or injured in these latest quakes, though four years ago in roughly the same area 58,000 homes were destroyed. A report we read this morning notes 500 homes were damaged and another 250 were made uninhabitable. One person lost his life and there were a few injuries. The homes damaged in Pisco and Ica were constructed of adobe. Unreinforced brick and adobe  easily collapse during a seismic event and account for the majority of the fatalities in Peru and other developing countries. Willow and mud construction, known as wattle and daub, retain enough flexibility to resist earthquake loads. We have observed home construction made in this fashion. Later this month we are returning to Caral, the oldest city in the Americas, and contemporary with the first cities to rise in Sumer and Egypt. We will learn more of their ability to construct earthquake resistant pyramids and structures. These structures have stood for 5,000 years but are entirely different than the stone work of the Inca.
The 5,000 year old Piramide Mayor or the Great Pyramid of Caral. Caral is
contemporary with the rise of cities in Sumer and Egypt.
Over the August temple closing we stayed in the resort village of Paracas.  Our hotel was entirely destroyed four years ago and rebuilt. The nearby community of Pisco suffered the most damage. One hundred and fifty of its residents were killed in the city's center when the San Clemente Cathedral collapsed upon them.  They were attending a memorial mass honoring one of their community in addition to observing the ascension of the Virgin Mary. More privation and hardship continued after the quake as government aid efforts were slow in coming. The story reported at the time in USA Today is a very sad one. Local officials were personally attacked by angry citizens looking for, but unable to find, missing loved ones. Reports continue that the displaced and homeless after four years are still existing in tents and temporary shelters.
The Cathedral of San Clemente in Pisco following the 2007 Earthquake.
Only the dome remained standing. 
A very recent report from the BBC notes earthquakes account for almost 60% of all disaster related deaths worldwide in the last decade.  Sadly, the majority of the victims are the young, those least given the opportunity for life's experience.
Note the cornerstones and lintel surviving almost 600 years.
The Inca managed to build structures capable of resisting the earth's violent movements along the western portion of South America.  Without any doubt they were the finest stone masons the world has ever seen and seismically knowledgeable.  As we have begun to learn more about their civilization, they borrowed heavily and depended on the peoples they subjugated for more than just tribute and taxes. Earthquake resistant knowledge predated them by 4,000 years. However, we have not yet found anyone previous to their civilization who worked stone so beautifully. Recreating their building practices and techniques in order to safeguard the residents of Peru today is not feasible. In Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley there are Incan built residences which have been continuously occupied for 500 years. That is a world record.
The lintel and doorway of the Incan Imperial Period
The Spanish marveled at the beauty of Incan cities and noted their earthquake resistance. In a seismic event they watched the stones move or dance. In Spanish it is called "el baile de las piedras," the dance of the stones.  At the end of the quaking the stones would return to their set position without damage to the structure.

Adobe mud walls are being washed away at Chan Chan.
What earthquake or conquering conquistador has not destroyed, government and private greed remains a significant threat to Peru's archaeological sites, especially Machu Picchu. Repeatedly, plans are pushed by developers to build heliports, cable car lifts, luxury hotels complete with boutiques and restaurants at Machu Picchu to exploit the majesty and beauty of Peru's most visited tourist site. UNESCO is considering adding it to the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger. We will visit it one more time in February with family coming. Peru has one other site already listed, the Chimor city of Chan Chan, near Trujillo.  It was the largest of any city in the Americas prior to the coming of the Europeans. Estimates range from thirty to sixty thousand inhabitants at its peak. Changing weather patterns bringing rain, in addition to the huaceros or looters, and Peru's earthquakes continue to put it at risk.
A few areas have been rebuilt by archaeologists and under tents to prevent 
further erosion. 

Clockwise, beginning from the Mochica warrior are two
samples of stromatolite fossil. One polished into a sphere.
Basalt from our trip to Chanquillo. It might have been used
to lob down the hill on an attacking enemy. A number of 
these nicely sized rocks exist at the bottom of the hill below
the fortress. Next are porphyry granite polished in an egg 
and carved into the god Aiapaec. Fools gold and a nice
size chunk of volcanic pumice from our visit to Huanchaco
near Trujillo. 
I have collected and purchased a few rocks and specimens as we have traveled.  RA wonders how we will get them home. Among them of special interest to me and maybe a grandson or two at some point are stromatolites, porphyry granite, hematite, and fool's gold. A rendering of the principal deity of the Mochica culture Aiapaec carved from porphyry granite is part of the collection. This distinctive red granite is rich in copper and molybdenum. It is found from the seacoasts of Peru to the height of the Andes.  It polishes very nicely and was prized in other parts of world including ancient Egypt. Napoleon sent an unsuccessful expedition searching for an Egyptian outcropping of porphyry granite. It is also found in the Hagia Sofia of Istanbul being fashioned by the Byzantine Greeks a thousand years before Napolean. 
Monoliths from the unfinished Temple of the Sun in Ollantaytambo. These
and other stones were carved from porphyry granite. 
Entrance way to the Temple of the Sun. The stone work is
The Inca carved this very hard stone and had begun construction with it for this temple. The quarry was some distance from their final resting place. Scholars are unsure why the temple was abandoned. Maybe it was due to the arrival of the conquistadores, the civil war between Huascar and his brother Atahualpa, or the diseases which preceded the physical arrival of the Spanish in the Andes.   
Not exactly a transit but my compass reads 58° NE, pointing toward the 
solstice sunrise. It rests upon porphyry granite. 
I placed my IPhone digital compass on maybe an altar in the temple. It is aimed toward the face carved high in the cliff. It marks the sunrise of the Summer Solstice on December 22 in Ollantaytambo.
The Inca carved a face of their emperor circled in this image to which my
digital compass in pointed. 
The Inca face carved into the cliff wall. Archaeoastronomy, solar or
celestial alignments are prevalent in every site we have visited in Peru.
Josh and Mary enjoying the view from the Temple of the Sun
Porphyry granite dates to the proterozoic age of nearly two and a half billion years ago. Maybe this was during the third day of creation as the waters separated from the dry land. Also on the third day were the grasses, the herb yielding seed and tree bearing fruit. On the fourth day, in order to give rise to the creatures of the sea and subsequent mammals, small multi cell cyanobacteria or blue green algae had to do the heavy lifting of converting the earth's carbon dioxide rich atmosphere into breathable oxygen. These fossilized remains known as stromatolites are perhaps the earliest of all living things. They date to this same proterozoic era beginning about 2.5 billion years ago. These fossils are found on the Chilean border in the district of Tacna, not far from the world famous Nazca Lines. I found mine at a rock shop in downtown Lima on a previous trip with our friend Cesar. 
More porphyry and basalt on the Islas Ballestas near Paracas. These islands are
known as Peru's equivalent of the Galapagos Islands. We did not see any iguanas
however, just thousands of birds, sea lions, and a few warm water penguins. 
Red granite sands at a beach in Paracas

The stones of Sacsayhuaman above Cusco.
Among the Inca and their antecedents rocks had special powers attached to them and were known as huacas. They might be the personage of an ancestor or other important cultural figure turned to stone by the gods. Mountain tops as well as man made structures were included as huacas. My rocks or huacas are reminders of our visits in this most incredible country. 
The Intihuatana Stone, the most famous in all of Peru. It will cast no shadow
next week on on November 11 when the sun is at mid day. 
With the Spanish conquest of Peru the stone work of the Inca ceased and in many cases the temples, buildings and shrines were torn down and or destroyed as they impeded religious conversion and change. The stones in these most beautiful in all of the world buildings, those that were not too large, were carried off by the Europeans to construct their New Spain. Sacsayhuaman, the magnificent fortress and religious site of the Inca above Cusco, is only a shadow of what is once was.  The stones still in place are those simply too large and beyond the capacity of the colonists to haul away. Fortunately, as all can attest who have seen it, the world is grateful Machu Picchu was mostly left to the embrace of encroaching vegetation and overgrowth for 500 years. Had it been found it too certainly would have been destroyed.
Temple of the Sun in Machu Picchu reminiscent of Coricancha in Cusco
No mortar was ever used in these stone structures and personal inspection confirms not a knife blade or even a piece of paper can be inserted between the stones. All the more impressive since the largest stones at Sacsayhuaman weigh upwards of 200 tons. 
Grandson Josh at Sacsayhuaman in August of this year.
One has to wonder if the children and grandchildren of the Inca might have considered the subsequent tremblers as churches, colonial mansions, and viceroyalty offices were leveled in quakes. Major earthquakes occurred in 1586, 1604, 1619, 1687, 1725, 1746, 1865, 1868, and throughout the 20th century. A major quake above 7 on the MMS scale occurs in Peru every hundred years.  Lima was last severely hit last in 1974. The accompanying tsunami and flooding in the Port of Callao caused significant property damage and death. 

The young Prince Siddartha might well have made his observation about the Noble Truth of Suffering had he had visited Peru. The noble truth of suffering as I understand is: "Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair..." 

We continue to admire the people we have met here, their past, the beauty of their country and this privilege of working amongst them. They have endured and accomplished so much. We look forward to February when additional family will visit. 
Another example of the magnificent stone work at Machu Picchu
Mary at the Sungate along the Inca Trail. Machu Picchu in the distance.

This post is for you Mary. We are happy we could share it and Peru with you.

With much love!