saqsaywa Peru - Cusco

Could Ancient Peruvians Soften Stone?

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Lying on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco in Peru, lies the walled complex of Saksaywaman. The site is famed for its remarkable large dry stone walls with boulders carefully cut to fit together tightly without mortar.  The stones used in the construction of the terraces at Saksaywaman, which weight up to 150 tonnes, are among the largest used in any building in prehispanic America and display a precision of fitting that is unmatched in the Americas. The stones are so closely spaced that a single piece of paper will not fit between many of the stones. This precision, combined with the rounded corners of the blocks, the variety of their interlocking shapes, and the way the walls lean inward have puzzled scientists for decades.  The method used to match precisely the shape of a stone with the adjacent stones is still unknown, particularly as no tools were found in the vicinity of the site.

The “standard” explanation is that the Incans somehow managed to use a “guess and check” method of chipping at the stone with their stone tools, then setting the stone in place, seeing how it fit, then lifting it up and chipping further if it didn’t fit, then checking again, and so on.

However, considering the absolute precision of the cuts, shaping the blocks using only round stone hammers and repeatedly lifting up 100-tonne blocks to make adjustments throughout the process seems exceptionally unlikely.

Saksaywaman, in the history books, is said to have been completed in 1508, but those living just a few decades later, like Garcilaso de la Vega, born in 1539 and raised in the area of Saksaywaman, professed to having no idea about how the walls were constructed. And no one else seemed to either.

In fact, the Incans themselves acknowledged to the Spanish conquistadores that these structures were there long before them, built by different people. Is it possible that the Incans built on top of previously existing structures? If the builders were even more ancient, it would mean that there was a civilisation much more advanced than the Incans, but of which we know almost nothing about—except that they could create structures like Saksaywaman.

One interesting theory that has been put forward to explain the shaping of the stones has its roots in local legend reported by explorers, such as the legendary Percy Fawcett, as well as Hiram Bingham, who rediscovered Machu Picchu.  The legend speaks of a liquid derived from plants , which was known to the ancients to turn the stones soft. In fact, in 1983, a Catholic priest said he used the technique to achieve the stone softening but was unable to figure out how to make the stones hard again.

While the theory remains speculative, marks on some of the stones at Saksaywaman do indicate that the stones were moulded or scraped into shape, which could be explained by the stone softening theory. 

Whether this theory proves correct or not is yet to be seen but it seems quite conclusive that the stone wall was not created with stone hammers and by repeatedly lifting up and down the massive stones. As Ben Bendig from Epoch Times has said: “structures like this invite us to learn more about our past, and realize that the ancients might have been far more advanced than we give them credit”.

Related Links


Mystic Places: Sacsayhuaman


Ancient geopolymers - 'pharaoh cement'. See and see 'older posts' too

There are structures/walls built like this in Italy and with an unknown origin here is a link I'm not sure concerning the giant theory but some of the blocks are huge...


CRAIG MILLER's picture


If this priest had figured out how to soften the stone, why did he not write it down and pass it along so someone else could try to figure out how to reharded it?

If you think about it i find his claim to be a plain and flat out lie myself!

I do have a theory of how the ancient people accomplished this incredible feat! And I find this a very plausible idea and I came up with it from the story of Hannibal and his trek through the alps! What i have read is he came to a cliff or a very step incline and could not get his elaphants down the path,

His solution was to use the (i believeit was) viniger to disolve the rock and create a much lower incline. Now if the ancient people used viniger and hard wood blocks  all you would have to do is build a form pour viniger over the rock and use flat pieces of wood to scrap the top layer away rinse and repeat.

Now if you use pieces of wood to form the shape you are looking to atain all you would have to do is shape the reverse rock to the form and put into place! You might have to take the rock of once or twice if at all to complete. Another reason i believe they used a process similar to this is the rounding of the rocks on the outside of the joints. If they uesd a viniger type substance it would over flow the surface you are working on and round all the edges!

And i have one more idea that might account for the earthquake proof design of the area. When they put the finnished piece of rock in place all you would have to do is paint a thin layer of the viniger type solution on the surfaces that come together they more or less come together and lock like useing super glue.

Now this is just what i believe is a very plausible solution to how these people created these beautiful walls and it would also fit with their legends of a substance that softened rock.

In reply to your post. The name of the priest, was Father Jorge Lira (he was a scholar specialized in folklore, miths). The plant is called jotcha (the name is diffrent in some countries, the scientific name is Ephedra andina. He was able to soften stones, but unable to harden again the rocks. That´s all I know. I can´t tell if it´s true or not.

Have you tried to use vinegar to soften granite?
More to the point, you don't actually literally recall what Hannibal used?
You keep saying "I have an idea..." Have you actually tried this?
I have, vinegar doesn't soften granite. It may work on other things, but doesn't soften granite.
This is not something that needs to stay in the area of belief : we have vinegar these days. We have granite these days....

Peru TravelAgencies's picture

theres an other theory...stronger theory on these latitudes..
Incas can control gravity….take a look of all the incas constructions
and sacsayhuaman has a magnetic ground too (the sun)

I studied those ancient stones. Ancient Civilians cracked a big piece stone into smaller pieces and assembled back on such as modern puzzles. They finished with sanding or grinding all around seem end lines as showed clear V grooves.

I certainly explored that possibility in my sci-fi novel Timeship, but that totally fictional. I had no idea there were such legends. Thank you so much for this article!

No it wasnt vinegar. Do a little more reading. Vinegar wont soften stone, at best it might help split it along with fire, but no more than cold water. It was a mis translation of the Hannibal tale.

Loved the article about the stone structures of Italy. I never knew about these.They are incredible.

I think it is highly possible that advanced technology was used to make all of these monumental buildings. Either an earlier advanced civilization that was all but destroyed in some great cataclysm, or through extraterrestrial intervention.

Once again we are faced with a situation - as, inter alia, in Egypt, Europe (Stonehenge, Carnac), Easter Island, Central and South America, China, South East Asia, etc - where the technical ability of ancient civilisations to shape, move and assemble huge stones/rocks far exceeds any modern (21st century) capability. The almost inescapable conclusion must be, therefore, that there was once - at some unknown period - a global corpus of architectural and transportation knowledge which has since been lost. This knowledge may have predated the Last Ice Age and survived in various in parts of the world until about the 10th century AD. (After that date, no more structures of this type were built). What is baffling about this situation is that no oral, written or diagrammatic references have been left in any of the places where it was used.

Well, I find it to be completely fascinating, to say the least. We like to think that we are so advanced, yet look at how much we cannot do anymore!

malisa wright

DeAegean's picture

Such a great community to scroll through comments and see links to basically all the questions I had regarding this article. Definitely wanted more info on the plant but I doubt vinegar would do the trick for a 100 ton stone.

For the sake of your own credibility, stop quoting the epoch time.  It's news of the world in disguise.

If the Inca could soften stone, there would be no reason for all the angles that appear in their megalithic buildings because they could have simply' squared' them all, much as the Egyptians appear to have done with their pyramids, obelisks, temples and statues.

I know how they did this. After 10 years of studying images of these walls I have a very plausible Theory about a simple method to achieve this type of accuracy in fitting these Stones. But how Stones of this size were manipulated to do it is still debatable and completely open for additional speculation.

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