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Ceremonial Inca baths have been found at the complex in Chachabamba, Machu Picchu National Park in Peru.

Sacred Baths Scanned Beneath Dense Peruvian Jungle Reveal Secrets of Ancient Inca History

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In 1941 archaeologists discovered a ceremonial Inca complex in a jungle clearing hidden deep within Peru's Sacred Valley. Known as Chachabamba, a series of stone built terraces, 14 baths and advanced water channels for supplying water to the baths, have now been scanned using state of the art technology.

According to a Live Science article a new project has revealed “how the Inca built and used the ceremonial baths” and that they were not all built at the same time. Project researcher Mariusz Ziółkowski is the head of the Center of Andean Studies at the University of Warsaw in Cusco, Peru. He was co-author with an international team of researchers from Poland and Italy of a Nov 2018 study published in the journal Surveys in Geophysics, that revealed Chachabamba was “not constructed all at once but rather in two or more building phases.”

Now, with radar and laser scanning technologies backed up with hands-on excavations, the team are revealing exactly “how” over half a millennium ago, the Inca people managed to build and use these bathing structures, both practically and ritually.

Baths at Chachabamba. (Dominika Sieczkowska, PAP)

Baths at Chachabamba. ( Dominika Sieczkowska, PAP)

Getting into the science and technological aspects of the dig, the Live Science article said “Ground-penetrating radar detected the foundations of the complex, and billions of laser scans shot from an airborne drone revealed two previously unknown Inca structures hidden in the tropical forest.”

Dating Results Confirm The Discovery’s Ancient Origins

Carbon 14 testing suggests to the archaeologists that the Inca site dates to the 15th century, which is around the time Spanish invaders landed in the New World. The team are focusing their efforts on the complex system of stone built water channels that filled the baths which are thought to be of religious importance. It is believed that Inca priests worshipped water and fertility deities at this site, according to the researchers in their November 2018 paper.

Science in Poland reported that “The canals that delivered water to the baths were “very advanced” and that “Over time, the complex was expanded and the water supply channels changed.” This is according to Dominika Sieczkowska, a doctoral student at the Andean Research Center of the University of Warsaw in Cusco, who also believes the site was “undoubtedly” of religious and ceremonial use. The scientists paper pointed out that a sculptured sacred rock, a “huaca” (pronounced Wa’ka) also establishes the sacred nature of these baths, and of the entire complex.

Ceremonial stone complex at Chachabamba. (Dominika Sieczkowska, PAP)

Ceremonial stone complex at Chachabamba. (Dominika Sieczkowska, PAP)

An article in Inquisitr details that a waterfall had been “enhanced” to assure a continual flow and “Once the purifying process was completed, the Inca would then emerge from their ritual baths and don new clothing, discarding their previous clothes right along with their past sins which they believed they had been freed of.”

The system of stone block waterways ran from the waterfall, through the baths and through another drainage system into a river situated in the valley below. All this was of course the reserve of the Sapa Incas (rulers) from the royal dynasty based in the capital city of Cuzco, and possibly the most powerful priests and richest agriculturalists, “And not by the common people” Ziółkowski told reporters at Live Science in an email.

Bacteria, The Deadliest Conquistadors In the World

Disease was the greatest killer in prehistory, and bacteria have seen off more humans than swords or bombs ever will. Being born into the Inca royal dynasty not only assured that one would eat the best foods and drink the most exotic imported juices, but that they would get a bath maybe once a week, and therefore their luck of having been “born correctly” might have given them 20 extra years on the average farmer.

It is of little wonder why these places were so spiritualized and so heavily guarded, for without fresh water, the real ruler of the destiny of the Inca Empire was not the Sapa Inca, but cholera.

Top image: Ceremonial Inca baths have been found at the complex in Chachabamba, Machu Picchu National Park in Peru.      Source: Dominika Sieczkowska, PAP

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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