Drone laser scanning discovers unknown structures in Machu Picchu

Date:

Share post:

Polish scientists have discovered unknown structures in the Machu Picchu Archaeological Park in Peru by using a laser scanner attached to a drone.

Drone laser scanning discovers unknown structures in Machu Picchu
Chachabamba Inca Site [Credit: Ivo Antonie de Rooij/Shutterstock]

As part of their cooperation with the management of the Machu Picchu National Archaeological Park, a few years ago Polish scientists began research in the 15th century Inca ceremonial complex Chachabamba located in the Machu Picchu Park in Peru. 




But because most of the area is cover by tropical forest, making research difficult, archaeologists decided to use a drone with a laser scanning device (LiDAR) attached. 

This scanning ‘removes’ trees and shrubs from the resulting image, and prepares a terrain visualization. It was carried out by a team led by Dr. Bartłomiej Ćmielewski from the 3D Scanning and Modeling Laboratory – LabScan 3D at the Faculty of Architecture, Wrocław University of Science and Technology.

Drone laser scanning discovers unknown structures in Machu Picchu
The Chachabamba archaeological site contains a unique water complex erected
and modified by the Incas [Credit: Dominika Sieczkowska et al. 2021] 

Dominika Sieczkowska from the Center for Andean Studies of the University of Warsaw, and leader of the National Science Centre project designed to study the water system in Chachabamba, said the drone enabled them “to detect a number of unknown structures at the site.”

The central part of the ceremonial complex was a large stone with carved altars, stairs and a channel for sacrificial liquids, possibly beverages or animal blood. In front of the boulder was a small square with buildings on both sides, surrounded by a dozen of small ritual baths archaeologists refer to as fountains. They were reservoirs into which water ran down the walls. They were used for ritual ablution.

During the latest research with laser scanning, the researchers also discovered previously unknown parts of the channels that supplied water from the nearby river. Water was supplied to the ceremonial complex in Chachabamba by a system made of stone blocks that run partially underground. After passing through the ceremonial centre, water would flow through a similar drainage system into the river in the valley.

Drone laser scanning discovers unknown structures in Machu Picchu
Water was supplied to the ceremonial complex in Chachabamba by a system made of
stone blocks that run partially underground
 [Credit: Dominika Sieczkowska]

The buildings identified by the researchers were located on the outskirts of the ceremonial complex. “We have a dozen or so small structures erected on the plan of a rectangle and a circle. We believe that they were staff residences. We will have more information after we manage to carry out excavations. These, however, are now prevented by the coronavirus pandemic,” Sieczkowska said. But based on laser images, researchers have already concluded that these buildings were built with far less care than the structures in the central part of the site.




According to Sieczkowska, there are indications suggesting that it was mainly women that took care of the complex. They include the items discovered during previous excavations conducted in the area by the Polish-Peruvian team. They are associated with weaving, a craft of women in the Inca state.

The researchers used data from laser scanning to prepare a hydrodynamic model of channels that supplied water to the fountains. This means that, taking into account the slope and the depth of the channels, the researchers virtually ‘poured’ water into the channels and reconstructed its flow.

Drone laser scanning discovers unknown structures in Machu Picchu
After passing through the ceremonial centre, water would flow through
a similar drainage system into the river in the valley
 
[Credit: Dominika Sieczkowska]

Sieczkowska continued: “We were able to determine that channels supplied water not for utility purposes, it had a symbolic meaning, because the channels would not be able to supply large volume, they were not deep and would overflow. This confirms our hypothesis that water had a ritual role in Chachabamba.”

She added that in other places similar analyses were usually carried out in a practical way, by clearing the channels and pouring water into them.

According to the researcher, the hydrodynamic model can be successfully used in other Andean sites, and with small parameter changes probably also in other parts of the world. The model was developed by hydrologists and surveyors from the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences- Paweł Dąbek, Krzysztof Wolski and Izabela Wilczyńska. Logistic support during the research project was provided by the Machu Picchu park director, José M. Bastante.

Drone laser scanning discovers unknown structures in Machu Picchu
One of the structures detected by LiDAR [Credit: Dominika Sieczkowska]

The Machu Picchu National Archaeological Park covers an area of over 36 thousand hectares. It includes approx. 60 archaeological sites, many of which have not been studied due to difficult access and dense plant cover.

The paper describing the latest research (financed by the National Science Centre) appeared in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Author: Szymon Zdziebłowski | Source: PAP – Science in Poland [December 28, 2021]

Support The Archaeology News Network with a small donation!




ADVERTISEMENT

spot_img

Related articles

13,000 year old Saharan remains may be evidence of first race war

Scientists are investigating what may be the oldest identified race war 13,000 years after it raged on the...

Rare Gabon burial cave reveals clues to African history

The discovery of a 14th century underground burial site deep in Gabon's tropical forest may shed light on...

Colossus statue of Horus unearthed in Egypt’s Luxor

During excavations carried out at the Funerary Temple of king Amenhotep III, an Egyptian-German archaeological mission led by...

A New Greek Revolution for the Parthenon Sculptures

Recent comments by British PM Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden continue to highlight the British side’s...

Silver figurine among artefacts discovered at early medieval fort in Poland

Several hundred medieval fragments of ceramic shells, arrow and javelin heads and a unique silver figurine depicting a...

4,200 year old building discovered in Ecuador

Archaeologists discovered a building from around 2,200 B.C. in an archaeological and ecological park in the Ecuadorian capital...

African Heritage Sites threatened by coastal flooding and erosion as sea-level rise accelerates

Heritage of Outstanding and Universal Value located along the African coast is at risk from climate change. A...

34,000-year-old grave of two boys reveal ancient hunter-gatherers gave them burial fit for royalty

About 34,000 years ago, a group of hunters and gatherers buried their dead — including two boys with...