Why is Machu Picchu so important? Part 2: The Andenes (Agricultural terraces)

Last week I started telling you about what make so important to visit Machu Picchu at least one in your lifetime and live its culture. So before I actually visit the world famous archaeological place I decided to really research about why Machu Picchu is worth visit. I started talking about the Ashlar and today I’ll talk about the way the Incas make agriculture.

The Andes as you may know are a range of mountains stretching from the patagonia until Venezuela. They are more than 7000 km long of mountains really close to each other that left a little bit of  spaces for valleys. This also means no too much space to saw. And this is one of the reasons why the Incas used the Andes as the best soil for this.

The Agricultural terraces or Andenes as they are known by the people here in the Andes; are steps build of an outer wall made out of mid-size stones and a landfilling of big stones, gravel and mud. This way let the water easily drain from una terrace to the next avoiding water accumulation.

The Inca civilization was an agricultural one. So the ones who lived around the sacred valley had to adapt to issues related with terrain and weather. It’s also known that much of the technology used by the Inca was inherited by previous cultures. However they had a lot of the merit in this particular case: The terraces.

Almost all these terraces were built on the slope of the mountains. And as we mentioned before the main cause for this was the little space and sun light they had. The rays of the Sun couldn’t get to the bottom of the cooler valley. So taking space from the slopes let the Incas take also advantage from a longer daylight and also keep the plantations away from possible floods.

The irrigation process is the other great benefit from this system. As the water don’t  accumulate and keep running down, they take the maximum advantage of the rain. They also used to deviate streams of river during dry seasons, meanwhile in europe pray for the rain, the Incas had water the whole year. Ensuring food for a  longer time.

And as you may guess, the big stones used to build the terraces, prevent the mountain to collapse during rainy season, thus protecting the people living in the valley.

500 Years and still doing their job
500 Years and still doing their job

The Terraces are all over the valley. And of course in Machu Picchu. As they were a community set on the ridge of a mountain, they need their own food system. That’s why they had their own terraces. Located on the southern side of the citadele, the only fertile soil of the complex. The terraces can be found at both side of the mountain being the eastern side where the city connect with the Inca trail.

There are 2 levels of terraces or andenes in Machu Picchu: The Upper level of 45 wider and bigger terrace where they actually farm and the lower level of 80 terraces built to avoid erosion of the mountain. Both level have aqueducts that take water for every anden.

All over the valley we can find  the “andenes”
All over the valley we can find the “andenes”

And for me, the best was that the building of this terraces were made in total harmony with the nature and seem part of the landscape.

So this Andenes or terraces is something really interesting. In fact, now a days this system is still in used in several parts of the valley. In Machu Picchu as seen in pictures and videos is one of the prettiest place but also the one where engineering was bes used.