Polish discovery sheds light on construction of Machu Picchu

Researcher, Anna Kubicka PhD from the Faculty of Architecture at Wroclaw Technology University determined that the Incas used two modules (or quanta) to measure their buildings in Machu Picchu. The basic one was 42 cm long and corresponded to the forearm length of the 1.6 metres tall average Inca inhabitant. The second one, newly discovered by Dr Kubicka measures 54 cm long.

Kubicka calls it the "royal unit" because it was associated with complexes of representative and residential buildings belonging to the Inca elite. The basic one - with complexes of farm and workshop buildings. Kubicka believes that this is evidence that the measurement of the Machu Picchu city plan was overseen by imperial engineers. Research is yet to be done on whether the system was also used in other places in Inca Peru.

Dr Kubicka explains that so far research on the Inca measure system was based mainly on the 16th and 17th century chronicles kept by the Spaniards who colonised those areas, and on their dictionaries of the Quechua language, which was used by the Incas. These sources contain information on anthropometric measures, for example, the length of the forearm.

The researcher conducted metrological analyses using measurements made in 2010-2017 during field research in Machu Picchu. The field measurements were carried out by employees of the Machu Picchu National Archaeological Park together with the 3D Scanning and Modelling Laboratory team led by Prof. Jacek Kościuk from Wroclaw Technology University in cooperation with Prof. Mariusz Ziółkowski from the Centre for Pre-Columbian Studies of the University of Warsaw.

Inspired by one of her professors, Jacek Kościuk, and her fascination for the subject of measurements and proportions in architecture, the researcher received the Prime Minister’s Award for her doctoral thesis. The research in Machu Picchu was possible thanks to a grant from the National Science Centre. The Wrocław researcher is currently continuing her work on the system of ancient measures, and focusing on analyses of the Mediterranean world.