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Inca Architecture - Inca Pyramids - Ancient American Civilization of Peru

The most visible remains of the extenisve Inca Civilization of Peru are its amazing structures - its Inca architecture.



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While traveling in Peru, especially in the southern mountains, you will see many examples of the oustanding Incan architecture workmanship in:

Ancient American Civilization of Peru

In building their houses and temples, the ancient american civilizations of the Incas and their ancestors used mainly materials like adobe and stone in their architecture.

The stone was worked in such a precise and accurate way that later, when the Incas placed these stone blocks together to form buildings, they fit so tightly that a razor coould not slip into the joints between the stones.

Inca Architecture
Inca Architecture - Inca Pyramids - Ancient American Civilization
Stones weighing up to many tons were quarried and shaped, then transported to their final spot.


When building fortresses, the Incas used larger stones of immense size; whereas when building palaces or lesser buildings, relatively smaller stones were used in the architecture.

No matter what size of stone was used in their buildings, the joints always fit together perfectly and a large number of these amazing structures exist intact until today.



"Architecture is a visual art, and the buildings speak for themselves."

~ Julia Morgan


Roots of Inca Architecture

But Peruvian architecture does not have its beginning with the Incas.

Prior to the ancient American civilization of the Incas, there was also the complex culture of the Tiahuanaco people, and, long before them, the Wari culture.

Even before the Wari ancient American civilization in Peru, there existed other
pre-Columbian civilizations that perhaps contributed to what we see now in structures of the Peruvian Incas and the Incan pyramids.

The City Fortresses

The most typical examples of Inca architecture are found in the city that was its capital, Cuzco (Cusco). You can see the original Incan structures still being used in modern times as in this photo of a typical street in downtown Cusco.

Inca Architecture in Cusco, Peru
Inca Architecture - Inca Pyramids - Ancient American Civilization
Incan walls still in use in modern times
photo courtesy of Santiago Jose Gutierrez


This city was protected by Sacsayhuaman, a fortress surrounded by three walls in a zig zag. These immense walls consisting of huge stone blocks and are still preserved in good condition.

Other important strongholds were those of Pisac and Machu Picchu, which are, together with Cuzco, the main archaeological sites representative of Inca architecture.

Within these fortresses were Inca pyramids (huacas) and evidences of earlier ancient American civilizations in Peru.

Machu Picchu, the most impressive urban settlement of the Inca Empire, whose name means "old mountain", is nestled in the Andes, 2,045 meters above sea level. It ranges over four hills, and was brought to the world's attention by explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911.

Inca Architecture - The Temples of the Incas

The most important examples of Inca architecture seen in the temples that remain of this ancient American civilization include, amongst others, the Casa del Sol (House of the Sun) on the island of Lake Titicaca, the Temple of the Sun in Cuzco, Peru, and the Temple of Three Windows in Machu Picchu, Peru. 

As for the Peruvian Inca architecture seen in their palaces, the most outstanding one is that of the Ă‘ustas (princesses) also located in Machu Picchu.

More examples of the building design of the ancient American civilization of the Incas of Peru

Other representative Inca architecture in Peru is seen in the intricacies of Tambo Colorado in Pisco as well as the Inca part of the Huaca (Inca pyramids) "La Centinela." Both of these sites are located in the Department of Ica in southern Peru.



"Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness."
~  Frank Gehry


Inca Architecture in Peru - The Inca Pyramids

Inca pyramids mostly follow the ancient tradition that dates back to pre-Inca pyramids of Caral and later Chan Chan in Peru.

These Inca pyramids, also called huacas or guacas (pronounced wah cah - Quechua waca, god of the house) are actually pyramid bases designed as residences for the various deities, although the Mochica culture of Peru did use them for administrative purposes.

Among the Quechua people of the Inca Empire in Peru, it was common to build a stepped pyramidal structure of small or medium proportions to simbolize or commemorate a mountain.

Called "ushnus," these Inca pyramids were a type of platform or stage, usually located in the center of a community, that was used for rituals as a kind of altar. These Inca pyramids were also used for by the king for administrative functions; official mandates were usually issued from these symbolic centers of power.

Note: The truncated non-Inca pyramids in Peru (ie, leveled on top and different in other ways from Inca pyramids) of ancient American civilization in Peru were generally built with adobe, material with a very low resistance. So, over time, most of these buildings have disappeared or are in ruins.




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