BREEMA in the Sacred Valley of Peru Post 13
Monday, September 11, 2023 9:47 PM
The Moray Archaeological site is on a hight plateau at about 11,500 feet above sea level, but that is just the top. It goes down and down from there, a pattern of gradually-diminishing concentric circles neatly carved from the living earth. In my opinion, Moray ought to be registered as an official Wonder of the World. It was certainly a wonder for our group! The drive there is beautiful too, with wide open views so expansive, you cannot help but recognize how small you are.
Just for fun, let’s pretend we are going there together, riding along through the amazing landscape in a van of about a dozen or so friendly travelers.
It is August, the end of winter in the Sacred Valley, and golden, rolling fields ripple off into the distance where snow-peaked mountains rise majestically. The highest of these is Veronica, and her head sometimes disappears into the clouds. Hi Veronica! She and her friends are pretty amazing. For miles around we see huge swaths of barley growing to make beer for Peru’s main producer. As we wind through the terrain, we see a lesser amount of other crops, including an occasional field of oats or wheat, and pigs and cows, but primarily it is the wide open space that announces itself and demands our attention out every window.
After navigating the narrow roads, pausing now and then to let an oncoming van pass through, we arrive at Moray and begin to climb out, the sliding clunk of the van door announcing our arrival. (You might want to scroll down to the pictures below to get a sense of what I’m going to talk about now, especially if you have never heard of Moray. It’s okay, I’ll wait...)
Okay, you’re back? Great, let’s keep traveling. It’s time to walk, but we aren’t going far. To begin, let’s just rest on these sun-warmed rocks at the top of the site and gaze down. Did you bring your sunscreen? Here, you can borrow Sharon’s. We’ll consider a few details soon, but first, simply take it all in, just as you might receive any other work of art. (In our group, multiple people spoke of experiencing a sense of harmony, of actually being affected in a unifying way as they gazed at the features around and below. I found it to be quieting to my mind as I stood and registered the weight of my body on the earth. I think that even looking at the photos gives a bit of a sense of this.)
Okay, we can stop playing pretend, but that was fun. I would like to share some details about what Moray was and is, which is a topic for debate and discussion, but many points that I will mention are commonly agreed upon, and some are just obvious. My friend, Avish and our guide, Raul, spoke about some of this, and some I’ve researched or simply experienced myself when we were there.
Like many Incan sites where they built terraces, the scope of the project is awe-inspiring. Looking down into the well-organized, circular depressions, it is hard to comprehend the scale of the area because each ring is so carefully designed and still mostly intact. Also amazing is the fact that like other terraces, the soil in them was brought here in mammoth proportions. Imagine building your standard raised bed for growing vegetables in your backyard, and as part of that job, bringing in the most fertile soil you can find. Maybe your borrow your neighbor’s pick-up truck and fill the bed. Now imagine doing this and needing to not only get the material to the location, but then needing to continue to move it down, layer by layer into the deepest level of the valley. The sheer magnitude of the amount of soil would have been hard to calculate, at least for me! Then there are the walls encircling the soil and creating the tiers or vertical faces of the steps. They were built with the same care and precision as what the Inca used elsewhere, but without the clean and straight cuts we see at sites like Ollantaytambo and Saccsaywaman. To give a little more sense of the overall size, some of the depressions themselves are as deep as 100 feet. From the bottom to the top of the entire site, it was possible to cultivate many types of plants, but this wouldn’t have come about without a lot of work and the intelligence of being in partnership with nature. With the help of the terracing itself, the orientation to sun and wind, and the thermal mass of the stone used, microclimates were created, which multiplied the possibilities of what could be grown. One effect of all of this is that the temperature between the top of the terraces to the bottommost varies by approximately 25 degrees fahrenheit, depending who you ask. Like the terraces in Yukay, (which I wrote about in blog 4 in this series) the area also includes a built-in irrigation system from a mountain resevoir. It is quite a design to say the least.
All of this ingenious engineering allowed the Inca to grow a wide variety of crops in one location, which would not have been possible if they had simply farmed on a single level out on the plateau. Some archaeologists theorize that Moray served as a sort of agricultural teaching center. Because of the diverse crops that could be grown here, those teaching here could assist people growing in all sorts of conditions and climates from throughout Peru. One other fascinating fact that we know from excavations here is that the bottom six circles actually predate the Inca and were probably created by the Wari culture between the 6th and 10th century.
It’s also said by local people that there are stories of ceremonies and celebrations happening here during Inca times. In fact, locals still gather here in October each year to celebrate Moray Raymi, a giving of thanks for the year’s harvest where there are feasts and dancing. What a place this must have been at the height of the growing season! Even looking at the images here, you can easily imagine a bountiful garden rising in concentric circles, filled with such vitality and diverse vegetables and fruits! It would have been much like an enormous, living mandala.
I’ll continue this entry later with an added section on Maras Salt Mines, which are also shown below...
Until then, thank you for reading.
Moray Archaeological Site and Maras Salt Mines images below...
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