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Notes on the Geography of Peru: Cusco: Photo 70

world pictures Peru: Cusco

Here are two of those doors. One has been partly filled again; the other leads (catch your breath) to Starbucks and one of the city's almost 1,200 places to stay.

The jointing of the wall is not only tight but visually emphasized by cutting down the edge of each stone. Why did the Inca do this? Is it anything more than an esthetic preference?

John Howland Rowe suggests another possibility. He speculates that "an observant traveler in the Cuzco Valley cannot help noticing that many boundary walls and even houses are not built of either stone or adobe, but of square-cut blocks of sod. The turfs are 10 to 15 centimeters in thickness and are laid up in rows with the topside down. They weather to a grey color, something like that of the local stones, and the walls have a surface texture entirely different from either stone or adobe construction. Each turf acquired a rounded face, curving back on the edge to leave the chinks countersunk, much in the fashion of rusticated masonry.

"Now, Inca masonry of the ashlar, or regular course type, generally has a surface appearance that is too similar to that of a sod wall to be accidental. The stones are cut with a rounded surface and countersunk joints, details which serve no structural purpose, are not natural to the medium of rectangular blocks, and hence are purely a decorative convention. Sod construction is the most likely source for such a convention."

See John Howland Rowe, An Introduction to the Archaeology of Cuzco, 1944, p. 25.

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