Researchers from the National Archaeological Park of Machu Picchu have uncovered a stretch of the Inca Road which serves as a stunning testament to the capabilities of pre-Colombian engineers in Peru.
The newly discovered segment of ancient Incan roadway runs for 1.5 kilometres around the mountainous Wayraqtambo (Inn of the Winds) area to a platform which looks directly upon Machu Picchu, providing a stunning view of the world-renowned archaeological site. The road measures between 1.2 and 1.4 metres in width, depending upon the underlying topography.
The most impressive feature of the new discovery, however, is a tunnel measuring five metres in length and over three metres in height, which is situated at a point approximately 2,700 metres above sea level. The tunnel can still be safely traversed, despite first being built by Incan engineers at least 500 years ago.
According to Fernando Astete, director of the Archaeological Park of Machu Picchu, the tunnel attests to the ingenuity of Incan engineers because of both its durability as well as the difficult circumstances surrounding its construction. Astete believes the tunnel was built after earth and rock collapsed upon the road, necessitating extensive excavation and recovery work.
"This tunnel, built with carved rocks, is one of the best examples of Inca engineering and is still intact 500 years after its construction," he said. "This road ought to be restored as soon as possible due to its great value as cultural heritage."
Astete believes the newly-discovered stretch of road probably predates the construction of Machu Picchu, which is generally dated to the middle of the 15th century, at the peak of the Incan Empire. Machu Picchu is believed by most historians to have been an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti, and is considered to be one of the most renowned icons of pre-Columbian civilisation.
The Inca Road runs directly to Machu Picchu, while the Wayraqtambo area is situated behind the mountain on which the archaeological site rests.