Moray: the Inca’s impressive experiment in agricultural engineering
19 February 2020
Along the way to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, on a high plateau, about an hour from Cusco city and just past the town of Maras, is the unique destination of Moray, one of the most interesting of Inca archeological sites.
Most likely built by the expert builders of the Inca Empire in the early 15th century, Moray consists of a series of concentric terraces that form large circular depressions up to 100 ft. (30 m.) in depth, and much larger in diameter.
What purpose did these mysterious circular constructions serve to the Incas? Since no written record was left behind, the most accepted theories propose that Moray was an top agriculture research center of the ancient civilization, where different crops could be tested by growing them under different temperature and humidity conditions. This is quite likely.
All across Peru, stone-walled terraces were built on tens of thousands of hectares of mountain slopes during the centuries around the Inca Empire, and many are still being farmed today.
Farming in the andes
Andean traditional farmers are renowned for being some of the most skilled and knowledgeable in the world. It makes total sense that the Peruvian Andes were the source region of so many important crops that are consumed world-wide today.
At Moray, due to depth, sun orientation and design, average temperatures between the top and bottom terraces can vary up to 15o C. (27o F.). For the Incas, such differentials would have recreated the diverse altitudes at which different food crops can most successfully grow in the Andes.
Andean crops are very dependent on the temperatures found along the gradient of mountain slopes. For example, higher colder altitudes were more apt for certain varieties of potatoes, while warmer lower altitudes produced more maize.
Such crop adaptations point to the Inca’s impressive knowledge of the forces of nature and of the effects of temperature and sunlight on crop growth. Many Andean farmers today continue to farm using the ancient knowledge and methods developed by their pre-Inca and Inca ancestors.
The majestic archeological site
Even without seeing the crops that were once planted there, walking around Moray today is a fascinating experience. The site evokes a solemn sense of purposeful endeavor and ancient knowledge.
The circular walls are an engineering feat, entirely symmetrical and fit with small stone steps, and the terraces are now grass-covered. Irrigation works are still evident, although they’re now dry. One thinks of coliseums, although there is no evidence Moray was used for large gatherings.
At the top of the site, you have the huge panorama of the Vilcanota Range, with a few glaciers gleaming in the sunlight. It’s a beautiful place of stark contrasts.
Moray is a top attraction for visitors to Cusco, and a visit there is often combined with the Maras salt flats, another Inca engineering wonder, just a half hour away. The Maras/ Moray tour is simply a must for visitors to Cusco. Andean Lodges, through its new branch Andean Excursions, is ready to help you plan your journey to Cusco, including the sites described here, and much, much more! Our acclimatization tour will take you there, and will prepared you for the real adventure- the Route to Ausangate, our state-of-the-art trekking programs in the very best of the Andes. Check us out today at andeanlodges.com!