Machu Picchu, also known as "The Lost City of the Incas", located high in the Peruvian Andes (2430 m.a.s.l.) in Cuzco, is one of the most famous archaeological complexes and one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. It is here, under the dense foliage of the surrounding jungle, that a network of hidden river channels has been discovered.
The research was published in January 2022 under the title "Flow Analysis of the Inca Water Channel Based on 3D Terrestrial Laser Scanning and UAV Models at the Archaeological Site of Chachabamba (Machu Picchu Archaeological National Park, Peru)" in the Journal of Archaeological Science, by a team of Polish scientists consisting of Dominika Sieczkowska, Bartlomiej Ćmielewski, Krzysztof Wolski, Dąbek Paweł, José M. Bastante and Izabela Wilczyńska. The discovery is a water complex made of stone and located less than eight kilometres from the Inca citadel, just outside the ceremonial centre of Chachabamba.
Due to the complexity of accessing and exploring the heavily foliage-covered areas, the research could only be carried out using new technology, which for the first time were applied in the region. The scientists used three-dimensional documentation techniques to produce hydrodynamic calculations of the archaeological remains. This was done using the LiDAR scanning system, which works based on laser pulses that make it possible to obtain samples of the surfaces.
The discovery is about a dozen small structures that supplied water to the archaeological and ceremonial complex of Chachabamba. It is located on a mostly flat terrain in the Vilcanota valley in southeastern Peru (2170 m.a.s.l.). The stone archaeological monuments that make it up are the main altar and fourteen surrounding baths. The investigations of the hydraulic system have shown that the fourteen stone bodies exercised the unique role of ceremonial purification baths in relation to the ceremonial character of the site.
The Chachabamba water system was specifically for rituals. It is fed by the Urubamba River, called Willkamayu and considered sacred by the Incas. As Dominika Sieczkowska, deputy director of the organisation and development of the Centre for Andean Studies at the University of Warsaw, who led the research, explains. "Only very privileged people could get to Machu Picchu, because it was a very special place," she says. "When you went there, you had to stop in Chachabamba to take a spiritual bath to be clean and pure to get to Machu Picchu," she added.
Machu Picchu, the most famous Inca city in history, remains a fascinating and enigmatic complex. The new archaeological find helps us to better understand and delve deeper into what life was like in the sacred citadel of the Andes. It has been determined that the Incas built water systems to legitimise their domination.