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by Martin Mergili

General information

The Sacred Valley of the Incas (Valle Sagrado in Spanish) represents an ancient cultural landscape, which has been in use continuously for thousands of years and, with the city of Cusco, represented the very centre of the Inca Empire. Near the village of Moray, on a plateau above the Sacred Valley at an elevation of about 3500 m asl., the rolling landscape is interrupted by an assemblage of roundish holes, with ancient agricultural terraces aligned regularly along its slopes. Today protected as cultural heritage, these terraces served a very specific purpose during the time of the Incas. But what was this purpose? And are these holes themselves natural, or were the created by humans? There are a lot of questions waiting to be answered.

The secrets of the holes of Moray

Holes in the landscape can form through various natural or human-induced processes. The ancient terraces in the holes of Moray could just have served for growing crops. However, there is a theory of a very special use of the holes and terraces by the Incas. Both the formation and the use of these holes need further consideration.

Try to answer the following questions:

  1. How could these holes have developed?
  2. What could the Incas have the holes used for?

If you are not sure on the answer of one or both questions, you may formulate two or more hypotheses.

Show solution
Karstic sinkholes

A look on the geological map of the area would reveal that the site is located on a limestone plateau. Limestone consists of calcium carbonate, which slowly dissolves in water, or even more in organic acids. Over long periods of time, surface water may leave rills and holes in the surface, and water penetrating into the ground may lead to the formation of caves. All this happens just through solution, not through mechanical erosion. Holes may develop by surficial solution of limestone, or by the collapse of a cave. The result are karstic sinkholes or dolines, such as those which can be seen at the site of Moray.

Proceed to the explanation of the use of the sinkholes by clicking on the arrows or in the photo.

References and links

Spanish Wikipedia article on Moray [Access source]