After reading our post about artificial microclimates landscaping in Montreuil and Pantelleria, our friend and artist Bernard Perroud suggested us to continue our research in early microclimate agricultural experiments, by writing about the archaeological site of Moray (Cusco) in Peru.
What might be called, in National Geographic magazine’s own words, an example of “extreme Inca landscaping“, is an early experimental agriculture station the Inca created on a high plateau at about 3500 m and consisting of several enormous terraced circular depressions, the largest of which is about 30 m deep. These gigantic bowls recall Indian stepwells, but their purpose, scholars say, was to concentrate thermal gradients and affect the local weather. The temperature varies substantially (up to 15° – 20° C) between the center (warmer) and the exterior (colder) and the site reproduces more than 20 ecological areas.
The different microclimates of the terraces surrounding the larger flange (Qechuyoq), according to Wikipedia Spanish, “are distributed in four contiguous levels sectors, each sector with its own microclimate characteristics. The four lower platforms (1,2,3,4) [Sector I] are more moist soil with low temperatures due to the higher water evapotranspiration. The floors of the platforms of the Sector II (levels 5,6,7,8) with annual average temperatures 2° to 3° C higher. Those of the Sector III (9,10,11,12) have temperatures that can be higher or lower according to the variation in solar exposure during the seasons. The months with most microclimatic differentiation are those of the dry season (May, June, July) and those related to seeding (August, September, October, November). Due to its sheltered position, each of these platforms represents approximately one thousand meters under normal tillage. As a whole, the complex would contain twenty or more scaled ecological areas. The site could also serve Moray Inca officials to calculate the annual production in different parts of Tawantinsuyu.”
The exact usage of the site of Moray is still subject to research. Some interpret is as a site destined to special agricultural purposes, as the cultivation of coca. Other bear the idea that the site emulated the climatic conditions of different ecological zones of the Inca empure.
Berard Perroud’s Moray, Peru
The Character of Inca and Andean Agriculture, by John Earls, Departamento de Ciencias Sociales – Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.
Vertical archipelago, (a term coined by sociologist and anthropologist John Victor Murra under the influence of economist Karl Polanyi to describe the native Andean agricultural economic model of accessing and distributing resources)
Pruned’s Maras Salt Mines
BLDG BLOG’s The Weather Bank
Tecnología y Conocimiento Campesino en Los Andes del Perú: Bases para una Propuesta Agroecológica (Juan Sánchez Barba, CIED)
Images (mostly) via: Google Panoramio and via “Moray terraces (Cusco Moray)” (translated from Russian)