Monday, July 20, 2015

Peru Secrets - Did Inka Civilization Knew Plants that Melt Stones?

By Liliana Usvat    
Blog 336-365 

Percy Fawcett’s younger son, Brian Fawcett, reports the following story, told to him by a friend:
    Some years ago, when I was working in the mining camp at Cerro de Pasco (a place 14,000 feet up in the Andes of Central Peru), I went out one Sunday with some other Gringos to visit some old Inca or Pre-Inca graves – to see if we could find anything worth while. We took our grub with us, and, of course, a few bottles of pisco and beer; and a peon – a cholo – to help dig.

  Well, we had our lunch when we got to the burial place, and afterwards started to open up some graves that seemed to be untouched. We worked hard, and knocked off every now and again for a drink.

 I don’t drink myself, but others did, especially one chap who poured too much pisco into himself and was inclined to be noisy. When we knocked off, all we found was an earthenware jar of about a quart capacity, and with liquid inside it.
    ‘I bet its chicha!’ said the noisy one. ‘Let’s try it and see what sort of stuff the Incas drank!

    ‘Probably poison us if we do,’ observed another.
    ‘Tell you what, then – let’s try it out on the peon!’
    They dug the seal and stopper out of the jar’s mouth, sniffed at the contents and called the peon over to them.

    ‘Take a drink of this chicha,’ ordered the drunk. The peon took the jar, hesitated and then with an expression of fear spreading over his face thrust it into the drunk’s hands and backed away.

    ‘No, no, senor,’ he murmured. ‘Not that. That’s not chicha!’ He turned and made off.

    The drunk put the jar down on a flat-topped rock and set off in pursuit. ‘Come on boys – catch him!’ he yelled. They caught the wretched man, dragged him back, and ordered him to drink the contents of the jar. The peon struggled madly, his eyes popping. There was a bit of a scrimmage, and the jar was knocked over and broken, its contents forming a puddle on the top of the rock. Then the peon broke free and took to his heels.

    Everyone laughed. It was a huge joke. But the exercise had made them thirsty and they went over to the sack where the beer-bottles lay.

    About ten minutes later I bent over the rock and casually examined the pool of spilled liquid. It was no longer liquid; the whole patch where it had been, and the rock under it, were as soft as wet cement! It was as though the stone had melted, like wax under the influence of heat.

In an interview in 1983, Jorge A. Lira, a Catholic priest who was an expert in Andean folklore, said that he had rediscovered the ancient method of softening stone. According to a pre-Columbian legend the gods had given the Indians two gifts to enable them to build colossal architectural works such as 

Sacsayhuaman and Machu Picchu. The gifts were two plants with amazing properties. One of them was the coca plant, whose leaves enabled the workers to sustain the tremendous effort required. 

The other was a plant which, when mixed with other ingredients, turned hard stone into a malleable paste. 
Padre Lira said he had spent 14 years studying the legend and finally succeeded in identifying the plant in question, which he called ‘jotcha’. He carried out several experiments and, although he managed to soften solid rock, he could not reharden it, and therefore considered his experiments a failure.

Aukanaw, an Argentine anthropologist of Mapuche origin, who died in 1994, related a tradition about a species of woodpecker known locally by such names as pitiwe, pite, and pitio; its scientific name is probably Colaptes pitius (Chilean flicker), which is found in Chile and Argentina, or Colaptes rupicola (Andean flicker), which is found in southern Ecuador, Peru, western Bolivia, and northern Argentina and Chile. 

If someone blocks the entrance to its nest with a piece of rock or iron it will fetch a rare plant, known as pito or pitu, and rub it against the obstacle, causing it to become weaker or dissolve. In Peru, above 4500 m, there is said to be a plant called kechuca which turns stone to jelly, and which the jakkacllopito bird uses to make its nest. 

A plant with similar properties that grows at even higher altitudes is known, among other things, as punco-punco; this may be Ephedra andina, which the Mapuche consider a medicinal plant.

There is an ancient tradition that the buildings at Great Zimbabwe in Africa were constructed ‘when the stones were soft’. This expression is also found among the Maoris. One possible interpretation is that it refers to a method of temporarily softening the stone.

Modern ‘experts’ scoff at anecdotes and traditions such as these. They argue that the quarries where the Incas cut their stones are known, and stones can be found there in all stages of preparation. However, the fact that some stones were cut with ordinary tools does not necessarily mean that they all were. A variety of techniques may have been used.

 The proper scientific attitude would be to put these traditions to the test instead of mindlessly dismissing them. After all, it is no secret that certain plants (e.g. in the Alps) that are ecologically adapted to life in rock crevices secrete acids to soften the rock.

In the 1930s, while studying mining and construction techniques, engineer J.L. Outwater examined a temple at Mitla, in Oaxaca, Mexico. This temple is ornamented by about 30,000 thin, flat pieces of stone. 

These tile-like pieces were derived from trachyte, a dense, durable rock that does not split easily like slate. He discovered a huge stone cauldron near a quarry and wondered whether the Maya had soaked stones in some chemical to soften them before making their tiles.

Researcher Maurice Cotterell, too, believes that pre-Inca and Inca stonemasons possessed the technology to soften and pour stone 

We can do this today but only in one direction, from soft to hard; we call it concrete. It seems that the Incas and the Tiahuanacos could take the process one step further, from hard to soft again, using igneous rocks.

 At first this seems incomprehensible, but given the molecular structure of matter it is simply a question of overcoming the covalent bonds that bind atoms together. We can do this to ice, when we turn it to water, and we do it again when we turn water into steam. 

This explains how the Incas and Tiahuanacos assembled stones with such perfect precision. 

Close examination of the rounded edges of the stones suggests that the stone material has been ‘poured’, as though it were once contained within a sack or bag which had long since rotted and disappeared.

If softened stone had been placed in ‘bags’ that were left to rot, some trace of them would surely have been found. 

Some plants that are ecologically adapted to life in rock crevices (and this is a common phenomenon among alpine plants) secrete
acids to soften the rock. Thus they gain a greater foothold in their niche. It
 may well be possible that the Peruvians knew of a few such plants from

Especie: Ephedra andina
Familia: Ephedraceae
Nombre vulgar: Pingo-pingo
Categoría: Hierbas



  1. This was a great read! Simply amazing!

  2. This is by far, the most fascinating article I've read in such a long time. I definitely bookmarked it!