At Tiahuanaco, on the southern rim of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, visitors encounter enormous stone slabs and carved building blocks dressed with astonishing skill. The stones are the visible remains of a culture that flourished there about a thousand years ago. Some six hundred kilometers to the northwest, in Cuzco (Peru), one finds the different yet equally remarkable masonry of the Incas, who dominated the Andean world from the middle of the fifteenth century to the Spanish conquest in 1532. Did the Inca stonemasons learn their skills from their predecessors at Tiahuanaco? A comparative study of Inca and Tiahuanaco construction techniques reveals fundamental differences between the architecture of the two cultures. In this article, we compare masonry bonds, design details, stone-cutting techniques, and the methods of fitting, laying, and handling of stones used by both cultures. The results of this comparison suggest that the ingenuity of Inca masonry originated with the Incas, and not with their predecessors.

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