Polish divers discover mysteries of the… Incas – high-mountain underwater archaeology

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Polish archaeology diving in the Machu Picchu

Altitude diving, high mountain underwater archaeology, Nevado Salkantay, Machu Picchu, Peru

 

Shearwater Perdix, high altitude diving, nurkowanie wysokogorskie, Peru, Andy, Salkantay (Salcantay), Machu Picchu, high mountain underwater archaeology

Reaching the lake, before high altitude diving at the Soqtaqocha (4,531 m a.s.l. / 18 m depth). Taking the altitude, temperature and… the oxygen partial pressure measurements. The red alert values on the screen of Shearwater Perdix technical dive computer shows that oxygen partial pressure at the altitude of planned underwater research is hypoxic. Without proper acclimatization, this partial pressure of oxygen in the surrounding atmosphere could cause fainting. Therefore, in high altitude underwater archeology, the planning of acclimatization is so important, both before the expedition and before working on particular sites at different altitudes. Nevado Salkantay, Machu Picchu National Park, Andes, Peru, photo. P. Trzesniowski

 

Peru, Andes, Machu Picchu National Park, information translated with supplements from the PAP service:

MachuPicchu, Peru, Salkantay, Salcantay, Soqtaqocha, highmountain, highaltitude, diving, archaeology, Inca, Inka, puna, Andes, mountains, lake

Peruvian Andes, Soqtaqocha (4531 m a.s.l. / 18 m depth) Nevado Salkantay, Machu Picchu National Park, Peru photo: P. Trzesniowski

Polish scientists looked for traces of rituals of the Inca in three lakes in the Machu Picchu region at the altitude of 4100 m above the see level and beyond. On the shores of these lakes there are ceremonial platforms which, most probably, served to perform sacrifices. The scientists found especially two of these lakes – Soqtaqocha (4,531 m a.s.l.) and Yanaqocha (4,139 m a.s.l.) – particularly interesting. These lakes are located in the vicinity of a well-known Inca Trail which connects numerous archaeological sites with the famous rock city of Machu Picchu. Over five hundred years ago, in its heyday, the city was surrounded by many temples and settlements. At present this area is protected as the Machu Picchu National Park and, at the same time, a very popular tourist route.

MachuPicchu, Peru, Salkantay, Salcantay, highmountain, highaltitude, diving, archaeology, Inca, Inka, puna, Andes, mountains

Peruvian Andes, the pass at the altitide of 4,500 m a.s.l. and high mountain archaeologists on the go. Nevado Salkantay, Machu Picchu National Park, Peru, photo: M. Sobczyk

“Already during our reconnaissance around the lakes we became convinced that it would be worthwile to explore their waters. We found out that in both cases stone ceremonial platforms were erected right next to them. Most probably they served to perform sacrifices”, says dr Maciej Sobczyk from the Centre for Precolombian Studies of the Warsaw University. Apart from dr Sobczyk, the team of underwater archaeologists consists of Mateusz Popek and Przemek Trześniowski.

Also the platforms will be scrutinised by the archaeologists. It is quite possible that, as the buildings played part in a cult, we can expect to find founding sacrifices, i.e. sacrifices offered while the building was in construction. Sometimes the dead were buried close to them.

MachuPicchu, Peru, Salkantay, Salcantay, highmountain, highaltitude, diving, archaeology, Inca, Inka, suni, jalca

Peruvian Andes, nature of Suni/Jalca, Machu Picchu National Park, Peru, photo: P. Trzesniowski

All the lakes studied by the Polish archaeologists are located at the foot of the Salkantay glacier which was worshipped by the ancient residents of the Andes. According to archaeologists they played a key role in the Inca beliefs – it is where lamas and alpacas were to originate from – these animals used to occupy an important role in the economy of the Andes, and they still do nowadays. What could the Incas sink in the lakes during their religious ceremonies? It is known that the Incas used to sink boxes full of gold and silver figures in the Titicaca lake located on the border between Peru and Bolivia.

 

MachuPicchu, Peru, Salkantay, Salcantay, highmountain, highaltitude, diving, archaeology, Inca, Inka, puna, Andes, mountains

Peruvian Andes, landscape of Puna, Nevado Salkantay, Machu Picchu National Park, Peru, photo: P. Trzesniowski

Archaeologists cherish high hopes in relation to what may be hidden in the lakes of Soqtaqocha and Yanaqocha. During their first studies they used echo-sounding devices and a sonar which enabled them to create batimetric maps of all the lakes. The divers took a sample consisting of a nearly one metre long core from one of the lakes – it contains different layers of silt which settled there over thousands of years. Its analysis will enable the scientists to establish out not only the history of the lakes, but also the environmental conditions in the area around them.

 
 

MachuPicchu, Peru, Salkantay, Salcantay, highmountain, highaltitude, diving, archaeology, Inca, Inka, puna, Andes, mountains

Peruvian Andes in the area of Soqtaqocha (4,531 m a.s.l.) and Yanaqocha (4,139 m a.s.l.) lakes, Nevado Salkantay, Machu Picchu National Park, Peru, photo: P. Trzesniowski

“This year’s studies were connected with a huge logistical challenge. Due to the highly difficult area we had to use mules in order to transport the whole equipment and provisions to the main camp. Than, as our carriers had to climb up steep slopes, it took us more than two days to arrive”, says dr Sobczyk. „One unfortunate accident also took place – one of our mules fell down the hill”.

Last year the archaeologists from the Centre for Precolombian Studies of the Warsaw University inaugurated a pioneering research of lakes located in the area of the Machu Picchu National Park in Peru. On this occasion they explored four other lakes, including Humantay. This year the explorers went back to the region in order to identify the traces of potential human activity identified in the past and to test the scientific equipment construed especially for the needs of this particular expedition. Despite reaching the bottom of the lake at the depth of 20 m, the explorers did not discover any traces of the ancient rituals.

MachuPicchu, Peru, Salkantay, Salcantay, Humantay, highmountain, highaltitude, diving, archaeology, Inca, Inka, puna, Andes, mountains, lake

The glacier above Humantay lake (4270 m a.s.l.,  20 m depth), Nevado Salkantay, Machu Picchu National Park, Peru, photo: P. Trzesniowski

Not only are the lakes where Polish explorers conducted their research located at very high altitudes, they are also surprisingly deep. This fact poses considerable risk for the divers – so far the sonar has never been used at such altitudes, nor any archaeological diving has been performed.

“In high mountain diving we need to strictly follow the procedures. It is connected with considerably lower atmospheric pressure characteristic for such altitudes. Traditional depth analysers may generate incorrect results which additionally makes diving more difficult in terms of planning and execution”, says Przemek Trzesniowski diving archaeologist and IANTD instructor.

MachuPicchu, Peru, Salkantay, Salcantay, highmountain, highaltitude, diving, archaeology, Inca, Inka, puna, Andes, mountains

The evening sky in Peruvian Andes with the tail of the Ursa Major on her back. The landscape in  Soqtaqocha (4,531 m a.s.l.) & Yanacocha (4,139 m.a.s.l.) area, Nevado Salkantay, Machu Picchu National Park, Peru, photo: P. Trzesniowski

„High mountain diving incurrs a much bigger risk of decompression sickness. Only highly experienced divers who possess advanced skills in underwater trim, positioning and controlling the speed of ascent can cope in such conditions”

Deep diving in Humantay lake enabled the scientists to collect data by means of a Doppler device, which will be passed for analysis in the National Centre for Hiperbaric Medicine in Gdynia (KOMH). Diving tables and procedures for the planning and performing of diving were created specially for this expedition by dr hab. Jacek Kot, MD., head of the KOMH.

 
 

MachuPicchu, Peru, Salkantay, Salcantay, highmountain, highaltitude, diving, archaeology, Inca, Inka, puna, Andes, mountains, Wilkaraqay, Urubamba, SacredValley

Peruvian Andes, Wilkaraqay Inca ruins in the Valley of Urubamba, Sacred Valley of the Incas, Machu Picchu National Park, Peru, photo: P. Trzesniowski

High mountain underwater research in the Peruvian Andes is conducted by the Centre for Precolombian Studies of the Warsaw University in collaboration with the Regional Branch of the Ministry of Culture in Cusco and the Research Team of the Machu Picchu National Parc as a part of “The Function of Satellite Sites in the Machu Picchu Region: the Inkaraqay and Chachabamba sites and high mountain lakes in Nevado Salkantay (Peru)” project headed by professor Mariusz Ziółkowski. The study conducted in the Machu Picchu National Park is financed from the Opus and Preludium grants of the National Science Centre.

 
 
 
Sources: PAP – Science in Poland scienceinpoland.pap.pl , archaeology.org

Polish version: http://alpha-divers.pl/polscy-nurkowie-odkrywaja-tajemnice-inkow-wysokogorska-archeologia-podwodna/

MachuPicchu, Peru, Salkantay, Salcantay, highmountain, highaltitude, diving, archaeology, Inca, Inka, puna, Andes, mountains, sunset

Sunset in Peruvian Andes, in Soqtacocha (4,531 m a.s.l.) & Yanaqocha (4,139 m a.s.l.) area, Nevado Salkantay, Machu Picchu National Park, Peru, photo: P. Trzesniowski

 

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