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A.O. Kime Articles:

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Two Septembers
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The Ancient Craftsmanship of Cumbemayo and Machu Picchu

ancient scroll

The mysterious drive for perfection in ancient structures

(2nd edition - March 2009) by A.O. Kime
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Upon assessing the wonders of ancient civilizations, begging explanation is the outstanding craftsmanship evident in their grandiose edifices which epitomized the art and thus quantified structural sophistication for the coming ages. While the practical aspects of these great works are either obvious or commonly theorized upon, largely unaddressed is why so much effort was put forth to obtain perfection. There doesn’t seem an obvious payoff of commensurate value… at least not in practical terms.

While pride in craftsmanship would explain the exquisiteness in the aesthetics, we're left to wonder about the driving force behind the desire. Obviously then, the motivation and reasoning to build their often abstract structures to perfection goes deeper than conventional thinking or one-dimensional archeological explanations. Apparently, it's a matter long since forgotten and thus overlooked by the modern day mentality.

Only the recognition that aesthetics has material value has survived the ages. For example, aside from eliciting wonder, the grand structures of the ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman empires are seen as reflecting prestige and power. Edifices are also seen as political statements, any social utility often merely the 'excuse'. It is also known, or should be, the degree these symbols are psychologically empowered is relative to the level of sophistication. In other words, the more exacting and delicate the works, the more the onlookers fall victim.

While the practical aspects of ancient edifices tend to overshadow their sure-to-exist metaphysical aspects, clouding the real purpose or 'statement', the message in some works is more evident than in others.

Cumbemayo aqueduct

cumbermayo irrigation ditch

The ancient (circa 1000 BC) Cumbemayo aqueduct in Peru is an example… especially for not being a structure (per se) but rather a five mile public works project in difficult terrain designed to deliver water for irrigation purposes. It stands unique because there seems no logical reason such perfection was necessary for such a 'mundane' undertaking. After all, moving water from one place to the next would be thought of today as merely a practical project and while requiring engineering expertise, such an artful touch isn’t essential in a water delivery system… yet artfulness is grandly expressed in these ancient Peruvian aqueducts.

The artfulness expressed is its perfectly straight and aligned ditches, of uniform shapes and consistent widths, of precise 90 degree angles when necessary… much of which was chiseling out of solid volcanic rock. Moreover, it was constructed and further smoothed for aesthetic purposes using only stone tools... an incredible feat. It seems evident there was a profound reason for the aesthetics considering the difficulty involved. (picture is a thumbnail image* from travelpod.com)

While the petroglyphs associated with the aqueduct are undecipherable, they would have told only part of the story because, whether petroglyphs, pictographs, hieroglyphs or a pronounceable written language, the ability to adequately express spiritual realities has always been a problem which even the ancient mystics acknowledged. It’s a matter of semantics (the shortcomings of languages)... so their works must tell the story instead.

However, in order to decipher these ancient 'statements', expressed graphically, one might often depend on a thunderbolt.

The most striking thunderbolt would say the highly impressionable architectural designs and remarkable attention to detail in ancient edifices was the understanding the relationship between beauty and God… being, in a sense, one-in-the-same. In order to be godlike, an inherent human desire although going largely unrecognized, craftsmen strive for this in their work (even today). It is through pride they manifest beauty… perfection being one of several obtainable ways in which beauty can be expressed.

There is also beauty to be found in things 'colossal' (i.e. pyramids)... after all, we have an 'affinity' for them.

Polished stones of Machu Picchu

polished stone wall at Machu Picchu

close-up of polished stones at Machu Picchu

While ancient Greek architecture exemplified beauty and perfection more than any other place, the ancient Peruvians, Incas and Mayans, albeit lacking the wherewithal to produce beautiful structures on the same scale, although pre-dating Greek architecture in some cases and to some degree being a matter of architectural preferences (vis-à-vis beliefs, needs), they nonetheless wholeheartedly embraced and exercised perfection. The precise manner in which the polished stones were fitted together at Machu Picchu (Incan) is another good example. This cyclopean-type masonry, honed-down (polished) to fit together with incredible skin-tight precision, requires no mortar.

In going beyond their practical needs, this perfection was an expression of their devotion to the Almighty… the effort to be godlike. Assuredly during these remarkable times, the opinion existed that in creating beauty (perfection) is to emulate God and the most sincere proclamation of devotedness. Like many of today's adages, “imitation is the highest form of flattery” was derived from the vestiges of ancient knowledge.

Public (general) enlightenment

Whether in Europe, Asia or the Americas, it should be curious the common theme was the drive towards architectural perfection in public structures, memorials and royal sepulchers while, at the same time, their homes lacked this high level of craftsmanship as evidenced in the ancient towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum having been preserved for the ages due to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Well, the absence of masterly-crafted homes in the shadow of great works indicates a practical-minded people living in an age of spiritual enlightenment who wanted to convey a message. It also indicates a willingness existed on the part of the public to voluntarily submit to the wishes of the architects... to a shaman or 'high priest' for example. After all, these great works wouldn't seem possible otherwise... devotion to a cause is necessary and the chance to make a grand statement for the ages is a worthy calling.

In that architectural perfection was the common quest in countries afar (worldwide) is evidence these works were divinely inspired. Even if one wants to attribute this to 'merely' human nature only fortifies the fact. After all, human nature is largely preprogrammed and therefore must be of divine origins. Of course, countering that contention would be the scientific (psychological) explanations... but they're forever mechanical, one-dimensional and thus shallow.

An enlightened public therefore, and not religious decrees initially, must have been responsible for the earliest of ancient projects. Organized religions, after all, had not yet surfaced. As much as the edifice itself, if not more-so, the architectural details tell us the builders were striving to be godlike. Later, of course, beginning with the Roman empire, great projects evolved into being done for political, social and economic reasons.

Even when humans create beauty and/or perfection for monetary compensation, the product is nonetheless godlike. It has value for that very reason because in our quest to be godlike, albeit going largely unrecognized as the impetus, we strive to create or possess beauty however it manifests itself.

By example then, the message the ancients conveyed was that beauty is an aspect of God… or, one could say, beauty is his reflection. However, even if that fact survived the ages and is still generally assumed today, assumptions usually relate to being ‘taken for granted’ and therefore less appreciated. The ancients, on the other hand, seemed to have held tight to the fact and thus an ultra-close God-human relationship largely comprised their view of reality... as much as the presence of 'government' shapes today's idea of the realities.

While likely their great works were mainly intended to 'please God', the message to future generations was not diluted. Whichever the case it seems evident... the ancients were more in tune with the Creator as evidenced by their structures.

The messages within their works are what petroglyphs, pictographs, hieroglyphs or a pronounceable written language can’t convey… wholly dependent on the ability to fathom in a spiritual manner. Of an indescribable vagueness, the workings of the spirit world can’t be explained in literal terms, only pictured… but pictured is not images but rather perfect logic taking shape. It is also difficult to explain since it is apples and oranges in logical disposition and also unknowable what might be missing in someone else’s picture. Like the stones at Machu Picchu, logic requires a perfect fit.

Their works exhibited godlike qualities in another manner as well... by being both visually observable and spiritually enigmatic at the same time. In other words, that combination also describes creation.

In the end, a picture of the metaphysical (its logic) is all we can hope for. It can’t be described in words… no more than we can adequately describe sensory feelings. It can only be through one's works, the ancients knew, that one can convey metaphysical messages. Thus, their long-lasting illustrations were to be their enduring testimonials. There's even a message in making them long-lasting... being that 'immortal' is akin to God's creations as well.

Since examples provide a 'better picture' indicates the ancients were also aware of dimensional expressions. Physical examples, after all, are visual enhancements and therefore dimensional (effectively).

The message to God was "look upon our worthiness" and the message to mankind was... "lest ye forget".

A.O. Kime

* Credits: Clicking on any thumbnail image above will take you to the photograph source (another website). The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a thumbnail image is ‘fair use’ provided it contains a hyperlink to the webpage where the full-size photograph was obtained, Nonetheless, if any owner of the copyright objects to our usage, upon notification we will immediately withdraw the thumbnail image.

Last modified: 02/29/16