Week 6

Often the invention of the wheel has been contributed to the ability for societies to advance, especially in matters of city landscape. Yet on two continents where the wheel was not invented, some of the most amazing architectural and structural achievements still stand in objection to this belief. These wonders were created by the Aztec, Inca, and Mayan civilizations and they stand to testify that the lack of the wheel did not limit the growth of their cities.

In the case of the Mayans, they did have wheels, but used it in a different matter.The Mayans, who are well known for their calender system, valued knowledge and ruled by knowledge (Week 6, Lecture 2). These people were so interested in cycles and time that they constructed a great observatory, without the wheel. Through observation and accounts of past orbital events, the Mayans were capable of creating a calender that has withstood the test of time and holds its own against current systems. In fact, “the correction formula worked out in the 7th century was even slightly more accurate than our Gregorian leap-year correction introduced in 1582” (http://mathsforeurope.digibel.be/Calendar.htm). Their calender system was a sophisticated system of wheels that represented nested cycles of days (Week 6, Lecture 2).

The Aztec were able to pull off one of the greatest feats in the battle against nature. These people constructed an entire city in the middle of a lake through a sophisticated series of canals. Furthermore, they became self-sufficient with their creation of a sophisticated agricultural system. They were able to create farmland through drainage of the swampy land and the construction of artificial islands (http://www.history.com/topics/aztecs). On top of this lake, the Aztecs created a great empire with a strong military and incredible structures, such as Temple Mayor. Although it has lost its grandeur, Tenochititlan now serves as the foundation of present day Mexico City, which shows the extent of the architectural sophistication of the city in the lake.

The Incas were engineering geniuses and their projects speak for themselves. The Incas possessed the knowledge to build Macchu Picchu on one of the most challenging terrains. The city had a strong foundation that withstood “torrential rains each year, [which] triggered frequent landslides” and the site crossed two earthquake fault lines (Ghosts of Machu Picchu). These early engineers were able to accomplish the impossible and their work still remains today. In addition, they transformed these steep land into farmland and “it’s believed that more land was under cultivation during Inca times than is today in modern Peru” (Ghosts of Machu Picchu). It is incredible to see the magnitude that the Incas achieved architecturally without the wheel.

All three empires possessed great achievements architecturally and technologically. They illustrate creative skills and an ability to make do with what they were presented with. It is unbelievable that in some cases, their achievements surpass even modern day abilities with our “technological advancements”. Clearly, the lack of the wheel in this part of the world was not a handicap to societal advancements. These were all large, self-sufficient civilizations.