Peru and the Inca: Back to the Future

Written by Harold McNeill on March 7th, 2019. Posted in Travelogue

Moray Archeological Site: These concentric rings, each raised by a height of four feet, reach a depth of 100 feet. The rings and partial rings create twenty-five distinct climatic conditions. This arrangement allowed the Inca, using scientific methods, to develop seed crops best suited to many different climatic conditions across the nation. (1)(2)

South America Post Links (these South America posts are not written in the order of travel)

A South American Adventure The introductory Post
Peru, A Different Perspective: Includes Slideshow
Peru and the Inca: Back to the Future Inca Agricultural Research
The Falkland Islands: Our Perceptions of the Islands.

Back to the Future:  How the Inca Nation Lead the Way

There are many things to be learned by visiting civilizations past and it’s doubly so with the Inca Nation.  Although we only had seven days in Peru, it did not take long to realize just how influential the Inca people were, both in history and in the Peru of today.

In history, the Inca left behind cultural, religious and scientific legacies that continue to astound scientists, historians, and visitors to this very day. In the present day, and since the near-destruction of the nation in the 16th Century, ancestors of the Inca continue to rebuild the historical sights, traditions and religious practices which served their ancestors so well. It is a history about which our world can learn much.

As was common among with indigenous peoples of the Americas and other parts of the world, the Inca learned how to be at one with the Mother Earth,(4) something at which we in the modern world has so miserably failed. Over a period of just 100 years in the 15th and 16th Centuries, the Inca brought together several nations in the high Andes that stretched from the Inca core in Peru, “through Ecuador, northern Chile, Bolivia, upland Argentina, and southern Colombia. The Empire stretched 5,500 km (3,400 miles) north to south, (in which) 40,000 Incas governed a huge territory with some 10 million subjects speaking over 30 different languages.”  (Inca Civilization)

Along the path to their success, they worshipped many God’s, with the most important closely tied to the land. Among those God’s, Father Sun, Mother Moon, and Mother Earth played a role central to their well being. While the people across the nation were free to worship the God’s of their choice, most held these three as central to their well-being.  One of the things that helped the Inca along the path to integration was the fact their spiritual leaders were also their scientists.  I won’t have time to explore that in this post but will do so later.

Graphic: Representation of Pachamama in the cosmology, according to Juan de Santa Cruz Pachacuti Yamqui Salcamayhua (1613), after a picture in the Sun Temple Qurikancha in Cusco.  After the conquest by Spain, which forced conversion to Roman Catholicism, the figure of the Virgin Mary became united with that of the Pachamama for many of the indigenous people (a later post will be devoted to the subject of conversion of the Gods)

While the Inca held firm control, other people across the merged nation were free to maintain their cultural practices and speak languages of their choice, although Ikan was taught in all schools as a second language in order to ensure the free flow of ideas and as a means to maintain solidarity. It was a nation in which all people were held to be worthy and in which the bounty was equitably distributed.

As conditions in many parts the nation could be harsh, terrace farming in the mountains and valleys, served to increase the amount of scarce arable land.  This, along with a significant knowledge base surrounding farming methods, allowed the Inca to plan for periods when drought or other natural disaster’s interrupted food production. The Inca also possed a high degree of knowledge in predicting future weather patterns such as El Nino as a means to prepare for drought and other weather-related challenges.

In the great Inca nation, “The importance of Agricultural activity made it so Mother Earth was considered as one of the fundamental divinities, as the Inka’s considered it as their Mother who they adapted themselves to, respecting and venerating it as it was their life support, and their success and survival depended on it. It was symbolized by the stair-like design.” (Presenting Machupicchu, p. 74-75)

The Moray Archeological Site

On one field trip in Peru, we traveled 50 kilometers northwest of Cuzco to a high plateau (11,500 feet), to visit the Moray site. The design is oriented in a manner and in a location that allowed for the variances of light, heat, and wind to be controlled. The temperature difference in that hundred-foot depression can vary as much as 15 degrees.

It is theorized the site allowed the Inca’s to experiment with a variety of plant and vegetable types to determine which would best grow at various altitudes and under a wide variety of climatic conditions. Given that Peru is now home to over 3000 types of potatoes (the seeds of which are shipped around the world) as well as many other specialized seed products, suggests the Inca’s were masters at researching and managing the agricultural production of the nation. (1)(3)

The Past and Present come together

A few days after returning home from this inspiring adventure, an article appeared on the front page of the Times Colonist, titled, “Into the world of plants — some eat their prey.” The article described an ongoing program at the University of Victoria’s, Glover Greenhouse, in which one display demonstrates, “…growth chambers where plants grow under conditions with light and temperature carefully controlled and monitored.” (March 9, 2019, Times Colonist).  It is amazing to see how closely the Glover experiments paralleled many of the Inca methods found at Moray.

On the surface at least, the Glover Project at UVIC seems to be very similar to that developed by the Inca some 400 years earlier, although the Inca experiment was carried out on a much larger scale.  The Moray Experimental Station

Future Posts

Over the coming days and weeks, dozens of other aspects of the Inca and other South American cultures will be explored. However, among all the groups, the Inca were the most amazing people whose empire was destroyed and the remaining people nearly crushed by powerful national and religious institutions whose leaders had no understanding of how to become at one with Mother Earth.

While the Inca nation did not survive the onslaught, their ancestors are alive and well as they continue to rebuild many of the institutions and traditions as well as historical sites that served the Inca so well. Among those institutions, the God’s of the Inca are regaining a place of honour among the Peruvian people.

As for our own nation and others, many of the present day climate challenges we face, challenges that could well destroy the future of our children or children’s children, were largely caused by our inability to treat Mother Earth with respect.  The Inca Nation, as with most Indigenous peoples in other parts of the Americas, understood those challenges and acted accordingly.  Will we learn that lesson in time to save Mother Earth?


(I) “The widest consensus, however, is that the pre-Columbian Moray – the name means “dried corn” – was the world’s first agricultural research center, where Incan priest-scientists experimented with wild vegetable crops to determine which should be disseminated for domestic production to farmers with fields all over the Andean region. Pollen samples found in Moray indicate that a huge variety of crops grew there – perhaps not surprising, since about 60 percent of the world’s food crops originated in the Andes, including all known forms of potatoes, the most familiar types of corn, and, of course, the lima bean, named for the Spanish capital that succeeded Cuzco.”   (Farm Experiments)

(2) Several of the photos of the fields in the slideshow presented in Peru, A Different Perspective:  show fields on the plateau leading to the Moray archeological site.  That plateau sits near 11,500 feet.  We didn’t notice any effects as we have been at that high altitude for several days.

(3)  Ollantaytambo (photo taken while on tour)

The valleys of the Urubamba and Patakancha Rivers along Ollantaytambo are covered by an extensive set of agricultural terraces or andenes which start at the bottom of the valleys and climb up the surrounding hills. The andenes permitted farming on otherwise unusable terrain; they also allowed the Incas to take advantage of the different ecological zones created by variations in altitude.[28]Terraces at Ollantaytambo were built to a higher standard than common Inca agricultural terraces; for instance, they have higher walls made of cut stones instead of rough fieldstones. This type of high-prestige terracing is also found in other Inca royal estates such as Chinchero, Pisaq, and Yucay.[29] (Wiki)    More photos and a slideshow to follow in a future post.

(4) Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. She is also known as the earth/time mother.[1] In Inca mythology, Pachamama is a fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting, embodies the mountains, and causes earthquakes. She is also an ever-present and independent deity who has her own self-sufficient and creative power to sustain life on this earth.


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  • Mike Fedorowich

    September 1, 2023 |

    I have gone through the above noted text and have found it quite informative.
    I am a former member with several law enforcement agencies from across Canada.
    I worked in the First Nations service under the authority of the RCMP with the over sight of the OPP. My law enforcement service was conducted under the authority of the Nishnawbe – Aski Police Service in North West Ontario the Louis Bull Police Sevice in Hobbema AB, the Kitasoo Xaixais Police Service in Northern in side passage on Swindle Island, the Lac Suel Police Service North West Ontario and the Vancouver Transit Authority Sky Train Police Service. I’m presently dealing with an RCMP member for falsifying a report against me for a road rage event. Court case is finished and the charge was dropped but I have an on going complaint with the member and have forwarded to the WATCH DOGS IN OTTAWA FOR the RCMP review and consideration. I believe the said officer is in violation of his oath of office and should be held accountable for falsifying his RTCC all the while dragging me through the court system here in Nanaimo. RCMP continue to stonewall the appeal but Ottawa and the crowns office are still looking into the matter. if your able and find the time or the interest in this very brief introduction, I would very much like to speak with you and would be grateful to hear any wisdom that may come across from your end. I served with First Nations Police Services for ten years in isolation and six years with Transit Police out of New West Minster. I do value and appreciate any time you could spare to chat for a bit on this particular subject matter. Respectfully with out anger but an open mind, Mike Fedorowich Nanaimo BC 250 667 0060

  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email:

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.