Culture Acquired, Unexpected Lessons Learned in Machu Picchu: Pt. I
By Ben Bartee - June 24, 2024

Originally published via Armageddon Prose

I return, noble Armageddon Prose reader, bearing gifts in the form of sordid sociological, archaeological, and philosophical observations of varying quality, which you may or may not appreciate. But gift horses, mouths, etc.

First, before we get all nihilistic and cynical, regarding the world-famous Inca ruins themselves —the ostensible reason my wife insisted we trek across the altiplano (high plains) of Puno up into Cusco and up further into the “high jungle” (or the “cloud forest”) as it’s called, at the nexus between the Amazon and the Andes — all of the crowds, the hassle, the time and money, the being ferried to and fro, etc. justified itself in spades.

Truth in advertising being a rare thing, Machu Picchu lives up to the hype and, if anything, exceeds it.

Materialists don’t often countenance vibes, so there can be no persuading them on this score, but the aesthetic and the feelings Machu Picchu evokes are sublime. I might go so far as to claim transcendent.

Video doesn’t do it proper justice.


The official story promulgated by mainstream archaeology is that Machu Picchu is approximately 600 years old, having been built by the Incas sometime around 1450 A.D.

Our tour guide — a dyed-in-the-wool bona fide native visually uncorrupted with a drop of European blood in his veins, trilingual in English, Spanish, and Quechua — insisted firmly (after I asked flippantly if aliens had built it) that the ruins are, in fact, far older than 600 years.

His theory — which I believe he was grateful to have a receptive audience for, me taking animal joy in debunking academic orthodoxy — was that there was once a way older civilization that built the original Machu Picchu shrine/city (no one actually knows what its original purpose was before it became a cash machine), only for its original architects to be wiped out by some natural disaster. The pre-Incas, or the Incas, or both, then discovered it, claimed it as their own, and built upon it.

One piece of crucial evidence to this effect, which you can see with your own eyes if you visit (at some point I will upload photos elsewhere in a separate publication) is that there are clearly distinctive layers of stonework, evident even to the non-trained eye, stacked on top of each other, done with different materials and in different styles, presumably by different peoples in different time periods — the lower level, peculiarly, which necessarily came first, being apparently expertly laid with perfectly shaped rocks in comparison to the relatively sloppy and haphazard second layer.

On the other hand, the evidence for the conventional 600-year-old theory is predicated on, among other things, carbon-dating, which even the most ardent proponents of The Science™ are forced to concede is often wildly inaccurate.

Via (emphasis added):

“Carbon is found in all living things and is the backbone of all molecules. We absorb it when we eat food and exhale it into the atmosphere. Radiocarbon dating compares the three different isotopes (a type of atom) of carbon.

The most abundant, carbon-12, remains stable in the atmosphere. It’s a good yardstick to measure the age of skeletons as one of the other isotopes, carbon-14 is radioactive and decays over time.

Since animals and plants stop absorbing carbon-14 when they decay, the radioactivity of the carbon-14 that’s left behind reveals their age. But there’s a catch. Low amounts of organic material, the diet of the dead person or animal, and contamination with modern samples can skew the calculation.

Variation in dating between labs alone can be up to 1,000 years. It is like dating Queen Elizabeth II to William the Conqueror’s time.”

So, take that for what it’s worth.

How old Machu Picchu actually is, I have no idea. Like Socrates, all I know, above all, is that I know nothing. What little I do know is this:

·       a.) Machu Picchu — and this is impossible to appreciate until you are standing on the mountaintop and even more impossible to qualify in words — looks and feels (an admittedly subjective judgment) much, much more ancient than 600 years old. In some ethereal way, it appears to transcend time.

·       b.) Archaeologists are frequently and infamously proven wrong about nearly every theory they have posited in the past, many of them invented on the basis of little more than fanciful speculation dressed up on the glossy veneer of academic rigor.
The institution of science is notoriously, like any human organization, given to groupthink and self-serving narratives. Archaeologists build their entire careers and reputations on one invented theory, only to inevitably see their life’s work challenged by some snot-nosed up-and-comer. The resentment and hostility crescendo when they feel most threatened, and thus any true innovation in the field is invariably met with fierce resistance.

On the second score, we have the rebellious gadfly Graham Hancock vs. Dr. Flint Bibble, the latter being a steadfast defender of The Science™ with sleeves six inches too long who has, as one commenter on the video pointed out, achieved peak congruity between his outward appearance/demeanor and his name.

As with all Rogan episodes, it’s long, but it’s worth a watch to observe academic hubris in its purest form.


To be continued…

Ben Bartee, author of Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile, is an independent Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs.

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