Not far from the Maras Salt Mines (near Cusco) lie the agricultural Inca terraces at Moray, which were re-discovered in 1932 during an expedition led by Shirppe Johnson. Restoration work is currently being done on the terraces, and only one of them is in proper condition for tourists to explore freely.
While the exact purpose of terracing in a downward circular formation is unknown, archaeological digs have provided evidence that each of the three circular terrace formations at Moray would have been used to grow staple crops of the Inca diet – such as potatoes, corn and quinoa.
In addition to terracing, the Inca were known for their ‘floating stairways’, which are large flat rocks cantilevered out from sturdily built walls. The staircases here protrude from the walls of the terraces, going up the structures in four directions from the center – which (as it was explained to me) symbolizes the four rulers (I assumed this to mean the four elements or four directions of the earth).
Moray also boasts an aqueduct system which runs down the layers of rings, providing vital water to the crops. Somehow, this system’s ingenious design did not allow the terraced craters to overflow during heavy rainfall.
Centered in the bottom circle of the terracing lie a fire pit, in which people leave offerings for Pacha Mama (mother earth). These offerings generally consist of coca leaves or Soles (local currency), though sometimes food is left as well. Quechua families traditionally come to make offerings at night, when no tourists are visiting the complex.
On October first shamans from around the world come to Moray to meet for a kind of spiritual conference at which there is a sharing of knowledge and ideas. It is during this festival that the reading of the coca leaves is done – to see if the coming year will reap good harvests.