As we wind up our adventure through Peru, we thought it would be fun to see what this glorious country has given us in terms of inventions. Let’s start with some of the earliest people in the region, the Incan Empire:
Thought this was a clever food storage solution developed by NASA? While they do use this process to keep astronauts sated in space, you might be surprised to learn that the first records of food being freeze-dried was potatoes in the high Andes. Incas would cover potatoes in a cloth and set them outside overnight. When the frigid temperatures would drop below 32° F, the potatoes would freeze. In the morning, the Incas would use the clothes to ring out any moisture from the potatoes and repeat the process until the desired level of freeze-drying was achieved.
These ingenious Incas would use the long-lasting potatoes as lightweight food rations for soldiers and extra was kept as an emergency supply of food in case of natural disaster, crop failure or drought.
2) Rope Bridges
The Andean Mountains are not the easiest to navigate with sheer cliffs and cavernous gorges but like many other adversities, the Incas developed a way to overcome these natural hazards. Using materials abundant to the region such as cotton, grass and wool from llamas and alpacas, the Incas created sturdy rope bridges to help them traverse gaps as wide as 150 feet. These primitive suspension bridges were attached at either side to large stone structures and were often used in the morning to avoid strong winds that could turn the bridge into a hammock. Not ones to forget safety, the Incas would rebuild the bridges each year to prevent the natural fibers from deteriorating too badly.
3) Terrace Farming
Flat fields are not the easiest to come by in the Andes, so traditional agriculture that prospered in other parts of the world was not possible for the Incas. Their solutions…Terrace Farming!
Large stepped levels were created on inclines and clever construction meant that adequate sunshine, fertile soil and drainage let the Incas yield large crops.
The same temperatures that made freeze-drying possible put the crops at risk. The Incas built stone retaining walls around the terraces to not only hold the farmland in place, but also to absorb heat during the day and radiate it through the soil at night to stop the crops from freezing.
To make the most of limited space, “the three sisters” planting method was invented. Corn would be planted and allowed to grow to a satisfactory height before beans were planted. The corn stalks acted as support beams for the beans cling to as they grew. The last step was to plant squash at the base of the beans and the corn. This concoction of vegetation had a symbiotic relationship with the beans adding nitrogen to the soil to increase the nutrient level and the squash acting as a mulch to prevent weeds and lock in moisture.
4) Llama and Alpaca Breeding Systems
These animals were paramount to the Incan Empire’s rise to power and daily survival. They provided fuel, fertilizer and meat. Their hides and wool transformed into colorful garments often worn by nobility. Through selective breeding, these domesticated animals were the ancient version of a purebred poodle. After generations of using this method, the Incas had llama and alpacas with all the specific traits they desired such as finer, softer fibers than traditional llamas.
The Incas were not the only inventive people around. Taking a look at modern day Peruvian inventions, there is the first modern rocket propulsion system by Pedro Paulet and an urban air cleaner that was built in response to the heavily polluted Peruvian capital of Lima.
5) Rocket Propulsion System
Pedro Paulet was born in Arequipa, Peru in 1874 and by 1895 was the first person to create a liquid-fuelled rocket engine. His innovations did not stop there however, in 1900 he built what is now known as a modern rocket propulsion system and became one of the “fathers of aeronautics”.
6) The Urban Air Cleaner
Taking a look at innovative advancements in more recent times, a group of Peruvians seeking a way to combat the ever-increasing smog in their capital city of Lima invented the Urban Air Purifier – 20 (UAP – 20). In February of 2009, over 100 these UAP – 20s were installed in different areas of Lima, each one having the ability to filter 200,000 cubic meters of air per day or the equivalent of what it takes 1,200 trees to do. With air pollution killing more than 2 million people annually, we can all be thankful for this advancement which absorbs carbon dioxide, filters air dust and decreases harmful bacteria.
It is safe to say that Peruvians are an inventive bunch with many of the ancient developments still present in some form of our modern life today. NASA must be especially thankful for the work of Peruvians like Pedro Paulet and their astronauts happy that they have freeze-dried food to snack on in space.
Written by Stephanie Thomas
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