Soften the rock

Karnataka state – Hangal
Shripad S Akkivalli – from the horticulture department

Shripad mentions that these stones are sculpted as though it were wax. He says that there are many theories to how stones were shaped. One theory he heard from his father about a plant which softened stone. Shripad believes that a plant exists or existed which sculptors of ancient India used to soften stones so that they could create works of art which we
see today in thousands of temples.

Literal translation whats is said in video : (Local kannada language)
One day when his father was crossing a river with few people, suddenly a person appears. He brings the herbs from a field and scrubs on rough surfaced stone that his father and other people are carrying.

As the person who bought herb scrubs on the stone, it becomes smooth, soft and shining. So his father enquirer about the herb, it’s name and where it is grown but the man did not reveal the information.

So the jist of story is that there are herbs which softens the stone.



Extensive spanish research



The plant the inca’s used to soften the rock. The legend speaks of a liquid derived from plants which was known to the ancients to turn the stones soft.

Explorers, such as the legendary Percy Fawcett, also brought back tales of such a substance

Brian Fawcett, 1906-1984
Ruins In The Sky (1958)


Brian Fawcett, 1906-1984; Editor
Exploration Fawcett; Arranged From His Manuscripts, Letters, Log-Books, and Records, 1953; also entitled Lost Trails, Lost Cities: An Explorer’s Narrative by Colonel P. H. Fawcett, 1953)
* Lt. Colonel Percival Harrison Fawcett, 1867 – circa 1925
* See also Geraldine Cummins, 1890-1969
* See also Peter Fleming, 1907-1971
* See also David Grann


Lawrence Fawcett (Lawrence Anthony Fawcett), 1939-2010; Barry J. Greenwood

From pp75 -77…

.. Talking of birds, all through the Peruvian and Bolivian Montana is to be found a small bird like a kingfisher, which makes its nest in neat round holes in the rocky escarpment above the river. These holes can plainly be seen, but are not usually accessible, and strangely enough they are found only where the birds are present. I once expressed surprise that they were lucky enough to find nesting-holes conveniently placed for them, and so neatly hollowed out – as though with a drill.
“They make the holes themselves.” The words were spoken by a man who had spent a quarter of a century in the forests. “I’ve seen how they do it, many a time. I’ve watched, I have, and seen the birds come to the cliff with leaves of some sort in their beaks, and cling to the rock like woodpeckers to a tree while they rubbed the leaves in a circular motion over the surface. Then they would fly off, and come back with more leaves, and carry on with the rubbing process. After three or four repetitions they dropped the leaves and started pecking at the place with their sharp beaks, and – here’s the marvellous part – they would soon open out a round hole in the stone. Then off they’d go again, and go through the rubbing process with leaves several times before continuing to peck. It took several days, but finally they had opened out holes deep enough to contain their nests. I’ve climbed up and taken a look at them, and, believe me, a man couldn’t drill a neater hole!”
“Do you mean to say that the bird’s beak can penetrate solid rock?”
“A woodpecker’s beak penetrates solid wood, doesn’t it? …No, I don’t think the bird can get through solid rock. I believe, as everyone who has watched them believes, that those birds know of a leaf with juice that can soften up rock till it’s like wet clay.”

Much later in the journals Colonel Fawcett returned to the subject of this plant. On page 252, Fawcett is discussing the Incan Empire and states “I have heard it said that they fitted their stones together by means of a liquid that softened the surfaces to be joined to the consistency of clay.” He then recounts the following in a footnote.

Another friend of mine told me the following story:
“Some years ago, when I was working in the mining camp at Cerro de Pasco (a place 14,000 feet up in the Andes of Central Peru), I went out one Sunday with some other Gringos to visit some old Inca or Pre-Inca graves – to see if we could find anything worthwhile. We took our grub with us, and, of course, a few bottles of pisco and beer; and a peon – a cholo – to help dig.
“Well, we had our lunch when we got to the burial place, and afterwards started in to open up some graves that seemed to be untouched. We worked hard, and knocked off every now and then for a drink. I don’t drink myself, but the others did, especially one chap who poured too much pisco into himself and was inclined to be noisy. When we knocked off, all we had found was an earthenware jar of about a quart capacity, and with liquid inside it.
” ‘I bet it’s chicha! said the noisy one. ‘Let’s try it and see what sort of stuff the Incas drank!’
” ‘Probably poison us if we do,’ observed another.
” ‘Tell you what, then – let’s try it on the peon!’
“They dug the seal and stopper out of the jar’s mouth, sniffed at the contents and called the peon over to them.
” ‘Take a drink of this chicha,’ ordered the drunk. The peon took the jar, hesitated, and then with an expression of fear spreading over his face thrust it into the drunk’s hands and backed away.
” ‘No, no, senor,’ he murmured. ‘Not that. That’s not chicha!’ He turned and made off.
“The drunk put the jar down on a flat-topped rock and set off in pursuit. ‘Come on, boys – catch him!’ he yelled. They caught the wretched man, dragged him back, and ordered him to drink the contents of the jar. The peon struggled madly, his eyes popping. There was a bit of a scrimmage, and the jar was knocked over and broken, its contents forming a puddle on the top of the rock. Then the peon broke free and took to his heels.
“Everyone laughed. It was a huge joke. But the exercise had made them thirsty and they went over to the sack where the beer-bottles lay.
“About ten minutes later I bent over the rock and casually examined the pool of spilled liquid. It was no longer liquid; the whole patch where it had been, and the rock under it, were as soft as wet cement! It was as though the stone had melted, like wax under the influence of heat.”

To summarise – it is described as growing around a foot tall and has dark reddish leaves, and is found in Peru and Bolivia. The leaves are utilised by a particular bird to create its nesting holes in the stone escarpment above rivers. It was reputedly used by the ancient peoples of the region to soften stone to create neat fitting joints for construction. According to the accounts, it may also swiftly corrode metal.  I am also minded of the Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull and I wonder whether, if it exists, the plant could have been used to shape such an artefact as that.


Hiram Bingham, who (re)discovered Machu Picchu. Hiram Bingham, wrote in his book Across South America, of a plant he had heard of whose juices softened rock.


Furthermore, Jorge A. Lira, a Catholic priest, in 1983 said he was able to recreate this stone softening, but was unable to figure out how to make the stones hard again.

In an interview in 1983, Jorge A. Lira, a Catholic priest who was an expert in Andean folklore, said that he had rediscovered the ancient method of softening stone. According to a pre-Columbian legend the gods had given the Indians two gifts to enable them to build colossal architectural works such as Sacsayhuaman and Machu Picchu. The gifts were two plants with amazing properties. One of them was the coca plant, whose leaves enabled the workers to sustain the tremendous effort required. The other was a plant which, when mixed with other ingredients, turned hard stone into a malleable paste. Padre Lira said he had spent 14 years studying the legend and finally succeeded in identifying the plant in question, which he called ‘jotcha’. He carried out several experiments and, although he managed to soften solid rock, he could not reharden it, and therefore considered his experiments a failure.4



Hiram Bingham roamed South America in the early 1900s and is credited with rediscovering Machu Picchu in 1911. He relates the following in his book “Across South America”



stone stone2

That is at Karnak. It’s stashed out of the way, no tour group

Native American rock art in the Kodachrome Basin state park in Utah.


At present we do not know exactly how all the ‘Inca-style’ structures were built. The use of stone-softening agents for softening the surface of stone blocks or for softening or disaggregating entire blocks prior to pouring or compacting the material into moulds cannot be ruled out. The use of advanced tools is also a possibility. The only thing that is beyond doubt is that the primitive manual techniques favoured by mainstream researchers cannot explain everything.


Curiously, marks on some of the stones at Saksaywaman look remarkably like stray marks on our modern concrete—indicative of being molded or scraped into shape.


In Colonal Fawcett’s exploration of South America – ‘Journey to the Lost City of Z’. This thread isn’t about him or his explorations, however, but just one thing that he comments on in his account. The journals are peppered with his observations on natural history and this involves one of those observations. Fawcett relates that at first he dismissed it as a “tall tale”, then after hearing further accounts, as a “popular tradition” but eventually he heard another story that convinced him of the existance of this plant that can soften rock. This later story involved a man wearing spurs who, having lost his horse, was forced to walk some distance and passed through thick bush to find on the other side that his spurs had been eaten away. On discussing the matter, this man was informed that what had eaten his spurs away was the wide patch of growth of a certain plant “about a foot high, with dark reddish leaves” that he had passed through. He was told “… That’s the stuff the Incas used for shaping stones. The juice will soften rock up till it’s like paste. …”




Other information I got researching this, confirming this plant extract story from the other side of the world.

At Borobudur, the rocks were cut and softened with a mixture of apparently 7 plants ( only few still exist) ,when softened they were cut into the seizes needed for the structure and for “carving”.. the carvings seems to have been done as done with something like a sharpend piece of Bamboo.. more like inscribing than carving.. Archaeologists had searched for years for left over from the carvings.. nothing could be found..

After the scenes of Buddha and his teachings were moulded into the soft/sandy rock. the rock was covered with another mixture to harden .. .. so the spiritual guardian of Borobudur has told me..





There is another hypothesis, very original. Manufacturers have used a lost art which allowed to soften and shape the stones. Yes, you read correctly.

Hiram Bingham, the discoverer of Machu Picchu, has “heard of a plant which juice could make the rock so malleable that the tightest fittings became possible.” (source)


Fawcett also reported having heard that the stones had been arranged thanks to a fluid which gave them the consistency of clay.

Having found a jar in a pre-Inca tomb, he wanted to put it in safety but it broke on a rock: “Ten minutes later, I examined the pool by accident. It was no more liquid; the entire area where it had poured, and the underlying rock had become soft like cement! It seemed that the stone had melted like heated wax.” (source)

The jar contained the juice of a plant that local villagers knew well. They could describe it with details: one foot high, dark red leaves, it grows in the Chuncho, Peru.

Oiseau quetzal, typique d'Amérique du sudSoft stones mystery have an even better issue; David Childress reports what sounds like a kind of fairy tale : a biologist, in Amazonia, was watching a bird making its nest on a rock face. He “would have seen the bird rubbing the wall with a stick. He would have noticed then that the rock is dissolved on contact with the sap, leaving a cavity where the bird could lay out its nest.” (source)In this case, there is no problem of line drawing, nor of cutting, nor of fitting. The soft paste flows in its place, and before it solidifies, a mason simply cut in it the edges and dovetails with a wooden shovel.




It will be objected that if the wall was poured into a mold cement, why would the builders poured different stones? Our concrete walls are cast in one block, or built in regular blocks.

There is another hypothesis given by a specialist of stone diseases, Louis C. Kervran.


This passionate researcher showed that “under the effect of certain organic bacteria and enzymes, the granite kaolinized. It was replaced on one to several centimeters thick, by a soft rock that can be cut with a knife without difficulty.


Fig. 5.4 Work marks: cups, pans and troughs.6

Hiram Bingham roamed South America in the early 1900s and is credited with rediscovering Machu Picchu in 1911. He relates the following:

The modern Peruvians are very fond of speculating as to the method which the Incas employed to make their stones fit so perfectly. One of the favorite stories is that the Incas knew of a plant whose juices rendered the surface of a block so soft that the marvellous fitting was accomplished by rubbing the stones together for a few moments with this magical plant juice!1

Similar tales were heard by another explorer, Percy Fawcett, who disappeared with his older son in 1925 during an expedition to find an ancient lost city in the uncharted jungles of Brazil:

Aukanaw, an Argentine anthropologist of Mapuche origin, who died in 1994, related a tradition about a species of woodpecker known locally by such names as pitiwe, pite, and pitio; its scientific name is probably Colaptes pitius (Chilean flicker), which is found in Chile and Argentina, or Colaptes rupicola (Andean flicker), which is found in southern Ecuador, Peru, western Bolivia, and northern Argentina and Chile. If someone blocks the entrance to its nest with a piece of rock or iron it will fetch a rare plant, known as pito or pitu, and rub it against the obstacle, causing it to become weaker or dissolve. In Peru, above 4500 m, there is said to be a plant called kechuca which turns stone to jelly, and which the jakkacllopito bird uses to make its nest. A plant with similar properties that grows at even higher altitudes is known, among other things, as punco-punco; this may be Ephedra andina, which the Mapuche consider a medicinal plant.5

Fig. 5.14 Colaptes rupicola.

Fig. 5.15 Ephedra andina.

There is an ancient tradition that the buildings at Great Zimbabwe in Africa were constructed ‘when the stones were soft’. This expression is also found among the Maoris.6 One possible interpretation is that it refers to a method of temporarily softening the stone.

Modern ‘experts’ scoff at anecdotes and traditions such as these. They argue that the quarries where the Incas cut their stones are known, and stones can be found there in all stages of preparation. However, the fact that some stones were cut with ordinary tools does not necessarily mean that they all were. A variety of techniques may have been used. The proper scientific attitude would be to put these traditions to the test instead of mindlessly dismissing them. After all, it is no secret that certain plants (e.g. in the Alps) that are ecologically adapted to life in rock crevices secrete acids to soften the rock.

In the 1930s, while studying mining and construction techniques, engineer J.L. Outwater examined a temple at Mitla, in Oaxaca, Mexico. This temple is ornamented by about 30,000 thin, flat pieces of stone. These tile-like pieces were derived from trachyte, a dense, durable rock that does not split easily like slate. He discovered a huge stone cauldron near a quarry and wondered whether the Maya had soaked stones in some chemical to soften them before making their tiles.7

Researcher Maurice Cotterell, too, believes that pre-Inca and Inca stonemasons possessed the technology to soften and pour stone.

We can do this today but only in one direction, from soft to hard; we call it concrete. It seems that the Incas and the Tiahuanacos could take the process one step further, from hard to soft again, using igneous rocks. At first this seems incomprehensible, but given the molecular structure of matter it is simply a question of overcoming the covalent bonds that bind atoms together. We can do this to ice, when we turn it to water, and we do it again when we turn water into steam. This explains how the Incas and Tiahuanacos assembled stones with such perfect precision. Close examination of the rounded edges of the stones suggests that the stone material has been ‘poured’, as though it were once contained within a sack or bag which had long since rotted and disappeared.8

If softened stone had been placed in ‘bags’ that were left to rot, some trace of them would surely have been found.

Fig. 5.16 Part of a wall in Cuzco, not far from the Coricancha.9
One of the stones has 14 angles.

Fig. 5.17 Niches carved into the solid rock at Ollantaytambo, as though the mountain was made of clay.

Fig. 5.18 Pre-Inca carved rock face known as the Doorway of
Amaru Muru (or Aramu Muru), Vilca Uta, Lake Titicaca.

Many researchers have commented on how ‘Inca’ stones look as though they have been cut like butter to produce perfect fits. Some see the fact that certain stones fit into a concave depression in the rock beneath as a sign that they did not have the same hardness during construction. The faces of many stones, particularly at Sacsayhuaman, show strange circular or rectangular indentations and ‘scrape marks’ that might have been made when the rock was softer.10 Charles Casale has said that on some very large stone blocks there appear to be traces of medium-sized stones hidden just beneath the surface, which seem to have been ‘plastered’ over with a stone layer.11 It has also been suggested that the cup-shaped, square-shaped and trough-shaped ‘work marks’ mentioned earlier were made after the surface had been softened.

Fig. 5.19 Wall at Sacsayhuaman.

Regarding the copper ties that link certain stones together, the official view is that the copper was smelted locally and poured into ready-made grooves in the blocks. If the straps had been poured in situ, the top of the strap should be slightly convex due to surface tension experienced in the casting process, and the bottom would have adopted the contours of the fissure between the two stone blocks being joined. According to Maurice Cotterell, straps found at Ollantaytambo have a flat top and bottom, and he suggests that ready-made copper strips were pushed into the surface of the blocks after the surface had been softened.12 Protzen, however, says no metal ties have been found at Ollantaytambo, though many have been found at Tiwanaku.

The work of geopolymer expert Joseph Davidovits is relevant to the discussion of stone softening. He has put forward compelling arguments that the ancient Egyptians built some of their major pyramids and temples using reagglomerated stone. Soft limestone was soaked in water to turn it into a slurry and was then mixed with ingredients such as kaolin, natron salt and lime. The mixture was then poured and compacted into moulds, where it hardened into synthetic stone blocks, 95% of whose weight consisted of natural limestone. But whereas fossil shells in natural limestone tend to lie flat, in reconstituted limestone they are randomly oriented. Synthetic limestone blocks show varying densities, with the topmost layer being the least dense. They sometimes contain air bubbles and organic fibres as well. Samples of pyramid blocks examined under an optical microscope appear to be natural rock; it is only under an electron microscope or during X-ray analysis that evidence of synthetic constituents emerges.13

A 2006 study by materials engineer Michel Barsoum and his colleagues supported Davidovits’ claims that some of the blocks used in the pyramids were made from a limestone-based form of concrete. Using scanning and transmission electron microscopy, they found that pyramid samples had mineral ratios that did not exist in any known limestone sources.14 However, that didn’t stop the head of Egypt’s Antiquities Department, Zahi Hawass, from dismissing the hypothesis as ‘plain stupid, idiotic and insulting’.

Davidovits has also argued that the disaggregation of stone materials with organic acids from plant extracts was a universal technique in antiquity. Pliny mentions the use of vinegar (acetic acid) in the disaggregation of limestone rocks, and Hannibal (219 BC) used the technique to bore holes in and burst open rocks obstructing his path through the Alps in his attempt to conquer Rome. Davidovits and his coworkers have demonstrated that a solution containing acetic, oxalic, and citric acid (obtained from plants) can disaggregate rocks containing calcium carbonate (e.g. limestone and calcite). He draws attention to the extraordinary skill in fabricating stone objects displayed by the pre-Inca Huanka (or Wanka) civilization. Some contemporary shamans belonging to the Huanka tradition do not use tools to make their small stone objects, but use plant extracts to dissolve the stone material (which contains calcite) and then pour the slurry into a mould where it hardens. He believes the same technique was used to make the earlier statues.15

Davidovits is therefore proposing a process in which limestone, calcite and related rocks are disaggregated and then hardened in a mould after a ‘geological glue’ is added, rather than a process in which only the surface of natural blocks is softened and then rehardened. Water and plant acids cannot be used to disaggregate hard igneous rock such as granite and basalt. So either some other agent would have to be used for this purpose, or sufficient quantities of naturally disaggregated granite etc. would have to be found, or natural stone was cut, shaped and hollowed out using manual tools or machine tools. There is strong evidence that advanced machine tools must have been used to make certain ancient Egyptian artefacts.16

Fig. 5.20 Precision-machined granite block next to Khafre’s Valley Temple, Giza.

At present we do not know exactly how all the ‘Inca-style’ structures were built. The use of stone-softening agents for softening the surface of stone blocks or for softening or disaggregating entire blocks prior to pouring or compacting the material into moulds cannot be ruled out. The use of advanced tools is also a possibility. The only thing that is beyond doubt is that the primitive manual techniques favoured by mainstream researchers cannot explain everything.

Uploaded on 28 May 2011

Shripad S Akkivalli narrates his father seeing a plant which softened stone. Shripad believes that a plant exists or existed which sculptors of ancient India used to soften stones so that they could create works of art which we see today in thousands of temples.

Gallery of scoop marks, Egypt, Aswan and other locations around the world.

San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan, Veracruz :   Classified as “unusual” olmec head. To me, this is just an example how they where made. Stone made soft.


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