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The colonial papers have not explained the presence of such distant colonies, but they have introduced a topic fundamental to understanding Andean success: given the apparently inhospitable environments of both the desert coast and the nearby high Andes, how could so many separate societies have fed such enormous populations and constructed highways, palaces, and temples in what were clearly urban centres for so many centuries? His solution took into account a unique aspect of Andean ecology: the greatest population concentration (more than 1,000,000 people) and the highest agricultural productivity occurred around Lake Titicaca, which is some 12,500 feet above sea level.Nowhere else in the world—not even in Tibet or Nepal—has cultivation been so successful at such a high altitude.In modern Peru irrigation eventually may permit the cultivation of the lower reaches of most rivers.
The Inca of Cuzco (Cusco) were themselves newcomers to most of the regions that they came to dominate.
Usually this evidence has been recovered by professional grave looters but sometimes also by archaeologists themselves.
One of the most remarkable of the latter type of finds is the grave of a Moche leader that was discovered near the village of Sipan on the northern coast of Peru in the mid-1980s.
Although they usually required additional nurture and processing that were beyond the procedures familiar today, the bitter varieties represented a gain in total productivity.
A significant improvement in agriculture was the construction of massive terraces, which not only extended the cultivated area but also created protected microclimates where particular varieties could flourish.