Lima (AFP) - Archaeological sites buried under a former imperial capital in Peru will be studied by experts to map out relics hidden below the historic city.
The study of Cusco, the capital of the ancient Inca empire located in Peru's southeast, will use new technologies to electronically analyze buried artifacts without disturbing the soil, officials said.
The analysis is expected to allow a better understanding of how the city existed in ancient times, before the arrival of the Spanish in 1533.
Meaning "center" or "navel" in the Quechua language, Cusco was the hub of Incan society.
A network of roads connected the four regions of the empire through the former capital, which is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
"A mapping will not only include archeological items, but will also map history, stories and everything needed to give detailed information to understand the origin of Cusco," said Ricardo Ruiz Caro, a culture ministry representative in the city.
Pre-Inca, Inca and Spanish history is expected to be uncovered.
"Every culture built on top of each other to impose their authority and dominance," Ruiz Caro said.
Cusco and the nearby Incan citadel of Machu Picchu are the most visited places in Peru with nearly a million tourists a year.
Cusco's analysis is expected to take five years and is supported by local and international cultural organizations.
Workers repairing a street in the city two months ago uncovered remains of a pre-Spanish bridge with six foot walls and stairs.
The city closed off the area to protect it and said it was exploring the bridge and other remains of ancient Cusco.
"The historic center of Cusco is like an overlay of several skins, you lift a stone and you find amazing vestiges of earlier cultures," Ruiz Caro said.
For example, the uncovered temple of Qurikancha in the city features Inca architecture and is topped by the Santo Domingo monastery built by the Spanish in 1663.
Under the historic center of Cusco are palaces, residences of Inca nobility, canals, bridges and tunnels leading to temples, archaeologists said.
"There is an entire neighborhood called Kotacalle which we are placing value on and seems to be an Inca royal quarter," Ruiz Caro said.