What would the ancient Incans have needed with thousands of holes, all around three feet wide, and two to three feet deep? This question has plagued archaeologists ever since an aerial photograph, pictured above, publicized the phenomenon in 1931. When archaeologists got there in person, they found that the holes had been constructed by people, either by creating a pile of soil and digging a hole in that, or by piling stones in a circle. While this dispelled the rumor that the holes had been created by ancient aliens, it provided absolutely no hint as to who did make them, and why.
One of the earliest theories was that they were in fact all empty graves, and that the bodies had been destroyed by various natural phenomena over hundreds of years, but another man named Charles Stanish, an archaeologist working at the University of California, Los Angeles, wasn’t convinced by this explanation.
In 2015, Charles Stanish took a team down to the Band of Holes, where they created a more detailed map of the holes, numbering 6,000, and became increasingly convinced that the holes dated to the time when the Incans conquered the Chinchan people. Based off of that belief, he hypothesized that the holes were actually a way of measuring the tax a Chinchan family would have to pay to their new overlords. There is circumstantial evidence for this — Monte Sierpe, the location of the Band of Holes, lies close to an administrative center of the Incan Empire, the place where taxes would have been collected, and the Incans had used similar schemes in other locations. They have yet to find conclusive proof, but Stanish plans to return, and look for microscopic evidence that would have been left behind. For the time being, the Band of Holes remains mysterious.