Machu Picchu

Inside MapiPhoto by Maria Grazia Montagnari

The Lost City of the Incas, a place that was hidden for more than 400 years, a city that the Spaniards never found, from 1983 on UNESCO’s list of protected world cultural heritage, one of the 7 new wonders of the world… There is lot of epithets to describe Machu Picchu and it is no wonder that the place is so attractive to people who come from all over the world in order to see this jewel of the Inca people. Machu Picchu is located at an altitude of 2,450 meters, 112 km northwest of Cusco. Name Machu Picchu in translation means “old peak”.

It is believed that the city was built around 1440 during the reign of Pachacuti (1438-1472) when the Inca Empire was at its peak, but there are theories that it was built earlier. To this day the real purpose of Machu Picchu is not known, there are a few theories about that, but the two most common ones are that it was a mansion for Emperor or a religious shrine to the Virgin of the sun god. No one knows for sure why the city was abandoned 100 years later, again there are only theories, one states that it was deliberately abandoned during colonization or that the population died of syphilis that was brought by the Spaniards.

All of this only contributes to the mystics of this place full of secrets. The Incas did not have any written testimony, what we know about them comes mostly from the records of the Spanish colonizers.

The city was discovered in 1911, by American archaeologist Hiram Bingham, which means that the city was hidden from the eyes of the world for over 400 years. Today nothing is certain when it comes to Machu Picchu, even the situation surrounding its discovery.

Apparently, some archaeologists came before Hiram to the city, three were even signed on one of the rocks in 1901. If we ignore the question of whose foot stepped first, there is still the fact that local residents knew about the city, reportedly some even lived here and cultivated terraces but the city itself was not too interesting to them, they were just some old ruins on the hill. So, even the discovery of Machu Picchu is not a “discovery” in the true sense of the word, Hiram was brought here by local farmer names Alvarez.

So the people who lived here in the vicinity knew where the city is. Hiram presented the city to the public and this was the reason his name is linked to this greatest discovery in the history of archeology. A lot at Machu Picchu only fuels the imagination and enhances the mystique that the city already has, its construction, use, disappearance and subsequent discovery of the unknown. Many today believe that not everything is discovered about the place where Machu Picchu lies, like hidden treasure or cemetery which supposedly lies beneath today’s main entrance to the site.

Hiram after he discovered the city took back to the Yale University from 4000 to 40,000 objects but reportedly found no valuable treasures. This unknown number of objects was the cause of many years of litigation, which Peru won in 2010, 100 years after the objects were taken away. Today in Machu Picchu about 30% percent of buildings are reconstructed and reconstruction is still ongoing.

The large number of tourists who came to the site had to be limited to 2000-2500 per day by the Peruvian government in 2011 in order to keep the city from erosion, excessive exploitation and possible damage. So if you want to visit Machu Picchu you will have to get your entrance tickets a month earlier but believe me it is worth every effort.




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