Machu Picchu history
Machu Picchu, or “The lost city of the Incas” as it is often called, is not as old as many people think. Machu Picchu was constructed by the Incas around year 1430 AD, but to what purpose is unknown.
Some believe the city was constructed simply as a recreation place for the Inca emperor Pachacuti and other important Incas. Another theory is that Machu Picchu was used as a retreat, hence the hidden location high up in the mountains. Others say it was used as a temple to the gods and served as a hub between other sacred Inca sites.
Machu Picchu is made up of two main areas; the agricultural area and the urban area. The agricultural area is made up of the terraces that are so typical for Machu Picchu. These terraces were used to grow the crops needed to feed the inhabitants of the city. There was more than enough space to grow crops to feed the maximum number of inhabitants in the city.
Even though it might seem unpractical to grow crops high up in the mountains, it was actually not that hard. One thing that made this possible was that the crops did not need any irrigation, due to the constant rains and ever-present humidity. Another purpose of the terraces was also to help reduce the risk of erosion caused by the rain.
The urban part of Machu Picchu is made up of temples, palaces, storehouses, workshops, stairways and living quarters. The architectural design was based on the capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco.
The constructions throughout the city follow the natural curves of the land, which makes the city and its surrounding blend so magically well together. The Incas architectural skills – and their masonry in particular – is something truly amazing. On all but the least important buildings, the Incas did not use any mortar when constructing the houses and temples.
This allowed to stones to move slightly which made it more resistant to earthquakes. However, this also required much more skill from the masons, as the stones need to be shaped to fit each other more precisely. Some junctions in the central city are so perfect that not even a straw of grass fits between the stones.
Regardless of its main purpose, it is known that Machu Picchu served as a shrine to the gods and as a place of worship to the mountains surrounding it. Through the urban part of the city, “replica stones” can be found.
These stones have been shaped to match the mountains behind them, which show the Incas devotion to the mountains and the mountain god “Apo”.
Another key place in Machu Picchu, located on one of the northeast hills, is the Intiwatana stone. In the native language, Quechua, “inti” means “sun” and “wata” “year”. This describes one of the specific functions of this stone.Researchers believe the Incas used it as an astronomic clock or a calendar, by looking at the movement of the shadow cast by the stone during sunlight. The stone was also believed to serve as an altar and shrine to the gods.
To many researchers surprise, Machu Picchu seems to have been abandoned by the Incas only 100 years after its construction. There is clear evidence that the Spanish never found Machu Picchu, which indicates that the city was abandoned before the Spanish conquer of the Inca Empire. Why they abandoned Machu Picchu is still very much unknown.
Theories suggest that diseases such as small pox killed much of its population, which made the city too hard and expensive to maintain. Other suggests that they abandoned the city in order to please the gods, after the death of the Inca leader Pachacuti.
Covered in mystery
As the Incas did not write anything down for the afterworld the read, much is still unknown about the Inca Empire in general and Machu Picchu in particular. What the true purpose of the city was, how they lived and why it eventually was abandoned will forever, just like Machu Picchu itself, be covered in clouds of mystery.
The remarkable ruins of the city were rediscovered in 1911 by the American archeologist and professor, Hiram Bingham. Even though it’s debated whether or not he was the first foreigner to visit Machu Picchu, Bingham was the one who brought Machu Picchu to the outside world.
Why visit Machu Picchu ?
The ancient city of Machu Picchu is one of Peru’s most famous destinations and a main symbol of the Incas. Today Machu Picchu is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year.
This is hardly suprising, as Machu Picchu truly is one of a kind. Machu Picchu combines sheer beauty, incredible architecture, mysterious history and breathtaking landscape in a way few other sites can match.
The remains of this ancient city is considered one of the worlds true wonders, as it has been voted into the official “The seven wonders of the world”-list. A visit to Peru, but not Machu Picchu, is no visit at all!
Machu Picchu location
Machu Picchu is situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in southern Peru. It is located around 80 kilometres northwest of the city of Cuzco .
Machu Pichu is located high up in the mountains, 2450 meters above sea level, between the two mountain peaks “Huayana Picchu” and “Machu Picchu”. The former means “Young Mountain” and the later, which has given the city its name, means “Ancient Mountain”.
For the exact location of Machu Picchu, check out the location Map to the right.