The Andean city of Machu Picchu, only discovered in 1911 by the American archaeologist Hiram Bingham, is located 75 km north-west of Cuzco at an altitude of around 2400 m. It was built by the Incas in the 15th century, but probably not expanded and given up due to the Spanish conquests. According to businesscarriers, Machu Picchu with its terraces, temples and palaces is the most important ruined city in Peru and one of the most famous tourist attractions worldwide.
Machu Picchu: facts
|Official title:||Inca mountain fortress Machu Picchu|
|Natural and cultural monument:||Complete system of an urban and an agricultural part, urban system in U-shape with the south, the craftsman and the religious district, there among others. semicircular sun temple, the »Intiwatna«, the »place where the sun is tied up«, to which 78 rock steps lead up, the almost square holy place (»Inti cancha«) with 16 m side length, the »temple of the three windows« in East and the 11×8 m main temple (»carpahuasi«) in the north of the Holy Square, the royal mausoleum and the ornament chamber|
|Location:||Machu Picchu, northwest of Cuzco|
|Meaning:||one of the most fascinating urban complexes of the Inca Empire on the foothills of the Andes|
Machu Picchu: history
|15th century||probably the complex of Machu Picchu (“old summit”)|
|1776 and 1782||documented sale of Machu Picchu|
|1895||Creation of a path from Cuzco to the lower part of the “Sacred Valley of the Inca”|
|1911||under the auspices of the American Yale University Expedition of the scientists Hiram Bingham, Harry Foote and Isaia Bowman|
|1912 and 1915||further stays in Bingham|
|1934||Research by the Peruvian archaeologist Luis E. Valcárcel|
|1940/41||Research expedition under Paul Fejos|
|2004, 2005, 2010||Severe damage from rainfall and landslides impair the serpentine route to the World Heritage and trigger controversial discussions about its endangerment due to the daily crowd of visitors.|
|November 2012||Yale University hands the third and final shipment of the artifacts collected by the Bingham Expedition to the Peruvian authorities.|
Magical Inca city in the Andes
When the cloud veils lift between the mighty spikes and humps, it is as if a curtain rises and the view falls on a stage setting. Ghostly and unreal, it emerges as a stone, gray skeleton from the backdrop of the cool Andean highlands: Machu Picchu, the forgotten city of the Inca.
Between heaven and earth, in a spectacular location at almost 2,400 meters and high above the Urubamba River valley, Machu Picchu sits enthroned on a green, barren mountain spur. Who, coming from the old Inca Trail, looks down at it from afar, will hardly believe it: This piece of earth is supposed to be the famous Machu Picchu? The remains of robust houses, towers, palaces and ceremonial sites such as the Temple of the Sun, the Sacrificial Stone and the “Temple of the Three Windows” lie close together in a very small space – framed by walls and natural crevices. At one of the highest points you will find the solar observatory with its small pillar carved out of the rock, on which the astronomers placed shadow rods during their observations. The urban fabric is criss-crossed and interrupted by open spaces, paths, stairs and hanging gardens. The artificial, step-shaped cultivated terraces border up to the yawning abysses. Other terraced fields can be seen in the vicinity as well as – daringly laid out at dizzying heights – on the Huayna Picchu, the sugar-hat-shaped guardian peak above the city.
Whoever planned a complex of such bold mastery and who lived in it – Machu Picchu, for the Inca: “the old summit”, has kept its mystery to this day. No foot of Spanish conquerors has ever set foot in the city. For the conquistadors the riddle of an inaccessible hiding place remained, into which the last Inca prince Manco II and his ruling class had withdrawn. Was it the Machu Picchu refuge in the wild mountain loneliness northwest of the old imperial metropolis of Cuzco? Or was the remote place long since deserted by that time? After all, the Inca empire – even before the onslaught of the Spaniards – was torn apart and out of joint by the Succession War between Atahualpa and Huascar.
After the rediscovery of Machu Picchu by the North American researcher and historian Hiram Bingham in 1911, finds of numerous women’s skeletons initially suggested that the settlement had once been founded because of a large “Acllahuasi”, a refuge for the chosen virgins. These were the dynast’s concubines and traditionally served in temples, but also died as offerings on special occasions or were a coveted gift for the favorites of the Inca rulers. Later excavations of male bones and the structure of the entire complex speak against the Acllahuasi thesis. Areas that correspond to a city stand out clearly: the temple district, the palace zone and the collection of unadorned houses in the upper and lower quarters.
But was Machu Picchu really used as a city? As a stately city even where – according to daring theories – up to 3,000 people could have lived? And which Inca monarch initiated its construction: the expansion-loving Pachacutec Yupanqui or Huayna Capac first? Or was Machu Picchu invariably a solar sanctuary? A frequented pilgrimage center perhaps? Or a sacred place that only the rulers and priests knew about, who were careful not to reveal their secrets to the Spanish? Machu Picchu has always sparked speculation and fantasies. A magical city in the clouds, an open-air theater of history, captivating and still full of puzzles.