Machu Picchu facts (wiki)
Machu Picchu (Quechua: Machu Pikchu) – “Old Mountain”, pronounced [ˈmɑtʃu ˈpixtʃu]) – is a pre-Columbian Inca site located 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level. It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, which is 80 kilometres (50 mi) northwest of Cuzco and through which the Urubamba River flows. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often referred to as “The Lost City of the Incas”, it is perhaps the most familiar icon of the Inca World.
The Incas started building the estate around AD 1400 but it was abandoned as an official site for the Inca rulers a century later at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction and, since it was not found and plundered by the Spanish after they conquered the Incas, it is important as a cultural site.
Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.
Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its primary buildings are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. These are located in what is known by archaeologists as the Sacred District of Machu Picchu. In September 2007, Peru and Yale University reached an agreement regarding the return of artifacts which Hiram Bingham had removed from Machu Picchu in the early twentieth century.
Machu Picchu was built around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire. It was abandoned just over 100 years later, in 1572, as a belated result of the Spanish Conquest. It is likely that most of its inhabitants were wiped out by smallpox before the Spanish conquistadores arrived in the area, and it appears that they were aware of a place called Piccho although there is no record of the Spanish having visited the remote city. The Conquistadors defaced sacred rocks in other locations but they are untouched at Machu Picchu.
One of the earliest theories about the purpose of the citadel, by Hiram Bingham, is that it was the traditional birthplace of the Incan “Virgins of the Suns”. Research conducted by scholars, such as John Rowe and Richard Burger, has convinced most archaeologists that Machu Picchu was an estate of the Inca emperor, Pachacuti. In addition, Johan Reinhard presented evidence that the site was selected because of its position relative to sacred landscape features such as its mountains, which are purported to be in alignment with key astronomical events that would have been important to the Incas.
Another theory maintains that Machu Picchu was an Inca “llaqta”, a settlement built to control the economy of these conquered regions. Yet another asserts that it may have been built as a prison for a select few who had committed heinous crimes against Inca society. An alternative theory is that it is an agricultural testing station, the purpose of which is to test different types of crops in the many different micro-climates afforded by the location and the terraces, which were not enough to grow food on a large scale, as much to determine what could grow where. But one theory suggests that the city was built for the gods to live in or for kings to be crowned there as an event.
As Pachacuti conquered new territory he built settlements and connected them with a web of roads. Machu Picchu was the largest and most magnificent of all these communities. It was not a fortress, but the sight of it looming high above the Urubamba valley must have been intimidating to rain forest tribes who were hostile to the Incas.
Although the citadel is located only about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Cusco, the Inca capital, it was never found by the Spanish and consequently not plundered and destroyed, as was the case with many other Inca sites. Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle grew over much of the site, and few knew of its existence.
On 24 July 1911, Machu Picchu was brought to the attention of scholars by Hiram Bingham, an American historian employed as a lecturer at Yale University. Bingham had been searching for the city of Vilcabamba, the last Inca refuge and spot of resistance during the Spanish conquest of Peru. He had spent years in previous trips and explorations around the zone. Bingham was led up to Machu Picchu by a local 11 year-old Quechuas boy named Pablito Alvarez. Some Quechuas people were living in Machu Picchu, in the original Inca infrastructure.
Bingham undertook archaeological studies and completed a survey of the area. He coined the name “The Lost City of the Incas”, which was the title of his first book. Bingham made several more trips and conducted excavations on the site through 1915, collecting various artifacts. He wrote a number of books and articles about the discovery of Machu Picchu in his lifetime.
A complete overview of the site as seen from Huayna PicchuThe site received significant publicity after the National Geographic Society devoted their entire April 1913 issue to Machu Picchu.
An area of 325.92 square kilometers surrounding Machu Picchu was declared a “Historical Sanctuary” of Peru in 1981. In addition to the ruins, this sanctuary area includes a large portion of adjoining region, rich with flora and fauna.
Machu Picchu was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1983 when it was described as “an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization”.
The World Monuments Fund placed Machu Picchu on its 2008 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world because of environmental degradation resulting from the impact of tourism, uncontrolled development in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes that included a poorly sited tram to ease visitor access, and the construction of a bridge across the Vilcanota River that is likely to bring even more tourists to the site in defiance of a court order and government protests against it.
Main article: Incan architecture
Partially restored Inca buildingThe ruins of Machu Picchu are divided into two main sections known as the Urban and Agricultural Sectors, divided by a wall. The Agricultural Sector is further subdivided into Upper and Lower sectors, while the Urban Sector is split into East and West sectors, separated by wide plazas.
The central buildings of Machu Picchu use the classical Inca architectural style of polished dry-stone walls of regular shape. The Incas were masters of this technique, called ashlar, in which blocks of stone are cut to fit together tightly without mortar. The Incas were among the best stone masons the world has seen, and many junctions in the central city are so perfect that it is said not even a blade of grass fits between the stones.
Terraced Fields of Machu Picchu
View of the residential section of Machu PicchuSome Inca buildings were constructed using mortar, but by Inca standards this was quick, shoddy construction, and was not used in the building of important structures. Peru is a highly seismic land, and mortar-free construction was more earthquake-resistant than using mortar. The stones of the dry-stone walls built by the Incas can move slightly and resettle without the walls collapsing.
A llama at Machu Picchu.Inca walls show numerous design details that also help protect them from collapsing in an earthquake. Doors and windows are trapezoidal and tilt inward from bottom to top; corners usually are rounded; inside corners often incline slightly into the rooms; and “L”-shaped blocks often were used to tie outside corners of the structure together. These walls do not rise straight from bottom to top but are offset slightly from row to row.
The Incas never used the wheel in any practical manner. Its use in toys demonstrates that the principle was well-known to them, although it was not applied in their engineering. The lack of strong draft animals as well as terrain and dense vegetation issues may have rendered it impractical. How they moved and placed enormous blocks of stones remains a mystery, although the general belief is that they used hundreds of men to push the stones up inclined planes. A few of the stones still have knobs on them that could have been used to lever them into position; it is believed that after the stones were placed, the Incas would have sanded the knobs away, but a few were overlooked.
The space is composed of 140 structures or features, including temples, sanctuaries, parks, and residences that include houses with thatched roofs. There are more than one hundred flights of stone steps –often completely carved from a single block of granite –and a great number of water fountains that are interconnected by channels and water-drains perforated in the rock that were designed for the original irrigation system. Evidence has been found to suggest that the irrigation system was used to carry water from a holy spring to each of the houses in turn.
According to archaeologists, the urban sector of Machu Picchu was divided into three great districts: the Sacred District, the Popular District to the south, and the District of the Priests and the Nobility.
Temple of the Sun at Machu PicchuLocated in the first zone are the primary archaeological treasures: the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows. These were dedicated to Inti, their sun god and greatest deity. The Popular District, or Residential District, is the place where the lower class people lived. It includes storage buildings and simple houses. In the royalty area – a sector that existed for the nobility – is a group of houses located in rows over a slope; the residence of the Amautas (wise persons) was characterized by its reddish walls, and the zone of the Ñustas (princesses) had trapezoid-shaped rooms. The Monumental Mausoleum is a carved statue with a vaulted interior and carved drawings. It was used for rites or sacrifices.
As part of their road system, the Incas built a road to the Machu Picchu region. Today, tens of thousands of tourists walk the Inca Trail to visit Machu Picchu each year, acclimatising at Cusco before starting on a two- to four-day journey on foot from the Urubamba valley, up through the Andes mountain range to the isolated city. Further evidence of Machu Picchu’s role in long-distance trade comes from non-local artifacts found at the site. An example of long-distance transport is the presence of unmodified obsidian nodules that were found at the entrance gateway to Machu Picchu by Bingham. In the 1970s, Burger and Asaro determined that these obsidian samples were from the Titicaca or Chivay obsidian source, and that these samples from Machu Picchu represent the further transport of this obsidian type in prehispanic Peru.
The Guardhouse is a three-sided building with one of its long sides opening onto the Terrace of the Ceremonial Rock. This three-sided style of Inca architecture is known as the wayrona style.
The Intihuatana (“sun-tier”) is believed to have been designed as an astronomic clock or calendar by the IncasThe Intihuatana stone is one of many ritual stones in South America. The Spanish did not find Machu Picchu, so the Intihuatana Stone was not destroyed, unlike many other ritual stones in Peru. These stones are arranged to point directly at the sun during the winter solstice. The name of the stone (coined perhaps by Hiram Bingham III) is Quechua: inti means ‘sun’, and wata- is the verb root ‘to tie, hitch (up)’ (‘huata-‘ is simply a Spanish spelling). The Quechua -na suffix derives nouns for tools or places. Hence inti watana is literally an instrument or place to ‘tie up the sun’, often expressed in English as “The Hitching Post of the Sun” because the stone was believed to hold the sun in its place along its annual path in the sky. At midday on October 27 and February 14, the sun stands almost above the pillar—casting no shadow at all. Researchers believe that it was built as an astronomic clock or calendar.
The Intihuatana stone was damaged in September 2000 when a 450 kg (1,000-pound) crane fell onto it, breaking off a piece of stone the size of a ballpoint pen. The crane was being used by a crew hired by J. Walter Thompson advertising agency to film an advertisement for a beer brand. “Machu Picchu is the heart of our archaeological heritage and the Intihuatana is the heart of Machu Picchu. They’ve struck at our most sacred inheritance,” said Federico Kaufmann Doig, a Peruvian archaeologist.
Concerns over tourism
Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since its discovery in 1911, a growing number of tourists visit Machu Picchu, reaching 400,000 in 2003. As Peru’s most visited tourist attraction and major revenue generator, it is continually threatened by economic and commercial forces. In the late 1990s, the Peruvian government granted concessions to allow the construction of a cable car and development of a luxury hotel, including a tourist complex with boutiques and restaurants. These plans were met with protests from scientists, academics, and the Peruvian public—all worried that the greater numbers of visitors would pose tremendous physical burdens on the ruins. There were protests against a plan to build a bridge to the site as well. A no-fly zone exists above the area. UNESCO is considering putting Machu Picchu on its List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.