Machu Picchu Facts

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Found in Peru, the 15th century Machu Picchu terrace lies between the Huayna Pichu and Machu Picchu mountains. On the Andes: eastern slope, the site is 2430Metres above sea level and overlooks River Urubamba, many feet below. Huayna Picchu towers over the Machu Picchu remains at 1180 feet.

In the Quechua native language, Machu Picchu translates as “Old Peak”. Many people believe that the site was built as early as 1400 AD as a palace or royal structure for the ninth Incan leader; Pachacútec Inca Yupanqui. When Spain conquered the Incan Empire in 1532 Machu Picchu was deserted, only to become the renowned Lost City of the Inca.

Hiram Bingham, a Yale archeologist, discovered the Machu Picchu ruins in 1911. Although previously believed as the first foreigner to discover the remains, it is now historically accepted that Augusto Berns, a German engineer could have preceded Bingham to the ruins by 40 years. Maps dating the site to 1874 have also been located. On finding this site, Bingham took with him lots of treasure artifacts numbered around 40,000 to Yale University. Some of these artifacts included ceramics, bones, mummies and even precious metals.

A striking feature about Machu Picchu is its construction design. Quarried granite stone blocks weighing up to 50 tons are cut accurately and tightly fit together without mortar. Besides, it is unfathomable how the gigantic stones were moved up through a dense forest and the precipitous topography. The fact that it’s ancient, it is fascinating that the Incas did not use draft animals, the wheel or iron tools, the major construction materials of the time. The Incas must have been incredible craftsmen and civil engineers of their day.

Divided into two; an agricultural land and an urban area, Machu Picchu site covers 32,500 hectares. Fields with terraces used to grow crops locate at the edge of the site. It is estimated that the site had access to much water and enough agricultural land to grow food 4 times the resident population. Part of the urban square is an upper zone where royalties resided, and temples were constructed, and a lower zone for warehouses and quarters for laborers.

Experts approximate 60% of the site construction to have been underground which involved foundation building and the drainage system. The temple of Sun also known as Torreon, the Temple of the Condor, the Intihuatana Stone, and the Three Windows’ Temple are most important structures of the site. Meaning a ‘sun’s hitching post,’ the Intihuatana Stone had an astronomical significance; determining accurate times for different festivals and important feasts in the Inca religion.

Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón provides information in both English and Spanish on the Machu Picchu archeological excavations.

Machu Picchu has been rebuilt since its rediscovery so as to inform on how it initially looked. Restoration work continues even today. In 1981, the site was named as Peruvian Historical Sanctuary, and it was classed in the World Heritage Sites category by UNESCO in 1983.

While Visiting Machu Picchu remember:

  • Travelers mostly visit in May or June when precipitation is minimal, and temperatures are mild.
  • Entry to the site is limited to 400 visitors a day, and only an advance purchase of tickets can guarantee admission.
  • From the northwest of the city of Cuzco, the former Incan Empire capital, Machu Picchu is 75 miles away. A train from Cuzco takes around 4 hours to the site, with a stopover at Ollantaytambo, the old Inca site. People also trek along the ‘Inca Trail’ and this takes 4 days.
  • At the foot of Machu Picchu in the town of Aguas Calientes are many hotels from which visitors stay.

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