How Old Is This Machu Picchu ?

Machu Picchu was constructed around 1462, at the height of the Inca Empire. It was abandoned less than 100 years later. It is likely that most of its inhabitants were wiped out by smallpox before the Spanish conquistadores arrived in the area, and there is no record of their having known of the remote city. Hiram Bingham hypothesized that the citadel was the traditional birthplace of the Inca of the "Virgins of the Suns".

Another theory maintains that Machu Picchu was an Inca "llacta", 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. 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.

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 July 24, 1911, Machu Picchu was brought to the attention of scholars by Hiram Bingham, an American historian employed as a lecturer at Yale University. Bingham was led up to Machu Picchu by a local 11 year old Quechua boy named Pablito Alvarez.Bingham undertook archaeological studies and completed a survey of the area. Bingham coined the name "The Lost City of the Incas", which was the title of his first book.

Bingham had been searching for the city of Vilcapampa, the last Inca refuge and spot of resistance during the Spanish conquest of Peru. In 1911, after years of previous trips and explorations around the zone, he was led to the citadel by Quechuans. These people were living in Machu Picchu, in the original Inca infrastructure. Bingham made several more trips and conducted excavations on the site through 1915, carrying off artifacts. He wrote a number of books and articles about the discovery of Machu Picchu in his lifetime.

The site received significant publicity after the National Geographic Society devoted their entire April 1913 issue to Machu Picchu.

 

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