Construction Of Machu Picchu
A symbol of the Incan Empire, Machu Picchu was constructed around the year 1450 AD. In the native Quechua language, “Machu Picchu” means “Old Peak” or “Old Mountain.” The site is made up of more than 150 buildings including baths, houses, temples, and sanctuaries. The compound also includes over 100 separate flights of stairs, most of which were individually carved from one slab of stone.
Many of the stones that were used to build the city weighed over 50 tons each. But despite their weight, it’s believed that no wheels were used to transport the stones up the mountain. So, how did the stones make their way to the peak? Some were chiseled from the granite bedrock of the mountain ridge. But some of the heavy rocks were pushed up the steep mountainside by hundreds of men.
And it’s not only the weight of the building materials that makes the site impressive. The Incas were some of the best masons in the world. The structures were constructed with a technique called ashlar, in which stones are cut to fit together without mortar. They are so well-made that not even a slip of paper can fit in between stones. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Machu Picchu was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
Lost City Of The Incas
Machu Picchu is located about 50 miles northwest of Cuzco, Peru. Unfortunately, most cities constructed by the Incas were destroyed by the Spanish conquest. However, Machu Picchu’s “hidden” location high on the mountain peak allowed it to escape detection by the Spaniards. As a result, it is one of the most well-preserved Inca cities.
Its existence was not widely known in the West until it was “discovered” in 1911 by Yale University professor Hiram Bingham. Bingham was actually in search of a different city known as Vilcabamba, a hidden capital to which the Inca had escaped after the Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1532. Over time, Vilcabamba became famous as the “lost city of the Incas.”
Bingham argued that Machu Picchu and Vilcabamba were one and the same, a theory that wasn’t proved wrong until after his death in 1956. The real Vilcabamba is now thought to lie in the jungle about 50 miles west of Machu Picchu. Despite this mix-up, many sources still follow Bingham’s precedent and erroneously label Machu Picchu as the “lost city of the Incas.”
Importance Of Machu Picchu
The Citadel of Machu Picchu is considered the main tourist attraction in Peru and one of the most visited sites worldwide. As a result, it is a major source of revenue for the area and an important contributor to the country’s economy. Travelers can reach the site by train (a 4-hour trip from Cuzco or a 2-hour trip from the Sacred Valley). Or, they can opt to hike the “Caminos Del Inca,” a trek that typically takes between three to six days.
Machu Picchu is considered by many to be the most spectacular urban creation of the Inca Empire. Its impressive level of preservation makes it one of the most important heritage sites in the world. The site is considered both an artistic achievement and a masterpiece of architecture.
It is also surrounded by a vast array of wildlife. The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu contains about 10% of the fauna and 22% of the flora of Peru. On record, the area is home to hundreds of animal species, including 401 species of birds, 300 diurnal butterflies, and 400 nocturnal butterflies.