History of Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu was built around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire. Its construction appears to date to the period of the two great Incas, Pachacutec Inca Yupanqui (1438–71) and Tupac Inca Yupanqui (1472–93). It was abandoned just over 100 years later, in 1572, as a belated result of the Spanish Conquest.
It is possible that most of its inhabitants died from smallpox introduced by travellers before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the area. The conquistadors had notes of a place called Piccho, although there is no record of the Spanish having visited the remote city. The types of sacred rocks defaced by the conquistadors in other locations are untouched at Machu Picchu.
The site may have been discovered and plundered in 1867 by a German businessman, Augusto Berns. There is some evidence that a German engineer, J. M. von Hassel, arrived earlier. Maps found by historians show references to Machu Picchu as early as 1874.
View of the city of Machu Picchu in 1912 showing the original ruins after major clearing and before modern reconstruction work began.
Although the citadel is located only about 80 kilometers (50 mi) from Cusco, the Inca capital, the Spanish never found it and so did not plunder or destroy it, as they did many other sites. Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle grew over the site, and few outside the immediate area knew of its existence.
Hiram Bingham was an American historian and lecturer at Yale University, although not a trained archaeologist. In 1909, returning from the Pan-American Scientific Congress in Santiago, he traveled through Peru and was invited to explore the Inca ruins at Choqquequirau in the Apurimac Valley. He organized the 1911 Yale Peruvian Expedition with one of its objectives to search for the last capital of the Incas. He in fact, guided by locals, rediscovered and correctly identified both Vitcos (then called Rosaspata) and Vilcabamba (then called Espíritu Pampa), which he named "Eromboni Pampa". However, he did not correctly recognize Vilcabamba as the last capital, instead continuing onward and misidentifying Machu Picchu as the "Lost City of the Incas", as his book titled it. Further expeditions focused on Machu Picchu, neglecting further investigation of Vitcos and Vilcabamba. Machu Picchu was built at the height of the Inca Empire, and thus features spectacular workmanship and a dramatic site, while the actual last capital of Vilcabamba was built while the short-lived remnant Neo-Inca State was being vanquished by the Spanish, and thus features crude workmanship.
Bingham asked a Peruvian farmer and innkeeper, Melchor Arteaga, if he knew of any ruins in the area. The next day, 24 July 1911, Arteaga led Bingham and Sergeant Carrasco across the river on a primitive log bridge and up the Huayna Picchu Mountain. At the top of the mountain they came across a small hut occupied by a couple of Quechua, Richarte and Alvarez, who were farming some of the original Machu Picchu agricultural terraces that they had cleared four years earlier. Alvarez's 11-year-old son, Pablito, led Bingham along the ridge to the main ruins.
During Bingham's archaeological studies, he collected various artifacts, which he took back to Yale. One prominent artifact was a set of 15th-century, ceremonial Incan knives made from bismuth bronze; they are the earliest known artifacts containing this alloy.
Although local institutions initially welcomed the exploration supplementing knowledge about Peruvian ancestry, they soon accused Bingham of legal and cultural malpractice. Rumors arose that the team was stealing artifacts and smuggling them out of Peru through the bordering country of Bolivia. (In fact, Bingham removed many artifacts, but openly and legally; they were deposited in the Yale University Museum.) Local press perpetuated the accusations, claimed that the excavation harmed the site and deprived local archaeologists of knowledge about their own history. Landowners began to demand rent from the excavators. By the time Bingham and his team left Machu Picchu, locals began forming coalitions to defend their ownership of Machu Picchu and its cultural remains, while Bingham claimed the artifacts ought to be studied by experts in American institutions, an argument that still exists today.
In 1964, Gene Savoy did further exploration of the ruins at Espiritu Pampa and revealed the full extent of the site, identifying it as Vilcabamba Viejo where the Incas fled to after the Spanish drove them from Vitcos.
In 1981, Peru declared an area of 325.92 square kilometres (125.84 sq mi) surrounding Machu Picchu a "Historical Sanctuary". In addition to the ruins, the sanctuary includes a large portion of the adjoining region, rich with the flora and fauna of the Peruvian Yungas and Central Andean wet puna ecoregions.
In 1983, UNESCO designated Machu Picchu a World Heritage Site, describing it as "an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization
Human Sacrifice & Mysticism at Machu Picchu
There is little information on human sacrifices taking place at Machu Picchu. This can be attributed to the fact that many sacrifices were never given a proper burial and their skeletal remains have succumbed to the elements. However, there is evidence of retainer sacrifices. In these unique cases, human sacrifices were made to accompany a deceased noble in the afterlife. Animal, liquid, and dirt sacrifices to the gods were much more common. They were made at the Altar of the Condor and are still made today by members of the New Age Andean religion.
Construction of Machu Picchu
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. Many junctions in the central city are so perfect that it is said not even a blade of grass fits between the stones.
The section of the mountain where Machu Picchu was built provided several beneficial and detrimental factors. The Inca solved the detriments with local materials.
The most apparent detriment was the seismic activity due to the two surrounding fault lines. It made mortar and similar building methods nearly useless. Instead, the Inca mined stoned from the natural quarry at the site, lined them up and shaped them to fit together perfectly, making the buildings sturdier than mortar would. This allowed to construct the over 200 buildings atop the mountain. Inca walls have many stabilizing features: doors and windows are trapezoidal, tilting in from bottom to top; corners usually are rounded; inside corners often incline slightly into the rooms; and outside corners were often tied together by "L"-shaped blocks; walls are offset slightly from row to row rather than rising straight from bottom to top.
Another detriment was the heavy rainfall. To drain rainwater and prevent mud slides, landslides, erosion and flooding, the Incas used terraces and stone chips. Terraces were layered with stone chips, sand, dirt and topsoil, to soak water in and prevent it from running down the mountain. Similar layering protected the large city center from flooding.
The Incas never used the wheel in a practical way, although its use in toys shows that they knew its principle. Its use in engineering may have been impractical due to the lack of strong draft animals, the steep terrain and dense vegetation. How they moved and placed the enormous stones remains uncertain, but the general belief is that they used hundreds of men to push the stones up inclined planes. A few stones have knobs that could have been used to lever them into position; it is believed that after placing the stones, the builders would have sanded the knobs away, but a few were overlooked.
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