I have been fortunate to have traveled to a number of amazing places in Europe and Asia, but one thing I've never experienced is trekking through ruins. I hope to get a chance to check out Machu Picchu sometime!!!
Machu Picchu was built by the Incans (check out my previous blog about the Incan Empire) sometime around 1450 CE - to give you context that roughly coincides with the Renaissance in Europe, the Ming Dynasty in China, and the Turkish conquest of Constantinople. The Incas only flourished for about a hundred years, and this site is especially notable when one considers that it is located in a place that is difficult to access, that the Incas had no knowledge of the wheel, no iron, and had not developed a written language. Also, no one knows exactly when or why the site was abandoned, and although the time it was deserted roughly coincides with the Spanish conquest of the Incas, the conquistadors never reached the city, and it was largely forgotten for several hundred years.
Located 2,430 miles above sea level, Machu Picchu sits among the eastern slopes of the Peruvian Andes and is known for its stunning views. The city has over 200 structures that surround a 1 acre green. Researchers have divided the city into four quarters: residential, royal, industrial, and agricultural.
|map of Machu Picchu|
Machu Picchu is known for its agricultural terraces that some historians believe were used to raise corn to ferment to create Chicha, a beer-like beverage that was often consumed (in significant quantities) in rituals.
|Incan stone construction|
One of the most remarkable components of Incan construction is their stone work. The quantity of precisely cut stones that tightly fit together to create the numerous structures at Machu Picchu is staggering. The Incans used no mortar, yet the structures have been remarkably stable through time.
Some researchers have speculated that the Incans did significant planning prior to construction, including locating a spring, building a canal, and setting up a system of waterways and fountains to provide water to the residents. The emperor had access to the first fountain, and after passing through the emperor's quarters, the water makes its way down the mountainside, flowing through 15 other fountains, passing through the agricultural quarter.
Although indigenous people in the valley below were aware of the abandoned city in the mountains, the knowledge of the existence Machu Picchu was significantly limited until an American academic and explorer named Hiram Bingham stumbled across the site in 1911. It's rumored that Hiram was one of the inspirational sources for "Indiana Jones."
|Early photograph of Machu Picchu|
Peru has been seeking the return of approximately 40,000 artifacts that were excavated and exported from Machu Picchu by Bingham and his archeological team. Some of the disputed objects include ceramics, bones and mummies. In September of 2007, the Peruvian government and Yale University made an agreement for the return of the artifacts, and as of November 2010 Yale University announced a two-year plan for the return of the objects, and to create a repository and display space at the University of Cusco, Peru.
If you are interested in checking out some footage of Macchu Pichu, click on the video below. Michael Palin, of Monty Python fame, is one of my favorite travel show hosts and this is from his "Full Circle" series.