Machu Picchu
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The history of Machu Picchu
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History of Machu Picchu

The empire of the Incas was established in Cusco, by the year 1,200 AD. Its origin is in relation to two famous legends; One is the legend of Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, and the other is the legend of the Ayar Brothers. In both cases the legends point to Manco Capac as founder and first governor of the empire. But it was until the time of Pachacutec that the empire would achieve its greatest expansion and power, reaching almost 2 million km 2 and it was precisely during this time that the Inca City of Machu Picchu was built.

Machu Picchu desde lo alto
Majestic citadel of Machu Picchu

The arrival of the Spanish conquerors caused the fall of the empire, at which point the Inca city would have been abandoned, when it had not yet been completed, and although some people say that the Spaniards knew about the existence of Machu Picchu, they possibly could never find it. The truth is that the location would only be known by the locals until the time of its discovery, the year 1911, when Hiram Bingham made known to the entire world its existence. Bingham began the excavation work in the area, from 1912 to 1915, when the thick vegetation that covered much of the discovery was removed, numerous niches of inhabitants of the city were discovered.

Machu Picchu became the favorite tourist destination in Peru and one of the most important on the planet. Being declared by the UNESCO like Cultural Patrimony of the humanity . Also voted by millions of people from all continents, to be chosen as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World ; Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the greatest heritage left by the Inca civilization.

Incaica time
Reason for Construction
Colonial time and Republican
Fire in Temple of the Sun
Why Pachacutec Machu Picchu build this place?

Inca Season

Before Machu Picchu was built, this area was inhabited by towns in neighboring areas such as Vilcabamba and the Sacred Valley, which sought to expand. But after the expansion of Inca power, these became part of the growing empire of Tahuantinsuyo.

The studies coincide that Machu Picchu was built in the middle of the XV century, under the government of the emperor Pachacutec, main responsible for the Inca expansion and its transformation from a simple lordship to the magnificent empire that we now know it was.

According to historical sources, during the mandate of Wiracocha, the lordship of the Incas, was constantly threatened, by its neighbors of the West, the Chancas; Faced with the possibility of an invasion, Wiracocha, together with his heir Inca Urco, fled the city leaving their village at the mercy of the invaders, Cusi Yupanqui, also son Wiracocha, decided to fight against the Chancas, making alliances with local ethnic groups, In this way he would defeat them, thus saving the Inca Empire. The victory against the Chancas made the Inca Wiracocha recognize him as successor to the throne. It was thus that Cusi Yupanqui took the reins of that in a short time would become an empire of approximately 2 million m2. He changed his name to Pachacutec Yupanqui Capac Intichuri, which translated into Spanish means son of the Sun that changes the course of the earth . With Pachacútec in command, the Inca domain ceased to be a manor to expand rapidly and become the great empire of which we have registration. This time of prosperity, allowed the construction of magnificent works, the most important being the Inca City of Machu Picchu.


Reason for its construction

At first it was believed that Machu Picchu was built in order to serve as; Military fortress or even as a resting place for Pachacutec; Both hypotheses that were taken as certain, lost weight with the passage of time. Extensive studies, carried out by some of the best specialists, have revealed that Machu Picchu was used as a place of worship, a religious sanctuary. Other speculations indicate that it served as a monastery, where were prepared the girls who would serve the Inca and the High Priest, since of the 135 bodies found, 109 turned out to belong to women. Although its use as a palace is not ruled out.

It is believed that Machu Picchu had between 300 and 1000 inhabitants, during its time of splendor. The study of the Inca society indicates that the labor force for cultivation in the city would have been composed of the dominated people (called mitimaes) from different parts of the empire.


Colonial and republican era

Investigations reveal that this urban center was abandoned between the years 1,534 and 1,570, period of Inca resistance. The Spanish invasion that faced the Inca empire, would have been taken advantage of by the settlers or mitimaes who took advantage of the crisis to flee to their home villages

There is no proof that the Spaniards would have managed to reach Machu Picchu or that they knew of its existence, this is maintained, since the Spanish chroniclers never mentioned the city in their writings, so it can be concluded that they never came to discover it. However, other studies have argued that, on the basis of studies showing that the Spanish used the city as the main stage to remove the Andean religion, there were traces of fires in some structures. Apparently the extirpadores of idolatries, looted the treasures that were in Machu Picchu.

Another fact that reinforces this theory is that among the evidence found by Bingham and his team, in some excavated tombs, objects belonging to a later stage of the Incas were found, such as an oxidized iron knife, a cow’s bone, Peach peaches and the remains of a green glass bead. Although it is necessary to mention, that these objects were not found by archaeologists, which leaves some validity to the findings.

Knowing Machu Picchu or not, it is clear that the Spaniards did not give the deserved importance to the city in the past, since, no buildings were found in its vicinity. What caused that of gradual way the place was forgotten by the Spanish conquerors, but not by the local inhabitants.

It is possible that famous archaeologists and historians visited the place during the Republican era, but would not have noticed the presence of the ancient Inca city, this would be the case of Antonio Raimodi, famous researcher, geographer, writer and professor. Some sources would indicate that in 1867, the ruins were visited by the German Augusto Berns, an adventurer who would be the true “discoverer” of the ancient City of the Incas.



Although this one is attributed to the American Hiram Bingham, other sources indicate that Agustín Lizárraga, renter of origin cusqueño, would have arrived at the City nine years before its official discoverer. It is said that, Lizarraga left an inscription on one of the walls of the Temple of the Three Windows. This inscription would have been documented by the own Bingham, and later erased.

The history of Lizarraga and his visits to the ancient Inca ruins attracted the attention of Hiram Bingham, who was investigating the last Inca redoubts in the area. Upon hearing these rumors, Bingham would begin the search, in the company of the renter from Cusco, Melchor Arriaga, and a sergeant from the Peruvian Civil Guard arriving in Machu Picchu in July 1911. Two families would be found, the Recharte and the Álvarez, established south of the ruins. Finally a child of the Recharte would be the one who guided to Bingham the city of stone, covered by a thick vegetation.

We suppose that Bingham immediately understood the enormous historical value of his discovery, so I requested support and auspices from Yale University, the National Geographic Society and the Peruvian government, thus began the study of the archaeological site. Held since 1912 for three years. Period in which it was possible to clear the weeds that infested the Inca city.

In 1913 National Geographic published in one of the editions of its magazine an extensive article of Machu Picchu and the works that were carried out there, giving to know the lost city to the whole world. Over the years, the city of Machu Picchu would grow, acquiring tourism importance at national level and then internationally, which earned it the title of World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 1983. On July 7, 2007 Machu Picchu was declared one of the seven wonders of the modern world after an online vote by millions of people around the world.

Fire in the Temple of the Sun

Although the Spaniards knew of the existence of Piccho ( Machu Picchu ), they do not seem to have visited it, or perhaps only occasionally. In 1570 Augustinian religious, authorized by the rebellious Inca Titu Cusi Yupanqui, entered to evangelize the city; It is possible that they were responsible for the burning of the Temple of the Sun. However it is known that 8 years before the Incas of Vilcabamba would have besieged and burned down the city, so that the granite stones of the Temple of the Sun still show the cracks caused by The intense heat.

By the year 1540 it is very probable that there were very few occupants in charge of their maintenance and care, but it was not completely depopulated, since it was a tributary population of the encomienda of Ollantaytambo, assigned to Hernando Pizarro. A Spaniard named Xuares owned an hacienda in Quente, he probably knew the location of the town of Picchu. In 1562 the Incas of Vilcabamba commanded by Titu Cusi Yupanqui made a raid in the valley of Amaybamba and in Picchu, besieging, burning and ravaging the houses of the settlers, taking also 80 prisoners (between men and women) and killing two others.

According to Lumbreras, the “extirpadores de idolatrías” would be responsible for the burning of the Temple of the Sun. Something similar is attributed to the Augustinians Friar Diego Ortiz and Friar Marcos Garcia, who would have set fire to the sanctuary of Chuquipalpa and Vitcos. However, it is possible that the burning of the Temple of the Sun was carried out by the Incas of Vilcabamba, made documented in the year 1562; Whatever the case two years after the Augustinian mission in 1572, the last Inca of the Vilcabamba dynasty Tupac Amaru was captured. The last remaining settlers systematically abandoned Piccho; The whole city with its squares, temples, and other buildings was being hidden little by little by nature.

The city of Machu Picchu was barely a century old, at a time when there was a bloody civil war between Huascar and Atahualpa. The members of the panaca of the Inca Pachacútec (deceased 50 years before) left Machu Picchu completely. In 1532 the empire would eventually be destroyed, the mitayos left the city, and the dense vegetation infest the place, which possibly has done, that the place passed unnoticed for the Spaniards.

Why did Pachacútec build Machu Picchu in this place?

We can conclude that Pachacutec’s interest in building such a city, in a place like this, responds to his admiration for the place, a lush environment surrounded by natural beauty and apus (sacred mountains), which could serve as a checkpoint And colonization of an Empire that grew incredibly fast, acting as an entrance to the Antisuyo, from the heart of the empire; Besides that the zone gave him access to important products that could only be obtained in the forest; Such as coca.

Perhaps the most important reason was that Pachacútec fell in love with the place, and this continues to happen with millions of people visiting Machu Picchu.


By Ticket Machu Picchu – Last Update, 26-04-2017


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