2400 meters above sea level in the Andes Mountains of Peru, lies a mysterious city in a stunning natural landscape that was once home to 300 to 1000 residents. Machu Picchu is a historic site of the Inca Empire, which at its peak was the largest empire at the time in America.
How Was The City Built?
The city was built in the early 15th century and its ruins reveal the architectural skills of the Inca Civilization. The ruins of the city consist of 200 buildings that are made entirely out of finely carved
granite stones fitted together without the use of mortar. They were installed so precisely that not even a piece of paper can be inserted between them. And because of that, the buildings were way more resistant to earthquakes. In the event of an earthquake, the stone walls move slightly and resettle without the building collapsing.
Since Peru is a region with high seismic activity, this building method is probably the reason why most of the structures at Machu Picchu are still standing today. But why did they build this city in such a remote location and why was it abandoned?
Reason for building Machu Picchu
Many researchers believe that the city was built as a royal estate for the Inca Emperor and a luxury getaway for the elite. While others have claimed that it was instead the perfect hideout to protect the Emperor in case of a foreign invasion. Since the surrounding mountains were considered sacred by the Incas, it also could have been a religious center to honor the landscape. This would also explain why Machu Picchu has multiple temples, including the impressive Temple of the Sun, which was built with great precision and only the best materials.
The true reason for building Machu Picchu remains unclear, what is known however is that the city did not remain inhabited for very long. By 1528, less than a hundred years after Machu Picchu was built, the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire began. Fearing looting and destruction, the residents of Machu Picchu abandoned the city. In order to protect the city, they burned down the surrounding forests, so that no more paths could be found leading up the mountain. And their plan worked out. The Spanish invaders never found the city. After the Spanish Victory in 1572, many of the other bigger Inca cities were destroyed. This included Vilcabamba which was the last Inca city to fall to the Spanish. But since there was no written record of Machu Picchu and no visible way to access it, it remained unseen.
How Was Machu Picchu Discovered?
More than three centuries later, American explorer and historian Hiram Bingham led a small expedition to Cuzco in hope of discovering the lost city of Vilcabamba. After reaching a small settlement in the peripheries of Cuzco, the explorers asked a local farmer about ancient ruins in the area. The farmer told them about the extensive ruins high in the mountains and on 24 July 1911, the explorers hiked the trails on mules to reach the site. Bingham concluded that this was the lost city of Vilcabamba however that was not the case and the ruins became known as Machu Picchu.
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Today, more than 100 years after its discovery, Machu Picchu is one of the most visited and
special places in the world.