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History Machu Picchu Peru

The true history of Machu Picchu Peru

Machu Picchu became the preferred tourist destination in Peru and one of the most important on the planet. In 1983 it was declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by Unesco. In 2011 it was chosen as one of the new 7 Wonders of the Modern World.

Machu Picchu History

The Inca Empire was established in Cusco in approximately 1,200 A.D. Its origin occurs in relation to two famous legends: a) The legend of Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo and b) The legend of the Ayar Brothers. In both cases, legends point to Manco Cápac as founder and first governor. At the time of the Inca Pachacutec (1438 – 1471) the Inca City of Machu Picchu was built at an approximate height (2430m / 7972ft).

Machu Picchu before the Incas

  • The investigations carried out in the area that includes the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu found ceramic pieces belonging to the Marcavalle culture, whose antiquity reaches 3,000 years before Christ.
  • However, the findings are scarce compared to those found in other regions of the Cusco Valley. Therefore, it is concluded that in the area that currently comprises Machu Picchu, Vitcos and Vilcabamba isolated families settled with common practices to the Marcavalle, the Killke and other cultures ancestors to the Incas.
  • Furthermore, with the recent discovery in 2011 of a Wari tomb (a civilization that existed 1 century before the Incas) in Vilcabamba; It can be assumed that they also inhabited the Amazonian regions including Machu Picchu.
  • The truth is that the Machu Picchu region was inhabited by few people in times before the Incas. With the construction of the Inca City, the settlement of said area of ​​the mountainous jungle was ordered.

The construction of Machu Picchu Peru

Machu Picchu Peru

  • Before Machu Picchu was built, this area was inhabited by neighboring populations such as the ayllus of Vilcabamba and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. However, after the expansion of the Inca empire, these territories became part of the growing Tahuantinsuyo empire.
  • According to the investigations carried out with the carbon 14 test, the construction date of Machu Picchu was in 1450 AD. In that year the Inca Pachacutec, the main person in charge of the Inca expansion, governed. However, the work would have continued with his successor and son Túpac Yupanqui.
  • According to field studies, it is believed that the workforce for cultivation in the Inca City would have been made up of people from different parts of the empire (called ‘mitimaes’).
  • It is presumed that the first inhabitants of the new Inca City were the ‘Chachapoyas’, a town conquered by the Incas and whose origin is located in the mountainous jungle in northern Peru.
  • As well as Machu Picchu, the Incas expanded their territories throughout the Urubamba River valley, managing to erect important administrative centers such as Choquequirao, Vitcos, Vilcabamba and more.

What was the reason for the construction of Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu Peru

  • At first it was believed that Machu Picchu was built in order to serve as a military fortress and even as a rest residence for the Inca Pachacutec and his family.
  • However, exhaustive studies carried out by some of the best specialists have revealed that the Inca City was used as a place of worship and a religious sanctuary.
  • Certainly, the interest of the Inca Pachacutec to build Machu Picchu in an exuberant geography responds to the fact that he was admired for the place. In addition, the strategic location in the mountainous jungle served as a checkpoint of the empire with the Antisuyo (limits of the empire with the jungle).
  • According to investigations by the Spanish historian María del Carmen Rubio, the true name of Machu Picchu was ‘Patallacta’. That is exactly the name of the place where the Inca Pachacutec wished to be buried. However, his grave has yet to be discovered.

Machu Picchu during the wars in Vilcabamba

vilcabamba

  • Due to its location in the mountainous jungle of Cusco, Machu Picchu was a strategic point during the wars waged by Manco Inca and the other Vilcabamba rebels between 1537 and 1572.
  • According to some historians, Machu Picchu was radically depopulated in 1537 because many of its inhabitants were recruited to join the Manco Inca rebel army.
  • The few inhabitants who remained in Machu Picchu continued to cultivate the land to supply Vilcabamba’s soldiers. In addition, some findings in the Inca City indicate that they took cattle from the Spanish to survive.
  • According to some chronicles, in 1570 the Inca of Vilcabamba Titu Cusi Yupanqui reached an agreement with the Spanish for the Augustinian friars to come to evangelize the inhabitants of Machu Picchu. According to the anthropologist Luis Lumbreras, perhaps it was the evangelizers who burned down the Temple of the Sun.
  • In 1572, with the end of the rebellious Incas of Vilcabamba and the Spanish victory, the few inhabitants who remained in Machu Picchu had to abandon it almost entirely. The few who remained there paid tribute to the Spanish, although in a very isolated way.

Machu Picchu in colonial times

  • The Inca City of Machu Picchu had just a century of life. At a time when a bloody civil war was going on between Huáscar and Atahualpa, members of the royal family of the Inca Pachacutec (who died 50 years earlier) abandoned the place.
  • In 1572, the empire would end up being destroyed (after the end of the rebel Incas in Vilcabamba). The settlers were left to their free choice. Due to the lack of communication between the Inca City and Cusco, they ended up deciding to gradually leave Machu Picchu and the dense vegetation infested the place.
  • The Spanish invaders knew of the existence of Machu Picchu. The documents mention that the few farmers who lived there had to pay tribute once a year in the town of Ollantaytambo to Hernando Pizarro and the successive encomenderos.
  • However, the Spanish invaders did not usually visit Machu Picchu. This surely due to the abruptness of the road as well as the little economic importance that the tributes of the Inca City represented for them. Thus, unlike other important citadels in Cusco, they did not build any religious temple in their vicinity.
  • With the passage of time, most of the urban sector in Machu Picchu was covered by rugged vegetation.

Machu Picchu in the republican time

  • In 1821 the independence of Peru from the Spanish colony is realized. Machu Picchu continued to fulfill an agricultural function for the few peasants who inhabited those lands.
  • The landowners also showed no interest in cultivating the wild lands of Machu Picchu. Instead, its haciendas attracted people from remote areas like the few families that lived in the area that includes the Inca City.
  • In 1865 the Italian naturalist researcher Antonio Raimondi arrived at the foot of Machu Picchu without being able to visit the Inca City.
  • According to the American researcher Paolo Greer, in 1867 the German businessman ‘Augusto Berns’ would have arrived in the Inca City with the permission of the Peruvian government. Thus, he was able to commercialize some of the treasures that Machu Picchu hid.
  • In 1870 the first maps were made where the existence of Machu Picchu is mentioned. In 1880, the famous explorer Charles Wiener claims that there is an archaeological site in the area. However, he could not get there.
  • Meanwhile, the inhabitants of the region, who lived for many years with the existence of an Inca archaeological site on the site, regularly visit the Inca City. This is borne out by the graffiti left on the Inca wall by the inhabitants of Cusco in 1902: Agustín Lizárraga, Gabino Sánchez, Enrique Palma and Justo Ochoa.

The rediscovery of Machu Picchu

  • In 1911 the American explorer Hiram Bingham arrived in Machu Picchu interested in discovering the perd lost city of Vilcabamba ’. He was thus informed about the findings of Agustín Lizárraga he arrives at the Inca City with the help of the local inhabitants.
  • Hiram Bingham would find two settled families south of the ruins: the Recharte and the Álvarez. Finally a child (son of the Recharte family) would be the one who guided the American explorer through the thick vegetation until arriving at the archaeological site.
  • Hiram Bingham immediately understood the enormous historical value of his discovery, so he requested the sponsorship of Yale University in the United States as well as the support of the National Geographic Society and the Government of Peru.
  • In this way, studies of the Inca archaeological site began. The excavation work at Machu Picchu has been carried out since 1912 and lasted 3 years. In that period it was possible to clear the undergrowth that infested the Inca city.
  • Altogether Hiram Bingham made three expeditions to Machu Picchu between 1911 and 1915. During that time he managed to excavate, photograph, and publish information about the Inca City.
  • Although Hiram Bingham arrived at Machu Picchu and made known its importance; you cannot know the ‘discoverer’ of the Inca City. This was already known to the local population and was never forgotten as believed. In reality, the American explorer must be recognized as the científico scientific discoverer ’of Machu Picchu.

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