Machu Picchu, also known as the Lost Citadel of the Incas, Sacred City, Cradle of the Inca Empire, is a national historical sanctuary, protected by Peruvian law N 001-81-AA of 1981; with the main purpose of maintaining the geological formations and archaeological remains found within its area, in addition to protecting its flora, fauna and scenic beauty, located at 2340 meters above sea level in the middle of a tropical forest, the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu was the most amazing architectural jewel of the Inca Empire, as main attractions are large walls, terraces and giant ramps that give the impression of having been sculpted in situ, however the most surprising thing about this Inca citadel is to imagine how they transported the gigantic stones to the height where it is located, how they did to mold and fit the stones so precisely and why they chose such a hidden place to build it since according to studies they indicate that Machu Picchu is the only Inca architectural place where the Spanish did not arrive and therefore the priests did not destroy their temples and/or places of worship that the Incas had.
Characteristics of Machu Picchu
- Machu Picchu is a Quechua word meaning “Old Mountain”.
- Its majestic architecture includes some 140 structures between walls, platforms, houses, terraces, etc. throughout the citadel.
- It was built by the Inca Pachacútec approximately in the year 1460.
- Due to being far from the cities of Cusco, it is believed that the Spanish never arrived at Machu Picchu and it remained forgotten, only in 1911 the North American Hiram Bingham arrived at Machu Picchu and made known to the world of this magnificent wonder.
- The main buildings of Machu Picchu are The Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Three Windows.
- Machu Picchu is considered the most important and well-known symbol of the Inca Empire worldwide.
- It is also known as the Lost City of the Incas.
- Machu Picchu received worldwide attention in 1913 when the National Geographic Society magazine devoted its entire April issue to the newly rediscovered stone city.
- Machu Picchu is currently one of the 7 wonders of the world today, a World Heritage Site, a Historic Sanctuary of Peru and probably the most important Natural Archaeological Site in Latin America.
- When Hiram Bingham arrived at Machu Picchu, according to historians, he found people living there and some ancient mummies were found.
- It is located at 2,400 meters above sea level, its climate is warm – temperate since it is close to the edge of the jungle.
Technical Characteristics of Machu Picchu
Due to its location strategically established for its protection, due to the number of temples and their architectural quality and due to the small number of “Kanchas” (rooms for large families), and due to the various characteristics that Machu Picchu originally was a center of regional power dependent on Cusco. It was a small religious and political capital. Surely it was used as a residence by the Inca or any high-ranking dignitary of the Capital as well as for a selected nobility that had many privileges being attended by hundreds of servants. Most modern archaeologists and historians claim that Machu Picchu was built and used by Inca Pachacutec, who was the greatest builder of the Tawantinsuyo who ruled from 1438 to 1471, as the royal estate of him. Scholars use for this statement the chronological dating given by carbon 14 or radiocarbon. Its undoubted “Imperial Inca” architectural style, the predominant ceramic style and a couple of ancient chronicles found in Cusco archives. Furthermore, the archaeological and architectural evidence totally rules out any possibility of pre-Inca settlements in this Inca citadel.
According to the buildings found in this Inca town, the population during its peak is normally estimated at about 1000 people. After a recent study of the mummies found by Bingham’s expeditions, osteologist John W. Verano affirms that there was a relative balance between the male and female population in Machu Picchu, thus ruling out the theory based on George Eaton’s study that affirmed erroneously that 80% of that population were women. That theory said that Machu Picchu was an important «Aqllawasi» or House of Elected Women, chosen among the most beautiful and virtuous, who were considered the wives of the Sun. Many modern scholars suggest that a large percentage of them were also wives of the Sun. Inca, considering that he was the son of the Sun; therefore, a living god. So it was normal for the Inca to have hundreds of concubines, and for example, history says that Wayna Qhapaq, who was the father of Waskar and Atawallpa, had more than 400 children. However, his main wife must have been a sister of his; being that the only way in which the Inca descendants could conserve their “solar blood” that they supposedly had. The heir to the throne had to be a son of the Inca and his sister. From the meticulous study of John Verano, it is also known that the population in Machu Picchu was ethnically heterogeneous and its people were not really strong, nor did they show signs of having participated in war activities. Rather, its classification fits perfectly with the theory that Machu Picchu was a royal house belonging to the Inca Pachakuteq, and the human remains found belong to the servants of that house, where the height of adult men was an average of 1.57 meters, and that of women. it was 1.48m. It is evident that this Inca Town suffered a bad depopulation for unknown reasons, on which although some logical hypothetical reasons are outlined, it is believed that once there was a terrible epidemic that forced the abandonment of the town built in a humid area with abundant insects. . Even until the first decades of the 20th century, various epidemics were frequently reported in this area, mainly malaria. But do not worry, because nowadays various chemicals are used to fumigate the environment, so the sanitation conditions are much better here. Another possibility is that this town had to be abandoned and closed after the death of the Inca ruler who built and used the town. Another hypothetical reason suggests that once the Antis (name of the Andes Mountains comes from «Antis» = jungle tribes that live in the Amazon Rainforest), who were the worst enemies of the Incas, came to this place carrying carry out a great massacre. What is evident is that the Inca town was closed, abandoned and forgotten from the time of the Incas until the early years of the 20th century.
Machu Picchu attractions
Machu Picchu is divided into two main areas: agricultural and urban, this classification is due to the possible uses that the Incas gave to these sectors.
The Agricultural Area is located just after entering from the tourist hotel Belmond Sanctuary Lodge; around here there are very wide cultivation platforms that are just some of those existing in the region, since most of them are covered with thick vegetation. At the eastern end of the terraces, there are five buildings that were perhaps used to house the farmers who cultivated this area known as the “Farmer’s Group”, although Bingham called them “The Outer Barracks”. At the upper end of those terraces, there is a small three-walled room known as the “Guardian’s House” built in a strategic location from which one has a wide view of the Urubamba canyon in two different directions. It is here, from where the classic photographs of Machupicchu are taken. In the surroundings is located the so-called “Peña Funeraria”; which is a loose stone placed in that place, carved like an altar with some steps and a ring. It is supposed that it was used to carry out the entire embalming process of the mummies, as well as to dry them. However, it seems that this rock also had something to do with solar observations. At the winter solstice, the sunlight is projected exactly onto this rock from “Intipunku” (Sun Gate) which is formed by the buildings to the east, at the top of the pass at the end of the Inca trail that is seen surrounding Machu Pichu. Further south of the “Roca Funeraria” is the largest building in Machu Picchu, which is a “Kallanka” that has 8 entrance openings on its front wall and 2 on the sides. Due to its location near the trails, its size and morphology, it is thought that this building must have been a kind of “Tambo” and that is why it was used as a shelter for a large number of people. Some authors call this building “The Headquarters” and others as “The Workshops”. Going from the agricultural area to the urban area there is a large “Dry Moat” that served as a barrier between both areas. Machu Picchu was a very exclusive town and its population was selected among the nobility, therefore it had a very effective security and protection system.
Crossing the dry moat we locate the urban area to then find the street of the sources that contains 16 liturgical sources, in the Inca Society, water was always considered a special deity, so there were normally sources and reservoirs for its worship. The main fountain is located in front of a three-walled building called “Wayrana” in Inca architecture, which is supposed to be a ceremonial center from where the “Willaq Uma” or High Priest had to perform various ceremonies to worship the water. Nowadays, the water no longer flows through those canals just because the tourist hotel is using it. Originally, the water came from a spring located behind the Machu Picchu mountain. That canal was pushed aside and along the Inka road to Intipunku. Nearby is the “Temple of the Sun” which was originally a very well-protected facility. In the time of the Incas, only the priests and the Incas could use those temples; thus they remain closed and protected. The common people had their popular ceremonies in open areas or squares like those of Machu Picchu or Cusco.
The entrance to the Temple of the Sun is through a magnificent portal with a double jamb, which on its inner surface shows its security system with a stone ring on the lintel where the wooden door must have been hung, and the two nails inside. of small boxes carved in two interior jambs where the gate was tied. The temple was built on a rock «in situ». It has a semicircular floor; whose rear wall is straight and the entire temple is of the “Imperial Inca” architectural type, which is made of rectangular stonework with perfect joints. The semicircular wall has two windows; one of them to the east and the other to the north. According to modern scientists, those two windows are the most important solar observatory in Machu Picchu. In the east-facing window, it is possible to pinpoint the winter solstice by measuring shadow projections on the central rock. Both windows display false projecting carved beams surrounding their outer surface. Those windows were surely used to support components that facilitated solar observations. In the center of the temple there is a rock altar carved “in situ”, which was used to perform various ceremonies in honor of the sun. It is around here, where animal sacrifices were made, so that by analyzing their hearts, lungs and viscera, the priests could predict the future. It is also here that the Inca had to symbolically drink “chicha” (corn beer) together with his father the Sun. The straight rear wall has a window with small holes carved into its sill, which tradition knows as the “Window of the Serpent» (name given by Bingham). The holes are very similar to those found in the Temple of the Stars in the city of Qoricancha Cusco, which according to Garcilaso kept ornaments of precious metals and stones. Possibly also in this place, those mentioned holes had the same use. The straight walls of the temple have trapezoidal niches on their inner faces that were used to store various idols and offerings. Some authors affirm that this temple originally had a conical thatched roof, and they name it as “El Suntur Wasi”, “La Torre Militar”, etc. Beneath the “Temple of the Sun” is an interesting little cave known as the Royal Tomb. «; named after Bingham who believed that it could house the mummy of an Inca or a monarch of Machu Picchu; clarifying that nothing was found inside. Then, the relationship would be logical: the Inka buried under the temple of his father, his sun. Without a doubt, that small cave must have been related to the Ukju Pacha or subterranean world and the cult of the dead. Inside the small cave, on the right side wall, there are two large trapezoidal niches with false stone beams jutting out in height. of its lintels, and two smaller niches in the deeper wall. On the floor, there is a carving with a symbol of passage, called chacana, which represents the three levels of the Andean Religious World. In the Inca Society, all the corpses were embalmed and mummified in a fetal positi with the only difference that the mummies of the nobles were kept in the temples, while those of the common people were buried or placed in cemeteries. Inside the Temple of the Sun there is also a two-story building known by some authors as the “Ñusta Enclosure” (ñusta, means princess) and as the “Priest’s Enclosure” by some others who, due to its location in that facility must have had a close relationship with the Temple and was possibly the Willaq Uma, or residence of the High Priest.
Across the street in front of the Temple of the Sun, the “Grupo Real de Edificaciones” is located, which is a classic “kancha” (an apartment for a large family); being the only one found in this area and the only one very solid and built in carved stone. There is no doubt that it was the abode of the Inka. The group has two large rooms and two small “wayranas” around a central patio. The eastern room is known as the bedroom and inside, its southern part is divided into carved stones that make up the “bed”, so it is thought that the Inca may have slept in that corner on blankets woven from vicuña wool. . At the north end of the room, there is a very small compartment that people have dubbed the “bathroom,” which is unusual because bathrooms are not normally found inside apartments. The front room is known as the ruler’s ‘study’; and the two small “wayranas” used on the two opposite sides were probably used as a kitchen and workshop. Almost in the middle of the central patio there is a carved stone that was used as a mortar to grind grains or other products. Leaving this group by their only entrance, there is now another exit behind the “studio” that was opened to help tourists to walk, in the small and narrow passage, and on the right side and about two meters high. a carved ledge A stone is found showing a false beam that has a hole in the middle, which must have been used to hold ceremonial components and perhaps an “aryballus”, which is a classic Inka sharp-bottomed vessel containing chicha ( corn beer).
Going up the stone stairs, the “Cantera” or “Granite Chaos” area is located, where there are boulders of amorphous granite; which hints that they were simply being worked on immediately. All the mountains around this Inca town have rocks of the same quality; grayish white granite from the Vilcabamba Batolito region, which proves that the rocks that make up this citadel were already located in this place from the initial time, so they were not transported from the bottom of the valley as some authors tried to affirm. In this area, there is a partially broken rock frequently pointed out by local guides as not being a genuine Inca work, but just a sample to show the technique used to split stones in Inca times, which was done in 1953. When the magma cooled to form granite stone, a crystallization process was produced by which these rocks always present nerves, faults or natural lines on their surfaces, those nerves or lines were located by the Quechua stonemasons to make holes along them. Those holes were filled with wooden wedges which were then soaked; thus using that expansion or swelling of soggy wood to split the rocks.
From the quarry, it is possible to climb the stone staircase to the southeast to reach the area known as the “Superior Group” that some historians call this area the “Main Gate of the City”, or the “Yachay wasi”. » which means school. In this area there are many “pirka” type walled buildings that were apparently used as public buildings, among which are some “Qollqas” or warehouses. The Main Gate of the Town of Machu Picchu is located in this area, which was the only entrance through the southeast part of the town, and which was very well protected to allow entry only to its exclusive population. On the inner surface of that portal you can also see its closing system with the stone ring on the lintel and the two stakes inside the small boxes carved in the jambs.
To the west of the quarry is the “Sacred Plaza” (Sacred Group), where the “Main Temple” (Main Temple) is located at its western end, which is a “Wayrana” type Temple, since it only has three walls made in rectangular pieces of surface. of stone and perfect “Imperial Inka” type tight joints. The Templo Mayor shows seven trapezoidal niches in its central wall and five on each of the sides. In front of it, about 8 meters ahead and near the “Temple of the Three Windows” is a huge partially carved rock that must have been the central pillar of the main temple that supported the roof beams, which is currently called “the sacrificial altar.” Currently the main Temple has its central wall broken, and is moving to the northeast; The archaeological works showed that the displacement is due to the filtering of the rain, although some geologists insinuate that it is due to a geological fault that passes through this place and crosses it, which says more, that there is another fault in the Temple of the Sun. The deity worshiped at this main temple is unknown, although some historians claim it may have been Wiracocha, the invisible Andean high god. On the other side of the wall on the south side of the temple, there is a small diamond-shaped outcrop made of carved stone that according to some authors, is an allegation of the Southern Cross, a statement that is not definitively proven. At the north end of the «Sacred Plaza» is the temple of the windows of the trees, which only has three walls and when it was in use it had a two-sloped roof, its stones are polygonal, and comparatively it must have been earlier or previous. less important than the «Main Temple». Evidence shows that this temple was originally planned to have five windows, but it appears that the last two windows were bricked up after the Temple was completed. In the central part of what would become the front wall, there is a single stone pillar used to support the thatched roof, and on its western side a stone carved into steps that represent the three levels of the Andean World: the «Hanan -Pacha» (sky), the «Kay-Pacha» (surface of the earth) and the «Ukju-Pacha» (underground). The existence of this Temple made Bingham believe that he had found the mythical Pakaritampu “Tampu T’oqo” or the place where the Inca civilization began; but all of that has now been proven wrong.
What does Machu Picchu mean
Machu Picchu is a compound Quechua word that comes from machu = old or ancient and picchu = peak or mountain; therefore, machu picchu translates as “The old mountain”, unfortunately these names are current contemporary, the original names of these mountains as (mach picchu, huaynapicchu) and some other names used today were probably attributed by farmers who They lived in the region before Bingham’s arrival. However, according to studies on some documents from the 16th century, the original name of the complex could be “Picchu”. More information about the meaning of Machu Picchu.
Location of Machu Picchu
The archaeological zone of Machu Picchu is located at 2450 meters (8038 ft) at 13 ° 09’23 ” South Latitude and 72 ° 32′ 34 ” West Longitude located on the left bank of the Vilcanota River in the Kusi Chaka ravine. , to the mouth of the Aobamba River. Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town) belongs to the Cusco region, Urubamba province and Machu Picchu district located 112.5 km from the city of Cusco. To get to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu you can choose 2 routes.
- Making the Inca Trail which lasts 4 days and 3 nights.
- Railroad taking a train at the Ollantaytambo or Poroy station to the town of Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town) and then take a bus or walk to the mountain where the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is located.
Dimensions of machu picchu
The entire Machu Picchu Archaeological Park is 32,592 hectares or 80,535 acres (325.92 km2) wide. The Inca town of Machu Picchu is located at kilometer 112 (70 miles) of the Cusco – Quillabamba railway.
Weather of machu picchu
The climate in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town) as well as in the archaeological zone shows two clearly defined seasons throughout the year; the rainy season from October to March and the dry season from April to September.
However, as Machu Picchu is located on the edge of the Cusco Amazon jungle, its climate is humid and it is likely that there will be rain or showers at any time of the year, but those rains are not torrential even in the rainy season, as in the northern hemisphere of the world, they are light rains, so in conclusion you can visit machu picchu even in the rainy season, the rain and the cold are very light in this part of the region, being in fact very mild compared to the climatic changes experienced in the city of Cusco. On the hottest days in Machu Picchu town it is possible for the temperature to rise to around 30°C (78.8° Fahrenheit) and in the coldest early morning hours of June and July the temperature can drop to 5°C ( 41 ° F) so the annual average temperature in this area is 18 degrees Celsius.