In the Cusco region of Peru, 2.4 km above sea level in the mountains, the ruins of Machu Picchu were re-discovered in 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham . Machu Picchu, which means ‘Old Mountain’, is an Inca site in the mountains of Peru which is often referred to as the ‘Lost city of the Incas’.
An old Incan trail leads its way through the mountains to the city of Machu Picchu. Archaeologists believe that the site was built in approximately 1400 AD by King Pachacuti ; however, local legends denote that Machu Picchu was a sacred place built far earlier than that. Therefore, it is not exactly clear why it was built, by whom, or how.
Machu Picchu is a city comprised of more than 200 buildings, temples, houses, pathways, fountains and altars all cut from grey granite from the mountain top. There is no evidence of any fortified walls, which means that it was not a fortress. Many of the stone blocks weigh more than 50 tons, and all are cut and fitted together in such a precise manner that it raises incredulity as to how they created such a monumental place.
Why was this place built? One of the functions that archaeologists suggest is that of astronomical observations. A specific stone at the highest part of the site, the Intihuatana stone , was used to indicate with accuracy the two equinoxes, as well as other celestial events. Local shamanic legends refer to this stone as a gateway to the spirit world. The person who would touch the stone with his forehead would open a vision to the spirit world. Other main buildings inside the city of Machu Picchu are the temple of the Moon, the temple of the Sun, and the room of the three Windows. Unfortunately, there are no written clues or carvings in Machu Picchu proving that this was the only purpose of the site.
New excavations are currently taking place and recently the French mechanic David Crespi thinks he discovered a secret entrance that will lead to an underground room in the centre of the city. A French archaeologist named Thierry Jamin and her team not only confirmed what David suspected, but with the help of instruments verified that many rooms exist below the city and behind the sealed entrance, as well as gold and other precious metals.
Who built Machu Picchu and why? How did they manage to move and place such enormous blocks? And most importantly, why was it abandoned?
By John Black