Machu Picchu (15th century)

Machu Picchu (15th century)

The ancient Inca city, located in present-day Peru, is a World Heritage Site.



Machu Picchu, Inca, Bingham, Peru, World Heritage, ruined city, Andes, fortress, church, citadel, palace, observatory

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Machu Picchu is located in present-day Peru, on a mountain ridge in the Andes. The name means "Old Peak" in Quechua. The ancient Incan city was built in the 15th century.

Scholars believe that the classic Inca-style settlement was not a real city; it was rather a complex built for the protection of the ruling class as well as a scientific and religious center.

The mystical city was surrounded by terraces of cultivated land. Together with the stair systems, wells and canals, these are considered engineering masterpieces. There were about 300 terraced fields here, supported by stone walls. Maize, potatoes, herbs and flowers were grown in these fields. The Incas raised livestock too, mainly llamas, alpacas and vicunas.

Certain temples, the ritual wells, the storage buildings and the dwellings were located in the lower part of the city. The most sacred buildings occupied the higher ground. The center of the religion was the Intihuatana, which stood on the highest point of Machu Picchu. It was "The Hitching Post of the Sun," and the Incas used it to perform ceremonies to "tether" the Sun to prevent it from disappearing as the winter solstice approached.

The post on the granite altar was used as a sundial. The Main Temple was near the Central Plaza, with the altar in its center. The rising Sun lights the hole on the altar on the day of the summer solstice, which indicates that the altar was probably used as an astronomical instrument too.

The Golden Age of the settlement was the second half of the 15th century, but later, as the Incan Empire was destroyed by the Spanish, it was abandoned and forgotten until its rediscovery in 1911 by an American archeologist, Hiram Bingham. Today, Machu Picchu is the most popular tourist destination in Peru. It was added to the list of World Heritage Natural and Cultural sites in 1983 and chosen as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

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