Machu Picchu stands as one of the world’s most fascinating and enigmatic ancient sites. Perched high in the Andes mountains of Peru, the incredible Incan city has captured the wonder and imagination of visitors for over a century. As an ancient citadel of splendor set amidst breathtaking natural beauty, Machu Picchu holds many intriguing mysteries waiting to be unlocked.
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Why Was Machu Picchu Built?
Machu Picchu’s original purpose and the whole story of its inhabitants remain shrouded in mystery. Most historians believe Machu Picchu to have been a royal estate built for Pachacuti, the ninth Sapa Inca ruler of the Kingdom of Cusco. As an estate for Pachacuti and his royal court, Machu Picchu would have hosted religious ceremonies and administrative tasks. Its proximity to the site of Pachacuti’s royal villa at Pisac also lends credibility to this theory.
Some conjecture the site served specific ceremonial or astronomical purposes, given its layout around mountains seemingly revered as sacred Apus and its sophisticated orientation according to solar patterns. More than 200 structures stand at the site, ranging from royal estates, fountains, and temples to more humble houses potentially for servants and workers. Historians continue efforts to decode the site’s original intent and inhabitants.
Why Was It Abandoned?
One of Machu Picchu’s most fantastic puzzles is why the spectacular city was abandoned after only 100 years of occupation. In fact, despite its scale and grandeur Machu Picchu was inhabited for less than a century before being deserted for unknown reasons.
Conquistador records make no mention of knowing about Machu Picchu. Thus, the prevailing theory holds that its inhabitants evacuated the city long before Spanish explorers arrived in Peru. Disease and invasion from rival tribes may have forced Machu Picchu’s early evacuation.
Most evidence suggests the city was peacefully abandoned rather than overrun. With valuable artifacts and human remains all mainly left undisturbed, the site has been emptied willingly. Further study of Transport Amphorae vessels is underway to determine if environmental collapse played a role. These vessels were reused before abandonment, hinting at potential supply shortages. Continued research on the mysterious desertion continues today.
Who Were Machu Picchu’s Inhabitants?
Learning about Machu Picchu’s original inhabitants sheds more light on the famous “Lost City of the Incas.” Scientists estimate a population of 750 to 1,200 individuals once filled the stone halls and houses of Machu Picchu.
Further study has revealed that most inhabitants are women, children, artisans, and farmers rather than soldiers. Bone analysis also points to dietary differences between locals vs. members of the Incan royal court. Royals are believed to have lived in the more elaborate stonework estates in the central and southwest sectors of Machu Picchu.
These former inhabitants have yet to tell us their story conclusively. Continued anthropologic study of recovered bones, artifacts, and settlement patterns furthers our understanding bit by bit. One thing is for sure – the mountain-top civilization was more complex than just one ruler’s vacation estate.
Other Lingering Mysteries About Machu Picchu
Beyond significant questions about its abandonment and inhabitants, several other puzzles surround Machu Picchu. Unlocking these lingering mysteries can reveal more about Incan culture and ways of life:
- How was Machu Picchu built at such a challenging high altitude and steep terrain with no modern technology? Historians estimate construction took over three generations. The remote location and logistical challenges raise questions about the methods and materials used.
- What was the purpose behind Machu Picchu’s layout? The site integrates with surrounding mountains and is aligned with astrological events like solstices. Did mountains like Yanantin and Huayna Picchu hold religious significance? What about the carved rock behind the Torreon, which is believed to represent the mountain Apu Machu Picchu?
- What secrets lie in the surrounding rock caves and underground tunnels? Machu Picchu alone contains about 200 partly excavated caves. And networks like the 3-mile Inca Trail exist, offering the potential for discoveries.
- How was Machu Picchu able to thrive in isolation? Despite remoteness, the inhabitants mastered innovations meeting their water, drainage, and farming needs. They terraced crops and transported water via aqueducts and fountains. Machu Picchu remains a triumph of engineering and spirit.
Machu Picchu’s Lasting Significance
Machu Picchu reminds us of the greatness ancient civilizations achieved and the mysteries that live on through the ages. The citadel’s royal estates, plazas, temples, and homes allow us to envision Incan life with unparalleled intimacy. Walking Machu Picchu’s paths brings us closer to unlocking the stories etched into layers of stone.
The famous fortress city gradually reveals its secrets through diligent study and care. As stewardship of Machu Picchu progresses into the 21st century, Peru’s government works to balance access with preservation for future generations. This ensures the allure and majesty of Machu Picchu persists as more clues unveil how ancient Incans mastered their marvelous mountainside settlement centuries ago.
Frequently Asked Questions About Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu captures curiosity and wonders, unlike any other attraction in South America. As the crown jewel of ancient Incan civilization, plenty of questions arise for those planning their visit. Here are some quick answers on what you need to know before unlocking Machu Picchu’s secrets yourself:
How do you get to Machu Picchu today?
You can reach Machu Picchu via a scenic train ride from Cusco to Aguas Calientes village at the base of the mountains. From there, buses quickly transport you up the steep incline. You can also hike the famous Inca Trail across several mountain passes to enter Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate.
When was Machu Picchu first discovered?
Hiram Bingham III, a Yale historian, and explorer, first brought word of Machu Picchu’s existence to modern civilization 1911. Bingham learned of references to a lost city during trips to Peru and, aided by local farmers, uncovered the sprawling complex covered in overgrowth.
How much do tickets cost to enter Machu Picchu?
Entry tickets range from around $50 (lean season) to $80 (peak times). Pricing depends on whether you want access to the central citadel or other neighboring sites like Huayna Picchu. Plan because daily visitor limits control overcrowding.
Should I hire a guide for my visit?
Yes, having an expert guide enriches your visit with a deeper understanding of the Incan culture at Machu Picchu. Many visitors say a guide unlocks context, bringing the ruins to life. Guides range from private tours to trim group options. Do your research to find one that meets your needs.
How long do people spend exploring Machu Picchu on average?
Most visitors spend 3-5 hours exploring the central area of palaces, temples, plazas, and homes. You’ll learn far more about the site in this timeframe with a guide. For more complete exploration, people often spend 1-2 days at Machu Picchu, including hikes up Huayna Picchu and visiting the Temple of the Moon.
As one of humanity’s great surviving wonders, Machu Picchu continues yielding its share of secrets that capture our imagination. Visitors making the journey to Peru enjoy an unmatched travel experience, unlocking the magic of this ancient Incan citadel in the clouds. From theories around its original inhabitants to methods behind its food production capable of thriving in the mountains, Machu Picchu promises more revelations as conservation and study persist in the centuries ahead.