Machu Picchu

At any moment, it seems, a gold-encrusted and befeathered Inca warrior will materialize between the curiously sloping door jambs.

The enigmatic Incas knew neither the wheel nor any written language, but forged an empire stretching 3,680km (2,300mi) along the mighty Andean heights.

Machu Picchu was a complex of temples, palaces and observatories and was the home of the Inca ruling classes. From here, high priests made observations and calculations enabling them to chart the heavens – a knowledge which gave them both religious authority and temporal power.


Hiram Bingham found many objects of stone, bronze, ceramic and obsidian, but no gold or silver. There should have been fabulous riches of these metals comparable to those found at the ‘Temple of the Sun’ in Cuzco where even the garden contained lifesize gold replicas of maize and other plants.

It is unlikely the Spaniards stole the gold and silver, for it seems they never found Machu Picchu. They always took great pains to visit every inhabited settlement in Peru and record it in detail before relieving it of everything worth taking. But there is not a single reference to Machu Picchu in the Spaniards’ chronicles. The Peruvian scholar Dr Victor Angles Vargas thinks the city became depopulated toward the end of the 15th century before the Spaniards arrived. What brought this about is one of the deepest enigmas surrounding this sacred site.

Wars between rival Inca tribes were common and blood, often resulting in the annihilation of whole communities. When the Inca ruler, Wayna Capac, defeated the tribe of the Caranques, for example, he ordered the execution of all the remaining members. The citizens of Machu Picchu may well have suffered such a fate.

Another possibility is that a novice priest defiled one of the sacred Virgins of the Sun. Garcilaso de Vega, the son of a Spaniard and an Inca princess, wrote exhaustive commentaries on Inca customs. According to him, anyone found guilty of sexually violating an ‘ajilla’ was not only put to death himself, but servants, relatives and neighbors, inhabitants of the same town and their cattle were all killed. No one was left . . . The place was damned and excommunicated so that no one could find it, not even the animals! Was this, then, the fate of the inhabitants of Machu Picchu?

Also epidemics are common enough even in modern times – in the 1940s malaria decimated the population of an area near Machu Picchu. And the skeleton of a rich woman found by Hiram Bingham showed she had suffered from syphilis and was unlikely to have been alone in this. Perhaps the city was ravaged by a plague so terrible it was permanently quarantined by the authorities.

Theories show that it could have been a country estate of Pachacuti, proving its existence in mud 15th century. Some think that it was abandoned by the Incas before Spanish conquest, yet no one knows why. Overlooked by conquistadors, it was supposedly untouched until 1911.


Machu Picchu’s unusual patterns are best viewed from the sky. Many believe it to be a landing strip for extraterrestrials. Its celestial observatory depicts many patterns found on petroglyphs throughout the world.


Peru Finds Inca Burial Site at Machu Picchu

October 2002 – Reuters News – Lima, Peru

Peruvian archeologists have discovered the first full Inca burial site at Machu Picchu since the famous mountaintop citadel was discovered 90 years ago, officials said on Saturday.

“It’s important because nothing like this — a burial site and all that goes with it — has been found since the Bingham era,” Machu Picchu’s administrator, Fernando Astete, told Reuters, referring to the U.S. explorer Hiram Bingham who rediscovered the Inca citadel in 1911.

“The find is significant because of the funeral objects, such as stone and clay pots and five metal objects accompanying the remains of bones of a person, probably a woman,” he added.

He said other excavations in recent years at the atmospheric gray stone site, perched at an altitude of 8,200 feet on top of a mountain near the edge of Peru’s southern jungle, had yielded some bone fragments but not Inca graves.

“Studies will confirm the sex and determine the age of the person who was buried, but the objects that were found around the body point to it having been a young woman,” he added.

Machu Picchu, which was built more than 500 years ago, is Peru’s top tourist attraction and a U.N. World Heritage site, drawing some 500,000 foreign visitors a year.

“When the citadel of Machu Picchu was discovered in 1911, 172 tombs with human remains were found, but over the years only bones have been found. It’s only now that a complete burial site has been uncovered,” Astete said.

The Spanish conquerors of Peru never stumbled upon Machu Picchu, near the southern Andean city of Cusco, some 684 miles southeast of Lima, and the site was only discovered when Bingham and local guides came across the vegetation-covered ruins.

Cusco was capital of the Inca empire from the 13th to the 16th century. The Inca empire stretched from Colombia to Chile.

Astete said well-preserved ceramics, including a stone pan and clay pot, as well as bronze pins, a mirror and clasps, were found in the burial site.

The site was discovered a week ago in a sector of Machu Picchu that was used by the Incas as a viewing place. Archeologists have been excavating there for several months, and found the grave some 31.5 inches (80 cm) below the surface.

Astete said Machu Picchu had not yielded all its secrets yet. “Not everything has been discovered, there are parts which have not been investigated yet by archeologists,” he said. Another group of investigators found new stone terraces, water channels, a garbage dump and a wall at Machu Picchu in June.

The burial find will be put on display where it was found to encourage tourism, he added. This cash-strapped Andean nation is betting on tourism as a big money spinner and most visitors to Peru make the trip to Machu Picchu.

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