Machu Picchu Ruins

May 31, 2002


Provided by: Desi Robertson
Summary author: Jim Foster

The above photo shows the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu located in the Andes Mountains of Peru, about 50 mi (80 km) northwest of the city of Cuzco. Machu Pichu means Old Peak in the Quechua language. Although the Inca people utilized this mountaintop sanctuary (9,060 ft or 2,290 m in elevation) from the early 1400s, erecting massive stone structures carved from gray granite, it was likely revered as a sacred place centuries before this. Machu Picchu was completely invisible from below and was once surrounded by agricultural terraces and watered by natural springs.

Machu Pichu also served as an astronomical observatory. The Intihuatana stone has been shown to be a precise indicator of the date of the winter solstice. Machu Picchu was apparently abandoned when supply lines linking the many Inca social centers were disrupted approximately a half-century after the Spanish conquered Cuzco in 1533. In 1911, the fortress city was rediscovered by Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham.

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