It is one of the “Lost City of the Inkas,” “City of Light for Initiates,” An ancient site  fed by grids of powerful natural energies patterned by surrounding mountains and  extensive underground tunnels. Shamanic belief states that this site served for centuries as an initiatory centre of higher learning. The sanctuary, constructed of mortared terraces, covers many square kilometres connected by endless stairs carved from solid rock all around the mountains. Throughout the ages, the sheltered temple sights-geophysical conducive atmospheres- were used for ritual and mind-altering experiences. Shamanic legend says that touching the Intiwantana Stone with one’s forehead opens one’s vision into the World of the Spirit. Tune into the Wakas  (sacred spots) of individual rocks and boulders. Experience here the classic “magical flight” of shamanic ecstasy.

History: Rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, Machu Picchu was unknown to the Christians. Its reason for existence remains under debate. Probably it was built and populated by the family of one Inka ruler, Pachakutek. Machu Picchu was some sort of lyceum where the children of the leaders of other conquered Andean cultures were taken to be taught in the Inka way of life. At any rate, as we wander through the maze of empty plazas, chambers and dwellings saddled atop steep mountainsides, unable to bear with our own speculations about the impenetrable mystery of these stones. At present it is a Historic National Sanctuary, protected by the Peruvian Government that tries to preserve the geological formations and archaeological remains inside the Sanctuary, in addition to protecting its flora, fauna and landscape beauty. The whole park has an extension of 80,535 acres (32,592 hectares; 125.83 mile).

Locale and Climate: Machu Picchu (the Inkan City) is located on the 112th kilometre (70 miles) of the Cusco-Quillabamba railway; the train station is in Aguas Calientes, a village with an altitude of 2,000 meters a.s.l. (6,560 feet). From that station  buses can be found in order to get to South-America’s most famous Archaeological Group located at an average altitude of 2,450 meters (8,038 feet). The climate in that sector has also some characteristics that are found all over the region;  Thus, only two well defined seasons are distinguished: the rainy season in the area goes between November to April, and the dry season from May to October. Machu Picchu is near the commencement of the Cusquenian Amazonian Jungle, so the chance of having rains or showers is likely at any time of the year. During the hottest days it is possible to even get  about 26° Celsius (78.8° Fahrenheit), while such a temperature, in the coldest early mornings in June and July, it may drop down to 8° C (15* degrees Fahrenheit).; the average annual temperature is 16* degrees Celsius (25*Fahrenheit). Between May and August the weather is nice and beautiful for the skies are nearly always blue and clear.

Geology: The Machu Picchu Historic National Sanctuary is found over a great granite ore structure baptized by Dr. Isaiah Bowman as the “Vilcabamba Batholith” that outcrops over about 400 km (154 mile). Its formation belongs in the scale of geological time to the Palaeozoic or Inferior Primary and may have an approximate age of 250 million years.

Origin of Name: Machu Picchu (like most of the Quechua names of towns and different sites in the region) is a compound word that comes from Machu = old or ancient, and Picchu = peak or mountain; therefore, Machu Picchu is translated as “Old Mountain”.

The famous mountain that is seen in the background, and appears in most of the classical views of the site is called Wayna Picchu (Young Mountain). Unfortunately the original names of the mentioned sectors are lost, Machu Picchu, Wayna Picchu and some other proper names used today are contemporary ones; ascribed probably to farmers living in the region before Bingham’s arrival. However, according to studies in some XVI century documents, the original name of the whole area might have been “Picchu”.

It is known that Hiram Bingham, a descendant of missionaries, was the man who rediscovered Machu Picchu for the contemporary world and modern science. He was a North-American historian born in Honolulu, Hawaii; who in 1907 taught the South-American History and Geography course in Yale University. Later he was chosen as delegate of his country to the First Pan-American Scientific Congress carried out in Chile in 1908. By that time he began his activities as a explorer taking a horseback journey from Caracas to Bogota, following the Simon Bolivar’s trail. Then he followed the old colonial trade way from Buenos Aires to Lima, arriving in this Andean zone in 1909; during that year, from Abancay, he started off  his first exploration towards Choquekirau, trying to find the last Inkan Capital. By that time many myths had been created about the possibility of finding the “Inkas’ treasures” that according to tradition had been taken by Manko Inka is his retreat to Willkapampa (willka = sacred, pampa = plain; its Spanish form is “Vilcabamba”); thus it was so common by that epoch to find treasure hunters willing to get to this last Inkas’ dwelling. That same intention moved Bingham to study chronicles and even to visit Spanish archives, and subsequently in 1911 to come back to Peru with the aim of performing studies of geology and botany, and for sure, also in order to try to find Willkapampa.

In Cusco, Albert Giesecke, a compatriot of his and dean of the local university had put him in contact with Braulio Polo y la Borda, owner of Mandor. That local landlord told Bingham that on the hill, across from his property, there were ancient constructions covered withy vegetation where cattle was frequently lost; and moreover, he introduced Bingham to Eduardo Lizarraga, a farmland renter had been living in the area since  the late 1800s, who had seen the buildings.

On July 23th, 1911 Bingham showed up in Mandor along with a policeman, Sergeant Carrasco, who escorted him by order of Cusco’s Prefect Juan Jose Nuñez. They found in his hut the peasant Melchor Arteaga who told Bingham about the existence of two Inkan sites named Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu; that same peasant was hired by Bingham to be the guide in order to get to the Inkan City. The next day, after examining the field they decided to climb up.

After noon they arrived in another hut where they found Anacleto Alvarez and Toribio Recharte; they were two humble peasants who along with their families lived in the area and cultivated the pre-Hispanic farming terraces. After a short break, they provided a boy as the guide for Bingham in order to have a first look at the Inkan buildings that were completely covered with entangled vegetation. That was how Bingham, at 35 years old, stumbled into Machu Picchu; a fortuitous happening that made manifest a great “discovery”.

Almost immediately after his first exploration, he went back to the USA looking for financial support that was granted to him by the Yale University and the National Geographic Society. Subsequently, the Peruvian government in Lima facing Bingham’s request in order to execute works in Machu Picchu, by means of law given on October 31th, 1912, authorized him to carry out his projected works. Besides, according to the fourth article of that authorization Bingham could freely take out of the country all the obtained pieces during his explorations, but with commitment of giving them back to Peru’s simple petition. Authorization in the name of “international etiquette” that infringed some legal rules and caused irreparable damage to Peru’s cultural heritage.

Inka Trail to Machu Picchu: It was part of the Inka highway system (Qhapaq Ñan) and is one of the most important South American trekking routes. Along the hike, you can see several gorges and streams that originate from glaciers. There are a few archaeological monuments along the trail, such as Qoriwayrachina, Llaqtapata, Runkuraqay, Sayaqmarka, Phuyupatamarka, Intipata, Wiñay Wayna and Intipunku. The starting point of the trip varies according to the trail you wish to take. The most popular route starts around kilometer marker 82 (Piskakucho) of the railroad Cusco – Machu Picchu (40 km / 25 miles from the city itself). Another possibility, shorter in time, is called the Sacred Trail, and begins at kilometer marker 104 (Chachabamba) of the railroad.

Machu Picchu was built around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire. It was abandoned just over 100 years later, in 1572, as a belated result of the Spanish Conquest. It is likely that most of its inhabitants died from smallpox introduced by travelers before the Spanish conquistadores arrived in the area. The latter had notes of a place called Piccho, although there is no record of the Spanish having visited the remote city. The types of sacred rocks defaced by the conquistadors in other locations are untouched at Machu Picchu. Hiram Bingham theorized that the complex was the traditional birthplace of the Incan “Virgins of the Suns”. More recent research by scholars such as John Rowe and Richard Burger, has convinced most archaeologists that Machu Picchu was an estate of the Inca emperor Pachacuti. In addition, Johan Reinhard presented evidence that the site was selected because of its position relative to sacred landscape features such as its mountains, which are purported to be in alignment with key astronomical events important to the Incas.

Theories about Machu Pijchu

Johan Reinhard believes Machu Picchu to be a sacred religious is located. Reinhard calls it “sacred geography” because the site is built on and around mountains that hold high religious importance in the Inca culture and in culture that previously occupied the land. At the highest point of the mountain in which Machu Picchu was named after, there are “artificial platforms [and] these had a religious function, as is clear from the Inca ritual offerings found buried under them” (Reinhard 2007).

These platforms are also found in other Incan religious sites. The site’s other stone structures have finely worked stones with niches and from what the “Spaniards wrote about Inca sites, we know that these [types of] building[s] were of ritual significance” (Reinhard 2007). This would be the most convincing evidence that Reinhard points out because this type of stylistic stonework is only found at the religious sites so it would be natural that they would put it into this religious site.

Another theory maintains that Machu Picchu was an Inca llaqta, a settlement built to control the economy of conquered regions. Yet another asserts that it may have been built as a prison for a select few who had committed heinous crimes against Inca society. An alternative theory is that it is an agricultural testing station. Different types of crops could be tested in the many different micro-climates afforded by the location and the terraces; these were not large enough to grow food on a large scale, but may have been used to determine what could grow where. Another theory suggests that the city was built for the gods to live in, or for the coronation of kings.

Although Bingham was the first ruins to the outside world, other outsiders were said to have seen Machu Picchu before him. Simone Waisbard, a long-time researcher of Cusco, claims that Enrique Palma, Gabino Sánchez, and Agustín Lizárraga left their names engraved on one of the rocks at Machu Picchu on 14 July 1901. In 1904, an engineer named Franklin supposedly spotted the ruins from a distant mountain. He told Thomas Payne, an English Christian missionary living in the region, about the site, Payne’s family members claim. They also report that in 1906, Payne and fellow missionary Stuart E. McNairn (1867–1956) climbed up to the ruins.

The site may have been discovered and plundered in 1867 by a German businessman, Augusto Berns.There is some evidence that a German engineer, J. M. von Hassel, arrived earlier. Maps found by historians show references to Machu Picchu as early as 1874.

Sponsored by the very same George Eastman ( founder of well-equipped with state-of-art technology of that time related to photographic matter. In this way, he achieved to register Inka sanctuary enabling to contemplate the citadel without the touristy hustle and bustle oppressing it nowadays. Those images, with a particular care for light and focus, make up the exposition “Visions of Machu Picchu- 100 years of black and white”, to be watched starting the next 21st of June at the ICPNA Miraflores.

Hiram Bingham registered around 15,000 photo sheets where you can perceive his particular care for light and focus. The article will make part of the 1924 mission of the authorities and journalists who accompanied the American Ambassador during his excursion to the sanctuary; afterwards, Chambi would tour the enclosures and passages of Machu Picchu as he came back in 1928 along with the historian Luis E. Valcarcel, as he managed to climb up the summit of the Huayna Picchu itself.

The exhibition, which is part of the celebrations for the century of Machu Picchu citadel discovery, has been envisioned according to Silva as a “visual novel of Machu Picchu”, that is, as a kind of narrative on how the relationship of the photographers with the sanctuary was progressively deepening, dramatizing the personal adventure of each and every one of them”.


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