Machu Picchu – The enigmatic city and the gold of the Inca people

The year is 1536 and the Inca ruler Manco Inca Yupanqui who is now defeated by the Spanish conquistadorernas armies flee the empire’s capital Cusco and found a new city, Vilcabamba. The Inca Empire, already weakened from within by civil war, is now being wiped out by Gonzalo Pizzarro. But the Manco Inca Yupanqui dynasty manages to survive another 36 years, after which Vilcabamba then falls into oblivion.

More than 370 years have passed since Hiram Bingham left Yale University decides to leave for Peru. He embarks on an adventurous journey from Buenos Aires to Cusco in 1906, hoping to find Vilcabamba, the Inca rebel’s last resort.

Arriving in Abancay, he receives tips from the locals about some ruins in the area, something that brings him to what we know today as the archeological complex in Choquequirao. But Bingham was not convinced. According to his expectations, the mythical Vilcabamba would have been even more impressive, and he immediately plans a new expedition to find the city.

Albert Giesecke, who was his friend and at the time rector of the University of Cusco, told about some mysterious Inca ruins in the area. The rest is history. On July 24, 1911, Bingham, along with local guide Melchor Arteaga, reached the top of Mount Machu Picchu and is fully convinced to have discovered Vilcabamba. In the book The Lost City of the Incas he later described the feeling of having discovered what for him was the legendary city. But instead, it was in the sacred Urubamba Valley that he discovered the ruins of Machu Picchu, (“the ancient mountain peak” as it was called in the Quechua language).

The site is now on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is located in a mountain area 2350 meters above sea level about 80 km northwest of Cusco. The location of the city was for a long time a well-guarded secret through the steep cliffs that formed a natural defense. When the site was abandoned, its location remained unknown for four centuries, protected by lush vegetation and virtually invisible from below.

The mystery of the temples
But why build a city on top of a 2300 meter high cliff along the Andes’ slopes? And most importantly, is the term city correct when talking about Machu Picchu? In fact, the huge stone stairs and the gigantic terraces probably never belonged to the everyday life of the Inca people, but in fact they are a huge complex with temples, observatories and sumptuous palaces intended for the ruling class. There is also an area where people devoted themselves to agriculture and handicrafts, but the real purpose of the settlement is still a mystery.

The most important sites in Machu Picchu include the Main Square built on terraces and in different levels, the Temple of the Sun, the Royal Palace representing the first entrance to the city and the Holy Square, which includes two of the three largest buildings: the Temple of the Three Windows and the Great Temple.

In the far western part of the place there is also the enigmatic stone called Intihuatana, which means “pole to bind the sun”. ”

Text: Roberto La Paglia & Massimo Bonasorte

Read more at, The Gold of the Incas and the enigmatic Machu Picchu – The Hidden City


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