While he was looking for a city called Vilcamba, Hiram Bingham discovered one of the most mysterious towns of all times today 101 years ago. The lost city of Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century by the Inca near Cusco and was declared as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
The city of Machu Picchu was built 7,000 feet above sea level in between the summit of the mountain Huayna Picchu and the mountain Machu Picchu near Cusco by the mighty Empire of the Inca under the control of Pachacútec Yupanqui, who developed the rituals around Inti, the God of the Sun. At its best times, the city could shelter about 1000 people and even supply them with sufficient food. Because of its high location, it was not visible for the Spanish conquerors and could not be destroyed unlike many other Inca buildings in the 16th century, which is the reason why the city is still very well-preserved.
Today many researchers argue about the purpose of the city. Some assume, that it was used as a place of refuge. Others believe that the city was still under construction and could never be finished due to the Empire’s conquest of the Spanish. The city’s high development, consisting of more than 150 buildings and the fact that there was a completely functional water system, which still works today, speak against this theory.
Even though, the official date of the discovery was in 1911, many explorers knew about Machu Picchu’s existence long before. In the 19th century, many Europeans tried exploring the area around the city, but it was hard to find because of the huge and diverse vegetation as well as the lack of a reliable map. Hiram Bingham led the expedition of Yale University to discover the city of Vilcamba and found Machu Picchu. Rumors were later spread, that Bingham had discovered the city some months earlier and took the time to transport the many treasures located in the city to the United States.
The beauty of the city and the mysteries surrounding it attract 2000 tourists around the globe every day. The increasing tourism is currently stressing the nature around the city and UNESCO demanded to reduce the number of tourists down to 800 per day. The effects of the high frequency of tourists are already visible. In 2004 a dangerous landslide occurred and cost 11 lives.
At yovisto you can get a glimpse of the beauty of this long lost ancient Inca city in the Andes in a video, provided by Inter-American Geodetic Survey Team.
References and Further Reading:
- Lost City of the Incas: The Story of Machu Picchu and Its Builders
Greenwood Press, 1981
- Machu Picchu in the Wikipedia
- WWF Travel Blog
- Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu at unesco.org
More articles about great explorers and rediscovered cities on yovisto:
- “Because it’s there” – George Mallory and Mount Everest
- Pompeii – Conquered, Buried, Rediscovered
- James Cook and the Great Barrier Reef