Machu Picchu History


The citadel of Machu Picchu has had several periods of occupation. Taken from the chronicles, the construction style and ceramics found has deducted the following:

Initial Period: 1300 AD
Classic Period: 1400 AD
Imperial Period: 1533 AD
Transition Period: 1533-1572 AD

The story of Machu Picchu

Most modern archaeologists and historians agree that Machu Picchu was built by the Inca Pachacutec, the greatest statesman of Tahuantinsuyo, who ruled from 1438 to 1471. Archaeologists assume that the construction of the citadel would date from the fifteenth century approximately chronological date given by the carbon-14 or radiocarbon.

The construction of Machu Picchu began when the Inca´s territory started to grow. According to archaeologists, in this area was fought the last battle that defined victory over the Chancas, covering prestigious victory and gave power to the Inca Pachacutec.

Inca Pachacutec was the first to emerge beyond the valley of Cusco after his epic victory over the Chancas. He conducted the Tahuantinsuyo expansion and recognized it as the “constructor” of Cusco. This was one of his greatest works.

The origin of Machu Picchu is attributed with some certainty to Pachacutec, embattled president, which was characterized by territorial conquests, and the development of religion and spirituality. From today there is archaeological studies supportting the theory that it was a royal estate destined to the cult of the gods and a challenge to the ruler to built skills.

Built as a refuge for the elite of the Incas aristocracy, the fortress was located on the eastern slopes of the Vilcanota mountain range, about 80 miles from Cusco, the capital of the empire. Its strategic location was chosen with admirable success. Surrounded by steep cliffs and away from the sight of strangers in a tangled forest, the citadel of Machu Picchu had the quality of having only one narrow entrance, allowing, in case of a surprise attack,to be defended by very few warriors.
Occupied by at least three generations of Incas, Machu Picchu was abandoned in a sudden and mysterious decision. The strongest hypothesis explain his disappearance from the historical memory because that Machu Picchu was unknown to the lower castes and their routes prohibited for anyone who was not part of the small circle of the Inca.

Part of the gains of the valley included Pachacútec Tampu, despite being inhabited by that sister nation of Cusco, did not escape his iron rule. Natural beauty, mild climate (one of the best in the Andes) and rich soil, Pachacutec noticed Tampu favorite settlement of the new imperial nobility, gracing the valley with several of the most magnificent cities Tahuantinsuyo as Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu. Site selection for lifting Machu Picchu must have been made with great care, as it was, and still is, a great place to raise a ceremonial center. It was located, according to researcher Antonio Zapata, the largest mountain by its sacredness, which begins in the Salcantay (The Apus, greater spirit) and ends at the  Huayna Picchu. It was a privileged to observe the movement of the stars and the sun, The Inca´s deities.
Furthermore, according to their research, the place had a quarry nearby that could provide the finest white granite stones.

July 24th, 1911 is known as the date of the “discovery” of the famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, architectural treasure that had been hidden for more than four centuries under the lush nature of the Urubamba canyon. This discovery was made by controversial anthropologist, historian or simply by the American explorer, amateur archeology, Yale University professor Hiram Bingham.

Although the discovery points to Bingham, the researcher of Cusco, Simone Waisbard said that the finding was the result of a chance, since Enrique Palma, Gabino Sánchez, and Agustín Lizarraga, were the first to visit these archaeological remains on those stones and they left their names recorded on July 14th, 1901. And also because the English archaeologist was looking in that moment at Vitco City, the last refuge of the Incas and the last point of resistance against the Spanish. So the discovery of Bingham would reduce the spread of the fact to science. However, to its main protagonist until this day was not the result of chance, but a strenuous investigation based on information supplied by peasants, as well as several years of travel and exploration in the area.

Before that Machu Picchu´s discovery is likely to be part of the estates and Kutija Qollapani. Over the years the property was known as a Q `property unit. Palma ,Sanchez and Lizarraga found the indigenous Anacleto living in the place.Alvarez, who had cultivated the land during eight years ago was leased for twelve soles annually.

The owners of the estate could never have known meter by meter all over the place because of its large size and, especially, by its topography as rugged and irregular. People did indeed know of Machu Picchu and even lived in it, but they had no idea of his greatness and of how important it was. When they left it alone they had the opportunity to make it known to the world.


While the rediscovery of the citadel is attributed to the American historian Hiram Bingham, there are sources that indicate that Agustin Lizarraga, a tenant of Cuzco homelands came to the ruins nine years before the historian . According to Hiram Bingham, Lizarraga would have left an inscription in one of the walls of the Temple of the Three Windows. This registration would have been subsequently deleted.

Lizarraga’s story and his visits to the ancient Inca ruins have attracted the attention of Hiram Bingham, who was in the area investigating the last holdouts of the Inca´s in Vilcabamba. Bingham, very interested in these rumors, began the search for these ruins, reaching Machu Picchu in Cuzco.Lessee company Melchor Arriaga and a sergeant of the Peruvian Civil War in July 1911. There, the American historian would find two families, the Recharte and Alvarez, who had settled in the platforms of the south of the ruins. It was finally a child of the family who guided Recharte Bingham to the “urban area” of the ruins, which was covered by thick undergrowth.

Immediately, Bingham understood the enormous historical value of the ruins discovered and contacted Yale University, the National Geographic Society and the Peruvian government, requesting sponsorship to start the studies in the Inca archaeological site. The archaeological work was carried out from 1912 to 1915. In this period, they managed to clear the weeds that outrigger the Citadel and the Inca tombs were excavated being found beyond the city walls.
In 1913, National Geographic magazine published in an extensive article of Machu Picchu and the jobs that were done there, revealing to the world the citadel. With the passing of the years, the importance of tourism in the citadel of Machu Picchu would grow, first nationally and then internationally, becoming a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1983.

Machu Picchu nowadays.

Machu Picchu was designated one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, Machu Picchu is Peru´s most visited attraction and South America’s most famous ruins, welcoming hundreds of thousands of people a year. Increasing tourism, the development of nearby towns and environmental degradation continue to take their toll on the site, which is also home to several endangered species. As a result, the Peruvian government has taken steps to protect the ruins and prevent erosion of the mountainside in recent years.

When you think of Machu Picchu, one of the first names that comes to our minds is Hiram Bingham, but few persons know who Agustín Lizárraga is, one of the unrecognized discovers of the Sanctuary.

1.- Machu Picchu and the new findings

Is Machu Picchu considered a Ruin?

The city of Machu Picchu conserved many of its original structures, expressed on the zones that were chosen by Pachacutec, he found a granite plateau where many people started a very expensive and ambitious project, built a citadel that would last forever.

They knew how to take advantage of the ground that sometimes was so difficult to measure and prevent earthquakes and other calamities. The use of stones like Basalt, andesite and many other kind of stones that made it so resistant for many natural disasters.

These stones were brought from a place called the Batholitic of Vilcabamba, where all the stones were cut and brought to the Sanctuary and also to build the city of Cusco when the Spanish conquer arrived to these sites.

The constructions made in Machu Picchu, correspond to a specific kind of mandate of the Pachacutec Inca, who wants to preserved the environment and the ecology. It is well known that the Incas never knew the wheel, but it is not hard to understand that in this place the wheel never worked because of the land and the inclination of the site, because many people say that how is that possible that few men could bring from a long distance huge blocks of stone already cut so perfectly that when they were put on top of each other, not even a hair could pass between them.

Every construction made in Machu Picchu has a specific function: Religious, administrative, politic and social, the two most important was the religious and the administrative, because the religious part was the everyday ritual of their life and transit over Machu Picchu, and the administrative part,was because every product must pass by the control of the guardians that kept very safe the Sanctuary and the Tambos, the storages that kept all of the products that grew in the Citadel.

Why Ruins and not Amazing work of engineering?

Machu Picchu is considered as one of the seven modern wonders of the world, because of its amazing construction, but the name ruin is not the adequate, ruin is a place where everything is about to collapse or fall down, it is not the case of Machu Picchu: Take the example of some of the sites in Europe, the Roman Forum, the Parthenon, they are ruins because the state of the construction, but for many people is not a ruin, is a sign of the greatness of the ancient world, and this ancient world is the legacy for many people.

Sincerely that the word ruin is not the accurate word to describe Machu Picchu.

The word Sanctuary describes very well the complex of Machu Picchu, because in that place many rituals and sacrifices were offered to calm and maintain happy one of the most important deities of the Tahuantinsuyo: The Sun, their father, their creator. It is not coincidence that Machu Picchu was built over high altitude, the reason is that they felt closer to the sky, and closer to their God.

The status of modern wonder has to be our pride because is our responsibility that Machu Picchu keeps the category of that, competing with the Giza Pyramids, the Petra.

The Temple and many others, The National Institute of Culture (INC) is the organization that fights to keep the Machu Picchu culture and legacy alive, showing us that this Sanctuary is one of its kind, there will not be another Machu Picchu and that must put us in the position of not destroying our national and world patrimony.

2) The real name of Machu Picchu: Patallaqta

Patallaqta comes from two words in Quechua, Pata which means steps, and Llaqta, which means town, this name comes from the way that the constructions were settle, initially the Machu Picchu complex is going to function to administrated the place, but its importance caught the eyes of Pachacutec, who saw that this place could be a Sanctuary and a pilgrimage place.

A Spanish Historian, Mari Carmen Rubio, said that this name comes from the chronicles written by Juan de Betanzos in the XVI century, saying that Pachacutec was buried in this Sanctuary, Here is the reason why Betanzos said that: Every Inca was buried in the Coricancha Temple (The temple of the sun) but according to Betanzos, Pachacutec was buried in Patallaqta and his rests were left in a crock pot.

But the story is not ending here, because the Incas always made 2 bundles, one was taken to the Coricancha and the other to a special place where nobody expect. Some priests could worship the rest of the body. Pachacutec was like the south American Alexander the great, a man who conquered many territories and was one of the few governors who arrived to the jungle, an unknown territory but very fertile to grow many products.

Now, the name Machu Picchu comes from the Spanish word Pico (Peak) and the word to describe a mountain is Orqo, is not its original name, it was a Spanish way to mention this place, and the name itself could have been invented in the republican time.

Federico Kauffman Doig, one of the most important Archaeologists said that Machu Picchu is the way that the people of these places in their very poor Spanish were referring to the Sanctuary. He said that the real and original name is not Patallaqta, is Llaqta Pata, because that is the correct way to pronounce it in the Quechua language.

When Hiram Bingham arrived to the city of Cusco, they told him that one of these places, where the people lived for centuries was called Llactapacta, a place near to where Bingham found Machu Picchu. According to Mari Carmen Martin, this place was never abandoned and maybe that’s why this place never lost its original name.

Llactapacta was indeed a royal house, in modern terms it could be a mansion where Pachacutec might have lived in the XV century, Llactapacta also is known as the town ¨above¨ ( Llaqta-place, Pacta-Steps or altitude).

The Spanish Historian found in 1987,82 chapters of the Chronicle of Juan de Betanzos called Suma y Narración de los Incas, written in 1551, who relates about the organization of the Incas at that time.

Other fact is that Machu Picchu has many names used by the local natives, one of them is Vitcos, and more recently is Cajaroma, the last one comes from the Betanzos chronicle, who mentioned that this city could be the real Machu Picchu, because according to Betanzos this is one of the many cities that Pachacutec conquered when he was the governor of the Tahuantinsuyo Empire, but also this could be the land of a jungle tribe that lived when Pachacutec had the control of the entire Empire.

There are many theories about the real name of Machu Picchu but Cajaroma needs to be investigated to get a conclusion and finally know which was the real name of Machu Picchu.

3) The Qeschawaka Bridge, ancestral legacy

The Qeschawaka Bridge, That connects Qehue with Canas, two of the most important provinces in the Cusco department, is now an issue for its conservation and protection. The bridge crosses the Apurimac River, was an important river for the Inca people many centuries ago, its name comes from the words Qeswa, which means twisted cord, and Chaka which means bridge.

The material used for this bridge is the Ichu, a kind of grass that grows around the highland, this material is dried by the sun and then is used to make some kind of rope to built the bridge.

Every year many natives of the Cusco Communities like Chaupibanda, Qehue and Canas gather around the bridge and start an ancestral ritual called Minka, that consist in doing some community work that is going to be useful to every person who lives around the river.
This kind of material is used by the locals and more effective than the stone or other kind of materials, because it´s easier to rebuilt the bridge, and also avoid disasters such as earthquakes and other calamities.

The Minka lasts 4 days and the main event was the reconstruction of the bridge, which gathered the people who lived in the nearby provinces, after that they celebrated it with dances and drinks for the people who participated of this ancient ritual.

This renovation of the bridge is considered since the year 2009 like a National Heritage, this is an example of the legacy that the Incas left to their generations, and also mentioned the effective and simple technology of the Tahuantinsuyo people.

Why is it important to maintain the tradition alive?

One city without its past is a dead city; without no memory a city could not see what its legacy is, and what is worse, they can’t see what its future is. The tradition, the rituals are a huge part of who we are and recreates our past to keep in touch with our ancestors and see where are we from.

Recreating the construction of the bridge is important because it keeps the people together and the relationships between them are closer with the pass of time. Women, men and children work for their community, they built the bridge as many times as they need it.

The Minka is practiced since Inca times, it’s one of the precepts in the moral and ethics that the Incas had, their phrases don’t be a thief, don’t be a liar, don’t be lazy is one of the codes more used in the Andes. The Incas were a culture with so much support between each other, no one is selfish, and everybody contributes to the improvement of each citizen.

Pachacutec, Lord of the Tahuantinsuyo Empire

It all starts with a single person, who transforms the entire Tahuantinsuyo Territory, with his bravery and strength he began to create one of the most important Empires in the History of the world, this person is Pachacutec, The Inca Emperor.

Machu Picchu, the untold story

Two persons, one History in common: being recognized as the first who visited the Sanctuary, one is a local native, who always knew about the place, the other an North American adventurer that with a little luck and good contacts was able to show the entire humanity one of the most beautiful sanctuaries in the History. But behind that there are a lot of things that you must know, Machu Picchu, The untold Story, an encounter with 2 persons with one thing in common: Remain as the original discoverers of this great place.

The Ayar Brothers legend

Many of the stories that an ancient town tells us, is about power, big decisions and fantastic habilities, The Ayar Brothers Legend tells us how Manco Capac remained as the supreme chief of all the Inca Empire.

The Legend of Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo

Is the classic story: Two persons, a man and a woman, a supreme entity that sent them to populate one big territory,  The Legend of Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo narrates the story of an ancient group, the founders of one of the most powerful and organized cultures: The Incas and their Empire the Tahuantinsuyo.

Religious significance in Machu Picchu

The Sanctuary is full of cosmic and universal symbolism, but one of the most important aspects is their religious significance in Machu Picchu, with several and particular ways of understanding the universe that Machu Picchu is.

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