Machu Picchu

Beez Neez
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Sun 12 Sep 2010 22:06
Machu Picchu 
 
 
 
We got on the number ten bus at eight forty five, got off after the many hair pin bends at five past nine, met by Felix, our guide until twelve. Bear visiting number one on his wish list.  
 
Machu Picchu (Quechua: Machu Pikchu, "Old Peak", is a pre-Columbian Inca site fifty miles northwest of Cuzco. Often referred to as "The Lost City of the Incas", Machu Picchu is one of the most familiar symbols of the Inca EmpireAlthough known locally, it was largely lost to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an American historian. Since then, Machu Picchu has become the most important tourist attraction in Peru. Since it was not plundered by the Spanish when they conquered the Incas, it is especially important as a cultural site and is considered a sacred place. Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its primary buildings are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows. These are located in what is known by archaeologists as the Sacred District of Machu Picchu.   
 

History: Machu Picchu was constructed around 1462, at the height of the Inca Empire. It was abandoned less than 100 years later, in the 1530’s, as a result of the Spanish Conquest. It is likely that most of its inhabitants were wiped out by smallpox before the Spanish conquistadores arrived in the area, and there is no record of the Spanish having known of the remote city. One of the earliest theories about the purpose of the citadel, by Hiram Bingham, is that it was the traditional birthplace of the Inca of the "Virgins of the Suns". Research conducted 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 that would have been important to the Incas. Another theory maintains that Machu Picchu was an Inca "llaqta", a settlement built to control the economy of these 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, the purpose of which is to test different types of crops in the many different micro-climates afforded by the location and the terraces, which were not enough to grow food on a large scale, as much to determine what could grow where. 

 

An area of three hundred and twenty five point nine two square kilometers surrounding Machu Picchu was declared a "Historical Sanctuary" of Peru in 1971. In addition to the ruins, this sanctuary area includes a large portion of adjoining region, rich with flora and fauna. Machu Picchu was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1983 when it was described as "an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization". Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. On the 7th of July 2007, Machu Picchu was voted as one of New Open World Corporation's New Seven Wonders of the World. The World Monuments Fund placed Machu Picchu on its 2008 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world because of environmental degradation resulting from the impact of tourism, uncontrolled development in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes that included a poorly sited tram to ease visitor access, and the now shelved plan for construction of a bridge across the Vilcanota River due to a court order and government protests against it. 

 

The Royal Toilet 

Early encounters: Although Bingham was the first person to bring word of the ruins to the outside world, other outsiders allegedly came across 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 the 14th of 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 another fellow missionary named 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. 

Geography: Machu Picchu lies in the southern hemisphere, some thirteen degrees south of the equator. The crest of the mountain Machu Picchu is about eight thousand feet above sea level, over three thousand feet lower than Cusco, which has an altitude of twelve thousand feet. As such, it had a milder climate than the Inca capital. It is one of the most important archaeological sites in South America, one of the most visited tourist attractions in all of Latin America and is the most visited tourist attraction in Peru. The year at Machu Picchu is divided between wet and dry seasons, with the majority of annual rainfall falling between the months of October through to April, however rain can fall any time of the year. We have been incredibly lucky with wall to wall blue skies. 

 

Lots of giggling over comments from Bear like "do you need a suck". Anne on the pineapple juice from the camel pack 

Machu Picchu is situated above the Urubamba Valley. The cliffs of Machu Picchu drop vertically for two thousand feet to the Urubamba River at their base. The location of the city was a military secret and its deep precipices and mountains provided excellent natural defenses. The Inca Bridge, an Inca rope bridge, across the Urubamba River in the Pongo de Mainique, provided a secret entrance for the Inca army. Another Inca bridge to the west of Machu Picchu, the tree-trunk bridge, at a location where a gap occurs in the cliff that measures twenty feet, could be bridged by two tree trunks. If the trees were removed, it would leave a one thousand nine hundred foot fall to the base of the cliffs, also discouraging invaders. 

 

The city sits in a saddle between the two mountains Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu (two groups of two hundred people are allowed to walk to the top per day), with a commanding view down two valleys and a nearly impassable mountain at its back. It has a water supply from springs that cannot be blocked easily and enough land to grow food for about four times as many people as ever lived there. The hillsides leading to it have been terraced, not only to provide more farmland to grow crops, but to steepen the slopes which invaders would have to ascend. There are two high-altitude routes from Machu Picchu across the mountains back to Cusco, one through the sun gate, and the other across the Inca bridge. Both easily could be blocked if invaders should approach along them. Regardless of its original purpose, it is strategically located and readily defended.

 

Architecture: The central buildings of Machu Picchu use the classical Inca architectural style of polished dry-stone walls of regular shape. The Incas were masters of this technique, called ashlar, in which blocks of stone are cut to fit together tightly without mortar. The Incas were among the best stone masons the world has seen, and many junctions in the central city are so perfect that it is said not even a blade of grass fits between the stones. Some Inca buildings were constructed using mortar, but by Inca standards this was quick, shoddy construction, and was not used in the building of important structures. Peru is a highly seismic land, and mortar-free construction was more earthquake-resistant than using mortar. The stones of the dry-stone walls built by the Incas can move slightly and resettle without the walls collapsing. Inca walls show numerous design details that also help protect them from collapsing in an earthquake. Doors and windows are trapezoidal and tilt inward from bottom to top; corners usually are rounded; inside corners often incline slightly into the rooms; and "L"-shaped blocks often were used to tie outside corners of the structure together. These walls do not rise straight from bottom to top but are offset slightly from row to row. 

Located in the first zone are the primary archaeological treasures: the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun (round building on left) and the Room of the Three Windows. These were dedicated to Inti, their sun god and greatest deity. The Popular District, or Residential District, is the place where the lower class people lived. It includes storage buildings and simple houses. In the royalty area, a sector that existed for the nobility, includes a group of houses located in rows over a slope, the residence of the Amautas (wise persons) was characterized by its reddish walls, and the zone of the Ñustas (princesses) had trapezoid-shaped rooms. The Monumental Mausoleum is a carved statue with a vaulted interior and carved drawings. It was used for rites or sacrifices. 

 

Intihuatana stone: The Intihuatana, "sun-tier", (Alan checked the compass bearing as correct) is believed to have been designed as an astronomic clock or calendar by the Incas. The Intihuatana stone is one of many ritual stones in South America. The Spanish did not find Machu Picchu so the Intihuatana Stone was not destroyed as many other ritual stones in Peru were. These stones are arranged to point directly at the sun during the winter solstice. The name of the stone (coined perhaps by Hiram Bingham III) is Quechua: inti means 'sun', and wata- is the verb root 'to tie, hitch (up)' ('huata-' is simply a Spanish spelling). The Quechua -na suffix derives nouns for tools or places. Hence inti watana is literally an instrument or place to 'tie up the sun', often expressed in English as the "The Hitching Post of the Sun" because the stone was believed to hold the sun in its place along its annual path in the sky. At midday on the 21st of March and the 21st of September, the equinoxes, the sun stands almost above the pillar - casting no shadow at all. Researchers believe that it was built as an astronomic clock or calendar. 

 

Very clever how the biggest stones were incorporated into the building. A resident Viscacha

The Incas never used the wheel in any practical manner. Its use in toys demonstrates that the principle was well-known to them, although it was not applied in their engineering. The lack of strong draft animals as well as terrain and dense vegetation issues may have rendered it impractical. How they moved and placed enormous blocks of stones remains a mystery, although the general belief is that they used hundreds of men to push the stones up inclined planes. A few of the stones still have knobs on them that could have been used to lever them into position; it is believed that after the stones were placed, the Incas would have sanded the knobs away, but a few were overlooked. 

 

The space is composed of one hundred and forty structures, including temples, sanctuaries, parks and residences that include houses with thatched roofs. There are more than one hundred flights of stone steps - often completely carved from a single block of granite - and a great number of water fountains that are interconnected by channels and water-drains perforated in the rock that were designed for the original irrigation system. Evidence has been found to suggest that the irrigation system was used to carry water from a holy spring to each of the houses in turn. According to archaeologists, the urban sector of Machu Picchu was divided into three great districts: the Sacred District, the Popular District to the south and the District of the Priests and the Nobility. 

    

How thatching would have been done. Felix showing us the dead would be positioned in a burial niche 

 

Temple of the Condor uses natural rocks as wings 

Although the citadel is located only about fifty miles from Cuzco, the Inca capital, it was never found by the Spanish and consequently not plundered and destroyed, as was the case with many other Inca sites. Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle grew over much of the site and few knew of its existence. On the 24th of July 1911, Machu Picchu was brought to the attention of scholars by Hiram Bingham, an American historian employed as a lecturer at Yale University. Bingham was led up to Machu Picchu by a local eleven year old Quechua boy named Pablito Alvarez. Bingham undertook archaeological studies and completed a survey of the area. Bingham coined the name "The Lost City of the Incas", which was the title of his first book, he was led to the citadel by Quechuas. These people were living in Machu Picchu, in the original Inca infrastructure. Bingham made several more trips and conducted excavations on the site through 1915, carrying off artifacts. He wrote a number of books and articles about the discovery of Machu Picchu in his lifetime. The site received significant publicity after the National Geographic Society devoted their entire April 1913 issue to Machu Picchu.  

 

ALL IN ALL EVEN THE BEST PICTURES DO NO JUSTICE TO THIS WORLD TREASURE      

                     UNSURPASSABLE

                     STUNNED AND AMAZED - ANNE                                                               

                     JUST UTTERLY AWESOME - ALAN