Machu Picchu: The lost city of the Incas

Lying high in the Peruvian Andes, the Machu Picchu citadel looks like it was suspended in a mountain of mist. This city of a long-dead nation with huge faults was not discovered for 400 years until the 20th century.

Lost world
Today's traveler can travel 96 kilometers from Cuzco to Machu Picchu by train or bus in just a few hours. In 1911, the American historian and archaeologist Hiram Bingham waded the Urubamba Valley for 5 days before he reached such famous ruins today. He thought that he managed to discover the Vilcabamba fortress by force, a city that was razed to the ground in 1572, during the conquest of the Inca tribe by the Spaniards. Although the explorer was convinced that he had found Vilcabamba - the destination of the trip to Peru, today's experts report that Vilcabamba was in northwestern Peru, not in its central part. So the small town that Bingham encountered was probably abandoned by the Inca before Vilcabamba was destroyed.

The ruins that Bingham discovered were so well preserved that it does not seem that Machu Picchu was ever discovered by the Spaniards, who, as rightly claimed, plundered every settlement they came across. Such a belief can be confirmed by the fact that in Spanish chronicles of that time there is no mention of this place.

How did Machu Picchu come to discovery?
Bingham's expedition stumbled upon Machu Picchu by accident. While camping in the river canyon, the travelers met a farmer who told them that there are ruins of an ancient city on the nearby mountain called Machu Picchu (the old peak). The next day, despite the lack of conviction in the truth of the farmer's story, Bingham followed the peasant through the jungle. Near the top of the mountain, above the bottom of the valley, they stumbled upon a stone terrace a few hundred meters long, behind which they could see the walls of granite blocks covered with dense vegetation. It awoke in Bingham with great admiration and admiration for the people who made these stone buildings. "I began to vaguely realize," wrote Bingham, "that this wall and the adjacent temple rising above the cave is an example of the world's finest stonemasonry." Machu Picchu was and still is an unusual place, if only because the people who erected them did not know no iron tools, no train animals, no wheel?

Return to Peru.
After superficially learning the shape of the hill, Bingham returned to America to Yale to share his discovery with others. He returned a year later, however, to remove vegetation and carry out excavations. Bingham discovered a multi-level complex of squares baths, courtyards of aqueducts of palaces and temples. The buildings were erected from huge granite blocks, to which the mortar was not used, they matched each other so precisely that it was impossible to slip between them even the knife's edge. In order to achieve this effect, the Inca's stonemasons formed a few perpendicular surfaces in each rock block, so after finishing the wall, all the elements fit together like pieces of a giant puzzle. This solution has greatly improved the stability of the walls, which in the Andes, where there are frequent earthquakes is extremely important.

Defensive values ​​of the city.
The ridge between the Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu mountains, where the city is located, has excellent defensive qualities. From the steep slopes you have a wonderful view of the narrow valley and the Urubamba River. The enemy heading for the Inca capital, which was Cuzco, had to follow the aforementioned river. So the strategic advantages of Machu Picchu have been fully utilized in what is not surprising since the Incas have created a state comparable in size to the Roman empire.

The history of the city and its inhabitants.
Machu Picchu was founded in the fifteenth century and probably had about 1,000 inhabitants. The Inca community had a clearly divided hierarchy, each member knew exactly what he was responsible for, what his rights and duties were. The division into nobility, workers and priests reflected the place occupied by these social groups in the city. The stony stone houses of workers stood on the lower terraces, while the houses of officers and noblemen were located at higher levels.

Probably the Incas left the city before the Spaniards in 1572 reached Cuzco, but the reason for this sudden evacuation is unknown. Frequent wars against hostile Inca tribes were common and sometimes caused the destruction of entire communities. The reason for the abandonment of the city may have become a war or some terrible epidemic that is wreaking havoc on many people. Leaving Machu Picchu can forever remain a mystery, but it is a mystery that still evokes a deep fascination with this ruined city - one of the most impressive archaeological sites of that
Tekst: Karol Kiełczewski Źródło: Magazyn Internetowy "Publicystyka" Numer 1'02 (05)
30/07/2005     Wojciech Andruszkiewicz
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