Saturday, June 10, 2006

Machu Picchu: How They Kept the Secret

Machu Picchu: How They Kept the Secret. This site features an Incan expert who explores the riddle of how the center of Inca culture was hidden from Spanish conquistadores.

Wikipedia notes that Machu Pichu is a "well-preserved pre-Columbian Inca ruin located on a high mountain ridge, at an elevation of about 2,350 m (7,710 ft). Machu Picchu is located above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, about 70 km (44 mi) northwest of Cusco. Forgotten for centuries by the outside world, although not by locals, it was brought back to international attention by Yale archeologist Hiram Bingham who rediscovered it in 1911, and wrote a best-selling work about it. Peru is pursuing legal efforts to get back thousands of artifacts that Bingham removed from the site."

I find it amazing that such an important location in South America remained undiscovered so long. The Spanish were quite good at plundering Incan lands. It is fortunate that Machu Picchu survived intact allowing for modern day study.

From the site:

How'd they do it? It's hard to understand from our knowledge of Greek, Egyptian and other early civilizations with written records how such a magnificent site could not have been discovered by the Spanish. Yet until its discovery in the 1911, Machu Picchu,"the lost city of the Incas", remained forgotten for 400 years.

Actually, Machu Picchu was not a city at all. It was probably built by Pachacuti Inca as a royal estate and religious retreat in 1460-70. Its location — on a remote secondary road in nearly impassable terrain high above the Urubamba River canyon cloud forest — almost ensured that it would have no administrative, commercial or military use. Any movement in that direction to or from Cusco and the Sacred valley upriver would have been by other Inca roads, either the high road near Salcantay or by the Lucumayo valley road. Travel was restricted on these roads except by Inca decree.

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