Top Facts About Machu Picchu

It’s been called the Lost City of the Incas. Machu Picchu, hidden atop a mountain in the Andes Mountains of Peru, lay abandoned for centuries before its rediscovery in 1911. Today, Machu Picchu has been voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Machu Picchu was constructed at the height of the Inca Empire, sometime around 1450, and represents one of the greatest achievements of architecture and engineering in the history of the Inca civilization. It stands 7,970 feet or 2,430 meters above sea level, in the middle of a tropical mountain forest. The site is made of up more than 600 terraces and over 3,000 stone steps, with approximately 200 structures including temples, tombs, palaces, plazas, fountains, and even an astronomical observatory.

Archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built for the Inca emperor, as a religious site high in the mountains that the Inca worshipped, but also as a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the capital city, Cusco, only 50 miles or 80 kilometres away. At one point, between 500 and 1000 people likely lived there. Although the Inca had no written language, the city they built was well-planned and very sophisticated. They constructed terraces on the hillsides, a detail which served the double duty of providing flat land for farming and stabilizing the mountainside to guard against erosion and landslides. They channelled water from mountain springs into stone-lined canals that fed a series of fountains down the levels of the city, ensuring that clean fresh water was available to all. The city was built using hundreds of thousands of stones: for the most part, placed without any kind of mortar holding them together, and all shaped without the use of iron tools. Despite this, the stones fit together so well that 500 years later, you can’t fit a knife blade between them. The lack of mortar allows the stones to move slightly, protecting the structures from earthquake damage. Although Machu Picchu was cleverly designed, it was not inhabited for very long. Just over 100 years after its construction, the Inca city in the clouds began to be deserted. Archaeologists do not know exactly what caused the Inca to leave their mountain city: there is no evidence that the conquering Spanish attacked or ever even found the settlement. It is possible that sicknesses brought by the Europeans, like smallpox, killed the inhabitants and forced the abandonment of the site. Once the people had gone, it did not take very long at all for the jungle to overtake the city and hide it from the passing years. It was not until 1911 when the American archaeologist Hiram Bingham visited the site that it became known to the wider world. Machu Picchu immediately became a sensation, and thousands flocked to see the lost city. Today Machu Picchu is the most famous tourist attraction in Peru, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983 and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. Machu Picchu is the best-preserved Inca archaeological site in Peru and gives an unparalleled look into Inca civilization, technology, and daily life. I hope you enjoyed learning facts about Machu Picchu today.