Machu Picchu is located on a remote secondary road in nearly impassable terrain high above the Urubamba River, Machu Picchu sits nearly 2438 meters (8000 feet) above sea level, on top of a ridge between two peaks of different size. The name “Machu Picchu” comes simply from its geography. It literally means “old peak”, just as “Huaynapicchu” is “young peak”. The more accurate translation relates, however, to the concept of size, with Machu Picchu as the “bigger peak” and Huaynapicchu, the “smaller peak”.
Machu Picchu, the most famous citadel of the Incas, is accessible by train from Cusco or traveling along the Camino Inca. The city was never discovered by the conquerors Spanish and remained lost for centuries. Machu Picchu is an architectural jewel, which combine perfectly the architectural style with the beautiful natural environment that surrounded it. The Beauty and the Mystery of its walled ruins that once was the palace the thinnest Inca of stone surrounded by the virginal landscapes, the flora and green jungle bathes its abrupt topography.
The citadel is divided into two sectors: the agricultural and the urban, where there are main squares, temples, palaces, storehouses, workshops, stairways, cables and water fountains which run through both sectors, which measure 20 and 10 hectares respectively. Machu Picchu was built according to its natural surroundings, with its constructions following the natural curves and dips and rises in the land.
The sector is surrounded by a series of terraces of different types and sizes which had two main functions: to grow crops and halt the erosion caused by the rains. The most eye catching terraces lie at the entrance to the citadel. They begin at the cluster of rooms located at the entrance and climb up to the top of the mountain until they stop at a large rectangular room. There are no canals as they were not necessary, as the constant rains and ever-present humidity allowed the plants to grow without irrigation. The only water channel that flows through the urban sector crosses through the central terrace.
The control gate is made up of a three walled room with a view with several windows, which can be found in front of the main gateway. There is a good panorama from here of the agricultural and urban sectors and the surrounding landscape. In the upper part, they also found sculpted stones that belong to the area, which indicated the Incas used the stones to make offerings to their gods. On this same piece of ground lies a granite boulder sculpted with steps. But the most striking feature is that it is pierced with a ring, the purpose of which is unknown.
One can see a long stairway that leads to the front gate. This sector houses the most important constructions of any Inca city, where one can appreciate the talent, effort and quality of the pre Hispanic builders, as the constructions are entirely made of granite, a very hard rock that is different from that used in Cusco. The city is U-shaped and containing the temples, houses and workshops on platform terraces that the american scientist Bingham, called the Military Group.
The Temple of Sun is shaped like a semi-circle and built on solid rock, an existing granite block shaped to blend with the natural curves, with a diameter of 10.50 meters. The Intiwatana is located on a hill made up of several terraces, it is a granite rock sculpted into three steps. In the central part one can see a rectangular prism that is 36cm high and which is pointing from North-West to South-East. Its four corners are directed to the four cardinal points. The Intiwatana had specific functions: it measured time (the solstice and the equinox) by using sunlight and shadow, and also served as an altar. In Quechua, “Inti” means “sun” and “Wata” means “year”, thereby giving us the meaning of a solar year observatory.
The sacred rock, located in a four-sided spot flanked by two three-sided rooms, features a monolithic rock sculpture. The pedestal, which is approximately 30cm high, resembles a feline. From another angle, it looks like the profile of a mountain near Machu Picchu. The Temple of Three Windows is located west of the main square, has a large rectangular floor. The enormous polyhedrons have been carved and joined with millimetric precision.
The Main Temple is located north of the Sacred Square, very near the Temple of Three Windows. Doors are a common sight in Machupicchu and especially in this sector. They vary in texture, size and architectural style that set them apart from each other, although all have the same trapezoid shape. To the South of the complex, between the Temple of the Sun and the Royal Palace, the area houses a series of water fountains, the only sources of the vital element for the residents of Machu Picchu.
There are four main squares at different levels, but share the characteristic of being rectangular in the classic Inca style, interconnected by sunken stairways in the parameters of the terraces. The main square is the largest, which just like the main squares in all Inca cities had religious and social functions.
Machu Picchu was done constructed and used by Inka Pachakuteq, that was the greatest statesman of the Tawantinsuyo, Pachakuteq ruled from 1438 for 1471, called the great age of the Inca empire; unfortunately it lasted less than 100 years, because the empire collapsed under the Spanish invasion. Although the citadel is located only about 50 miles from Cusco, Machu Picchu, it was never found and destroyed by the Spanish, as were many other Inca sites.
In the XIX century explorers like Eugenie de Sartiges, George Ephraim Squire, Antonio Raimondi and Castelnau never reached Machu Picchu, although most of them crossed the Andes to the almost inaccessible ruins of Choquekirau, built high above the Apurimac River. In fact, the outside world simply stumbled upon Machu Picchu, for it had never been lost to those who lived around it.
In December 1908, Bingham attended the First Panamerican Scientific Congress in Santiago, Chile. It was there that he decided to follow the old Spanish trade route from Buenos Aires to Lima, and it was to that end that he traveled to Lima and hence to Cusco. In Cusco Bingham made the acquaintance of one J.J. Nunez, then prefect of the Apurimac region, who invited him on the arduous trip to the ruins of Choquekirau.
On his return to the USA, Bingham decided to organize another expedition to Peru. Bingham returned to Cusco from where he journeyed on foot and by mule through the Urubamba Valley, past Ollantaytambo, and on into the Urubamba gorge. On July 23, Bingham and his party camped by the river at a place called Mandor Pampa, where they aroused the curiosity of Melchor Arteaga, a local farmer who leased the land there. Bingham learned from Arteaga that there were extensive ruins on top of the ridge opposite the camp, which Arteaga, in his native Quechua, called Machu Picchu, or “Old Mountain”. Bingham offered to pay Arteaga well if he showed the ruins. He demurred and said it was too hard a climb for such a wet day, accompanied only by Seargeant Carrasco and Arteaga, Bingham left the camp. From the river they climbed a precipitous slope until they reached the ridge at around midday.
Here Bingham rested at a small hut where they enjoyed the hospitality of a group of peasants. They told him that they had been living there for about four years and explained that they had found an extensive system of terraces on whose fertile soil they had decided to grow their crops. Bingham was then told that the ruins he sought were close by and he was given a guide, the 11-year old Pablito Alvarez, to lead him there.
Almost immediately, he was greeted by the sight of a broad sweep of ancient terraces. They numbered more than a hundred and had recently been cleared of forest and reactivated. Here young Pablito began to reveal to Bingham a series of white granite walls which the historian immediately judged to be the finest examples of masonry that he had ever seen.
According to Bingham, “I had entered the marvellous canyon of the Urubamba below the Inca fortress. Here the river escapes from the cold plateau by tearing its way through gigantic mountains of granite. The road runs through a land of matchless charm. It has the majestic grandeur of the Canadian Rockies, as well as the startling beauty of the Nuuanu Pali near Honolulu, and the enchanting views of the Koolau Ditch Trail on Maui, in my native land…..”
Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca City was named to be part of the new list of the Seven Wonders. The global vote that began in 1999, accumulated near 20 million votes in its initial phase. And the final decision on July 7, 2007 in Lisbon, Portugal to name to Machupicchu one of the New Seven Wonders of the Contemporary World for satisfaction of the Cusqueño town (Cusco’s people). Machu Picchu is today the main archeological site of Peru and America, and probably the most beautiful place of the world.