The Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru was built during the reign of Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (1438-1472). The royal city was built more than 2,400 meters above sea level between the Amazon Basin and the Andes mountains. Machu Picchu remains as one of the Incan masterpieces in engineering with its successful integration of urban planning and agriculture. More than 200 structures stand in this highland city which include royal palaces, temples, and houses. Machu Picchu was abandoned shortly after the death of the last Sapa Inca and the domination of the Spanish conquistadors. It was rediscovered in 1911 by American professor and explorer Hiram Bingham. These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time.
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Hiram Bingham’s Great Peruvian Adventure
In mid-1911, the Yale professor and explorer Hiram Bingham and four of his friends boarded a ship bound for Peru. His companions included the mountaineer Herman Tucker, Yale professor Harry Foote, Yale geographer Isaiah Bowman, and Bingham’s former student, Paul Lanius. Two of their companions, the Danish topographer Kai Hendriksen and Dr. William Erving, sailed to Peru before the rest of Bingham’s crew.
Bingham’s original goal was to climb Mount Coropuna and to search for Vitcos, the Inca’s so-called last capital. The professor met with Peru’s president upon his arrival in June 1911. The president was pleased with Bingham’s expedition, so he assigned a military escort for the crew. They stayed in Cuzco for a short time, and it was here that Bingham chanced upon an amazing discovery.
One day, Bingham met a rector of a local university. The rector remarked that a tavern owner told him that some Inca ruins could be found on a cliff above a bridge that linked the banks of the Urubamba River. He became curious after hearing the information, and he decided to confirm if the story was indeed true. They arrived near the tavern mentioned by the rector on July 23, 1911.
On the 24th of July, 1911, the crew came across a family of Peruvian farmers. The farmers were wary of the newcomers, but they allowed their son to guide Hiram Bingham and his crew to the Incan ruins. The group trekked on the mountainside until they came upon the iconic stone-faced terraces and granite houses of Machu Picchu. The sight captivated Hiram Bingham and his companions, and the rediscovery of the place became one of the biggest archeological finds of the 20th century.
The Incas and the Machu Picchu
During the 14th century, the Sapa Incas (rulers of the Inca people) went on a conquest spree. They subdued neighboring cities, and because of this, the number of people the Inca ruled also grew. The sixth Sapa Inca, Inca Roca, decided to build palaces for himself and his family. He enlisted the people they subdued for this task. He then commanded them to build irrigation canals and agricultural terraces to support the people who lived in the Cuzco valley.
The Inca conquest of the areas outside of Cuzco continued during the 15th century. Their conquest spread as far as the jungle areas of the Andes where the coca plant was cultivated. The royal city of Machu Picchu was built on one of the ridges in the area above the Urubamba River.
Peruvian historians point to Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (the ninth Inca) as the man behind Machu Picchu. Palaces for members of his family and temples were built during his time. Only a select few could enter the royal estate in the highland. Commoners who likely worked as farmers on the terraces were also allowed to live in Machu Picchu. The houses of the elite were built from finely cut stones quarried nearby and stacked on top of the other without the use of mortar. These houses were so finely made that most of the walls still stood when Hiram Bingham arrived in 1911. The commoners, meanwhile, lived in mud-brick houses that easily disintegrated as years passed.
Machu Picchu was abandoned by the Incas during the 16th century after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in 1532. Francisco Pizarro executed the last Sapa Inca, Atahualpa, in 1533. The Inca civilization fell, and the great city of Machu Picchu was abandoned after the death of the last Sapa Inca.
Bingham, Hiram. Lost City of the Incas: The Story of Machu Picchu and Its Builders. London: Phoenix, 2003.
Kops, Deborah. Machu Picchu. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2009.
“Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.” UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Accessed February 01, 2017. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/274.
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