Machu Picchu

Almost a century after its archaeological discovery and thanks to recent studies of sixteenth century archival documents, there are good arguments to suppose that the citadel of Machu Picchu was – like the pyramids of the pharaohs in Egypt or the tomb of the emperor Chin Shi Huan in China – the luxurious and well cared for mausoleum of the Inca Pachakuteq, founder and first emperor of Tawantinsuyu.

Machu Picchu the lost city of Incas | Cusco, Peru

Machu Picchu Cusco, Peru

No one doubts that it is a sanctuary of superior social position built in a privileged place seven or eight days’ journey on foot from the city of Cuzco. In Machu Picchu there are remains of buildings that were covered with gold, presumably with fantasy gardens, idols and offerings like those of the temple of Qorikancha in Cuzco.

There are also other temples and palaces still remaining, all adjacent and carefully constructed, crossed by a network of fine fountains of water carved into the rock, altars, cosmic observatories and multiple spaces for the cult of the dead; from them, on many days of the year, can be enjoyed the spectacle of rainbows which are born and die right in front of one’s eyes. Machu Picchu is located some 112 km by railroad north of the city of Cuzco, at an altitude of 2360 m above sea level; that is, about 1000 m below Cuzco, which is at 3408 m altitude. 

The place was known as Picchu, Piccho, or Picho during colonial times and consisted of two parts: Machu (“old”) and Wayna (“young”). Picchu means “hill”, “mountain” or “peak” and therefore the name is simply descriptive. It could well have been Patallaqta (“town on the heights”), which was the “town” or the “house” where the mummy of Pachakuteq was kept. In the citadel of Machu Picchu few people lived – probably no more than 200 or 300 – and, if what we suspect is true, all of them were of high rank and were linked to the lineage of the Inca, that is, they were descendents of the founder of Tawantinsuyu.

According to traditions collected by the Spanish, Machu Picchu must have been built under the direction of Pachakuteq. The sequence of the process of its construction is not known, but it seems to have the been the work of a single project tantamount to a sanctuary or “urbanization” where the spaces, levels and forms were previously established, even if during the course of its existence entrances were corrected or chambers added. 

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

Historical context
Machu Picchu is a settlement built by the Incas in the fifteenth century. Inca, or Inka, is the name that was given to the inhabitants of the basin of the Huatanay River, on whose banks the city of Cuzco was built. Before that time the Incas had succeeded in forming a kingdom that dominated the middle part of the Vilcanota River.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

Traditional history
The legend tells that that kingdom had been founded in times immemorial by a hero called Manco Khapaq and his wife Mama Oqllu, whose origins are mixed up with the apus and tutelary gods of mythology and are full of magic and sacred events that speak of the installation of agricultural tasks, crafts, the founding of cities, and the establishment of order. Manco Khapaq was succeeded by several sinchis (“lords”) or governors linked to traditional wars with their neighbors and a progressive growth of power and capacity for conquest. Finally, when Inca Wiraqocha governed, the neighbors to the west, the Chancas, intensified their acts of war and laid siege to Cuzco, until the Incas were liberated by a new hero from then on called Pachakutec Inca Yupanki (“the Inca who rules everything and who returns the land”). Thus began the formation of the empire of the Incas and   soon their Yupanqui governors left the local sphere of their dominions in order to take charge of the political and economic administration of a territory which they enlarged on the basis of military conquests and alliances. Their Tampu neighbors and the inhabitants of Vilcabamba were some of those initially conquered. It is in those circumstances that Machu Picchu was built.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

History according to archaeology

Archaeology records two phases in the behavior of those from Cuzco, which have been called Inca Provincial or Killke, and Imperial Inca. In the first, Provincial, phase, architecture and the rest of the arts had not been developed beyond the domestic limits which the local, basically village form of life maintained. Manufacturing was of simple configuration and rough looking, with no major differences between an ordinary vessel and an elegant one. This radically changed in the Imperial phase, in what was ostensibly the existence of an elite manufacture and another, popular one. Therefore the settlements of the Provincial phase, of undifferentiated village aspect, were displaced by clearly elitist urban centers with public buildings and luxurious sacred spaces, roads paved with stones, stations to provide services for travelers on the routes between towns, storehouses and granaries for keeping excess goods or those received in tribute, etc. Machu Picchu obviously belongs to the Imperial phase. 
The context in which the citadel was installed is directly associated with sumptuous conditions born with the formation of the Inca empire. If this was, in effect, the mausoleum chosen by Pachakutec to keep his body for eternity, it is a work certainly equivalent to those constructed by other civilizations of the world for their sacred heroes. If that is not the case, then it must be a work designed by a refined artist to fulfill a function different from any other known settlement of its time. The Incas built various cities in Tawantinsuyu, all of them architecturally exquisite, but none of them with the aesthetic delight which every one of the chambers and spaces of this sanctuary has. 

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

History of Pachakutec

According to what we know of his history, Pachakuteq was the Inca who, after the defeat of the Chancas around 1420 – 1430, began the expansion of the sinchi of Cuzco – his dominion previously only took in the region of the Vilcanota River – to start Tawantinsuyu. Pachakuteq was, then, the founder of the Inca empire.
The Chancas, who lived northwest of Cuzco, were neighbors and traditional enemies of the Incas. As part of their ancestral practices, during the mandate of the Inca Viracocha they had laid siege to Cuzco. The Inca songs tell of mythic encounters between the warriors of both nations in which stones turn into men and the gods help the heroic defenders of Cuzco. Finally, Cusi Yupanqui, one of the Cuzco leaders and the son of Viracocha, assumed command of the war and conquered  the Chancas, the moment at which he was enthroned as Inca Yupanqui and baptized as Pachakutec (“he who returns the earth”). Since then he initiated the expansion of Cuzco and founded Tawantinsuyu, which included extensive territories which embraced from the yungas of Chimor, or Chimu, to the señorios that already existed around Lake Titicaca.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

Maria Rostworowski suspects that Pachakuteq was born in Cusicancha, Cuzco, from which came his original name of Cusi Yupanqui. He belonged in his infancy to the Iñaca Panaca, but later founded the Hatun Ayllu, to which his descendants are assigned. According to Juan de Betanzos, who wrote his chronicle before 1550 and who perhaps saw the mummy of the Inca, “only today his body was in Patallacta which from his members seems that he was in his life a man of good height and great stature about whom it is said died at the age of one hundred twenty years”. Jose de Acosta, who saw the mummy, says that “he had in his head a dent which they gave him with a stone in a certain war and he was white-haired and did not lack hair”.
After being crowned as Sapan Inca, Pachakuteq conquered the region of the Tampu, where the park of Machu Picchu is found, and there ordered the sanctuary built.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

It is assumed, based on calculations that not all scholars trust, that Pachakuteq came to power around 1430. All the documents that speak of this Inca, attribute the construction of imperial Cuzco to him, as well as of most of the buildings of the Tampu region, where Machu Picchu is found. For this reason, all of them are in agreement in considering the sanctuary was built by him. If this is certain, it was built in the fifteenth century, no more than 100 years before the arrival of the Spanish. Archaeological studies confirm these assumptions, including carbon 14 dates which coincide with placing the sanctuary of Machu Picchu in the fifteenth century.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

The natural setting

The natural setting is forested, tropical and rainy. It is found in the middle of steeply sloped mountains and is flanked by the profound canyon that the Urubamba River forms as it passes through this part of the Vilcanota basin. The Urubamba is the same river where the Sacred Valley of the Incas begins, skillfully transformed with irrigation systems, the channeling of the river-bed and the engineering of terraces for agriculture and habitation. In this part, however, a canyon has formed that is so deep and the sides are so steep they only allow for the construction of agricultural terraces. In the middle of this landscape is built the citadel of Machu Picchu.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

Flora and fauna

Owing to the natural beauty and the original, harmonious influence of the Incas on the landscape, but also to the fact that it is found in an area where preservation is possible, the site and its surroundings have been declared a natural and cultural park which has been incorporated into the protected areas of the world that UNESCO has registered as a World Heritage Site.
The sanctuary of Machu Picchu is in the middle of forests and has few flat spaces, so that in order to cultivate, it had to be deforested and terraces constructed. According to recent studies, apart from maize, coca was also sown on the terraces surrounding the citadel. By the same token, fruit could be cultivated and tubers of the kind still sown in the zone today, including yuca and sweet potato.
The park of Machu Picchu is made up of diverse species of trees, ferns, grasses, mosses, and underbrush plants. Together with the pisonay tree and the alder, a leafy tree very popular all over the Peruvian highlands, we also can find several species of conifers and wide-leaved trees which can reach several meters in height. Orchids occupy a very special place, given that throughout the park there are more than 50 varieties of this flower.

This hot, wet forest environment, constantly covered by fog and rain was not a propitious place for domesticated Andean camelids, which belong rather to cold, dry climates. Nevertheless, since these animals were consistently linked to the Incas, their presence there is unquestionable given that they should cover the frequent transport of goods between Cuzco and Machu Picchu. Their bones have been found in the exhumed tombs in the site and there is evidence that lets us also assume they were part of the people’s food. Together with these bones have also been found those of two other domestic Andean animals, the cuy, cavy or guinea pig and the dog, Canis inga pecuarius that was one of the Andean breeds that looked like the collie and which was perhaps linked to the grazing of camelids.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

About the disoccupation when discovered

Everything indicates that the citadel of Machu Picchu was rapidly vacated after 1540, when the Spanish, in a campaign against the rebellious Incas of Vilcabamba, began their penetration into Cuzco lands. Vilcabamba is in the area and for this reason Hiram Bingham, along with his contemporaries from Cuzco, thought that it was a question of the “lost city” which served as the refuge of the celebrated warriors who kept up Inca resistance until 1572 when the last of them, the Inca Tupac Amaru, was taken prisoner and decapitated.
Picchu was initially given in encomienda to Hernando Pizarro and afterwards to a certain Arias Maldonado, also in the sixteenth century. In 1565, when the Inca Sayri Tupac was still alive in Vilcabamba, many towns in the area were already vacated, according to the declaration in a report the historian Richard Pietschmann published in 1910, which tells that Diego  
Rodriguez de Figueroa slept in a depopulated town situated along the road which led to Picchu, which was probably also uninhabited. In that time the mummy of the Inca had already been sequestered by the Spanish to be taken to Lima.

Some years later, in 1568, the caciques of Picchu declared that the towns and the lands cultivated there were “for the sacrifices and ceremonies of the dead bodies” and that they had been abandoned since about 30 years before.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

The colonial occupation

In Machu Picchu no clear traces of a Spanish occupation were found, save one or two casual, not very firm finds, although it would not be surprising to find objects from the colonial or republican period since the site was always linked to properties attributed to the Spanish after the invasion of 1534. The citadel, then, was abandoned in that time and not before, perhaps between 1534 and 1570, the period of Inca resistance. Moreover, the area of Vilcabamba, in proximity to Machu Picchu, was a point of attraction to the Spanish because there the Inca rebels took refuge. No one knows what happened, although perhaps one day we will find the account of how the sanctuary was burned and destroyed as part of the fundamentalist movement of extirpation of idolatry which was unleashed in that time and that, according to Raul Porras Barrenechea “seem to have arisen under the  
auspices of the priests of the redoubt of Vilcabamba and have been secretly propagated all over Peru during the period of the governor Lope Garcia de Castro, around 1565″.
If this is true, Machu Picchu, as a notable place close to the zone of Vilcabamba, was the most appropriate point for unleashing the evangelizing furies of the fanatic soldier friars who at that time supported the war against the Incas who had risen up against the invaders. The war against the Incas of Vilcabamba was ended by the viceroy Francisco de Toledo in 1572. And so notable was the place, that Hiram Bingham and his contemporaries from Cuzco thought Machu Picchu was the “lost city” where the power was installed for the almost 40 years that the war lasted.
The evidence of severe fires recurrently appears in the majority of the chambers excavated in Machu Picchu by archaeologists in our time. Subjecting the unfaithful and their paraphernalia to fire was one of the most notorious practices of the friars, extirpators of idolatry. Some of those remains could have belonged to the burning of plants which Bingham found on his explorations between 1911 and 1915. He takes it upon himself to say he had encountered traces of old fires in several parts.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

Written testimonies

Machu Picchu was an Inca urban center and consequently was inhabited and active at the time of the invasion of the Spanish. There is no reason to doubt that this could not be true. It was not built previous to the installation of the Inca State; that is, it was not over 100 years old at the time of the Spanish conquest of Cuzco, even if there had been dwellings or installations from earlier times in the sanctuary. Nevertheless, despite having been a very important place, it is not mentioned nor is any account given of other places, like Choqekirau, on the other side of Salqantay, or Tipon or several other places in the nearby area. However, in the known writings from the sixteenth century, some of which have been recently found, and also in the chronicles – if we read them in connection with the present knowledge – there are references to the zone and presumably to the site.
There are several documents from the sixteenth century which speak of Piccho or Picho in the area where the sanctuary is found. In fact, as John H. Rowe says, it was Melchor Arteaga, Hiram Bingham’s guide who baptized the site only as Machu Picchu, without making reference to that together with Wayna, it formed Piccho. Thanks to these writings, we know that it was close to the route to Vilcabamba, which the Spanish looked for in order to combat the Inca rebels there between 1540 and 1571. Thanks to the studies of Luis Miguel Glave and of Maria Isabel Remy we have been able to know of a 1568 document that speaks of the “town of Picho” and mentions the lands cultivated by the Incas and the caciques who lived there. Therefore, in 1568 the town still existed that, with every certainty, is Machu Picchu. The document says that that territory was conquered by Pachakutec Inca Yupanqui, who appropriated most of the land from Torontoy downriver – this Juan de Betanzos and Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa ratify – and that the cacique of the town cultivated coca. There is another document from the same period that mentions that the inhabitants of Picchu paid tribute in coca to the Spanish and also that in the time of the Incas “that which they formerly gathered there served to make sacrifices and ritual to the dead bodies as was the custom in this kingdom to do among themselves”. This agrees with the hypothesis that the sanctuary could have been destined to the cult of the “dead bodies”, a possible reference to mummies.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

The archaeological discovery

Melquiades Richarte and Anacleto Alvarez lived in Machu Picchu, in the middle of the forest and the stones. They sowed the flat and fertile earth and were there just visits from time to time by other farmers from the vicinity. In fact, if they did not go to visit Richarte and Alvarez, they had no reason to go to this lost place, of hard and rustic access. Although there was good earth to sow, they had had to clear the scarce flat visible surface of the trees and thick weeds which covered it.
Richarte and Alvarez had built their houses near where a spring gushed fresh water which fell over the mountain. Their wives and children helped in the agricultural tasks, in the weeding and the cleaning of the irrigation canals. In the middle of the underbrush there were some ruined houses, very old, that both farmers had tried to occupy because they  were close to their biggest plots of land for cultivation. But they were very big and they were only used partially and sporadically. The children were the ones who mostly frequented the area.

Sometimes their neighbor Melchor Arteaga, who lived in Mandorpampa, was there to see them and also others from down there. In fact, every visit was a real event for both couples. There was not a proper road to Machu Picchu, even though in former times, there had certainly been one – at the foot of the peak Wayna Picchu – that began very close to Mandorpampa. Climbing up the muddy slippery path of the lofty mountain covered with weeds and predatory animals, then, only served for visiting the Richarte and Alvarez families, since Machu Picchu was not en route to anywhere. Near Mandorpampa there was a relatively low ford and before beginning the ascent one had to cross the Urubamba River which surrounded the peak on three sides. Finally, there was a lot of fog up there almost all year.

One day, 24 July 1911, Richarte and Alvarez received the visit of Melchor Arteaga, who that time came accompanied by a foreigner who said he was called Hiram Bingham and a Sergeant Carrasco of the police. They arrived very tired and the farmers gave them something to drink and offered to let them rest in their huts. But the foreigner had not come to see them; he wanted to see the old houses which were under the brush, close to his cultivation plots. Arteaga had told him that there were ruins there and had offered himself as guide Richarte put his son in charge of showing them the houses and the caves where he played.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

Later investigations

Later on, in the decades of 1930 -1940 various scholars visited Machu Picchu. In 1934, the quadricentennial of the arrival of the Spanish in Cuzco, the Peruvian state sponsored some studies and a cleanup campaign of the ruins, which was entrusted to archaeologists from Cuzco. That same year the engineer Jacobo Rauss excavated the caves of Wayna Picchu and found burials.
After the earthquake of 1950 various campaigns of work were organized in Cuzco for different monuments in the region. Between 1955 and 1958 the Restoration Council and the Departmental Archaeological Foundation of Cuzco under the direction of the architect Guevara and engineer Eulogio Cabada, performed asystematic excavations and restorations of various buildings and terraces of Machu Picchu. Cabada  excavated and reconstructed the Palace of the Three Doors in 1956 by request of the Corporation of Reconstruction and Industrial Development (CRIF).

Dr. Manuel Chavez Ballon, with the help of students from the National University San Antonio Abad of Cuzco and at the request of the Departmental Foundation, participated at the site between 1967 and 1969. In the latter half of 1967 the Cuzco archaeologist Alfredo Valencia was in charge of conducting the excavation of the south chamber of the complex of the Sacred Rock and in 1968-1969 of the complex of the Condor. Chavez participated sporadically until 1974.

The Spanish-Mexican archaeologist Jose Luis Lorenzo, at the request of Plan Copesco – UNESCO (Special Commission to Coordinate and Supervise Tourist and Cultural Plans in Peru) together with the Cuzco archaeologists Alfredo Valencia, Arminda Gibaja and Jose Gonzalez in 1974 carried out some very successful exploratory excavations. At different points the team obtained information about the functions and uses of several of the chambers and spaces of Machu Picchu. It also excavated in the lower houses, in the complex of the Condor, in the upper agricultural sector, in the dry moat that protects the citadel, in the western agricultural zone, in the group of four houses, on one of the terraces of the main plaza, in one of the buildings linked to the quarries and in the chamber of a temple. In 1975 the PER-39 Project installed a special executive unit which initiated excavation and restoration work in Machu Picchu.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

Description of Machu Picchu

The sanctuary of Machu Picchu is divided into two large sectors – one the agricultural sector and the other the urban or the citadel – of which the first surrounds the second. We could consider the peak Wayna Picchu as a third sector.

The principal road to approach Machu Picchu, which comes from Cuzco through the south (Qosqoñan), crosses the crest of the mountain and goes to the entrance to the sanctuary after passing through areas with isolated constructions – such as what is now called the watchtower – posts for lookouts or guards, qolqa or granaries and abundant agricultural terraces. There were also other roads, such as that which made the river accessible from the sanctuary on the northeast. At present a road has been constructed for tourist visits, a road which did not exist before and now runs parallel to the Qosqoñan.

The sanctuary properly speaking is a citadel made up of palaces and temples, dwellings and storehouses, but above all for buildings which clearly fulfill ceremonial religious functions, the more luxurious and spectacular components of which are the mausoleums carved in the rock.

The buildings as well as the plazas and the platforms that constitute the urban sector are connected among themselves by a system of narrow lanes or paths, mostly in the form of flights of steps, which cross the terraces which follow a flat longitudinal axis. The main platform of the urban sector is an extensive plaza – the main plaza – which in turn divides the buildings into hanan (“above” or “upper”) and urin (“below” or “lower”). The urban sector was surrounded by impediments to gaining access to the sanctuary such as a defense wall and the deep and wide ditch, or dry moat, which surrounded the whole complex, not as part of a military fortification rather as a form of restricted ceremonial isolation.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

The agricultural sector

The Machu Picchu citadel is surrounded by agricultural terraces, some showier than others, so that the aggressive and unequal slope of the mountain is transformed into a stepped surface which covers the irregularities of the hillsides with completely flat terraces. As these follow the level curves, their contours serve, moreover, to redraw with firm lines the profiles of the mountain. Therefore, the natural surroundings, which are covered with a dense arboreal layer which is in itself fascinating, are transformed into a spectacle that harmoniously combines the irregularity of the unevennesses and the free distribution of the colors and forms of the forest with the architecture of the volumes and spaces created by the human will.
Without a doubt, Pachakutec enjoyed the pleasure of recreating this landscape which holds his memory for all eternity. More than a simple agricultural space, the construction of the farming sector was a work which subordinated the alimentary function to the demands of aesthetic values. If to that is added that, along with the maize or coca – which the Incas surely sowed in those terraces – they also grew orchids and plants producing other colors and aromas, the agricultural terraces were much more than just that. According to sixteenth century documents these lands of the Urubamba were under the care of persons whose job was to produce the goods which sustained the cult of the dead Inca, who were for the most part the mamacunas, that is, women ascribed to state service functions.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

The hanan section

In hanan, which is to the west, are situated the showier sacred spaces, such as the royal mausoleum, which contains the Torreon and the crypt; the royal palace; the main temple, and a pyramidal platform that houses a sculpture known as Intiwatana (“solar clock”). Near the entrance of the sanctuary, at the southeast end, there is another group of buildings and, in addition, a rocky space which in its time served as a quarry.

The main plaza and the urin section

The urban sector of Machu Picchu is divided into two large sections; the upper, or hanan, to the west, which contains the royal mausoleum, the royal palace, the main temple and the Intiwatana, among other things, and the lower, or urin, to the east, which contains the Sacred Rock and its adjacent garden of stones, the palace of the three doors, the eastern mausoleum, the aqllawasi, the Crypt of the Condor, collcas and two groups of buildings which seem to have been of a domestic character. Both sections are built on high pieces of land which project from a central section, the one which fulfills the function of main plaza formed by various plazas distanced from each other. This is actually the only more or less extensive flat space there is in Machu Picchu.

The terrace which corresponds to the main plaza properly speaking is located between the hill of the Intiwatana on the west, the group of the Sacred Rock with its garden of stones on the north and the houses of the north and the palace of the three portals on the east. Below and in front of the group of the Sacred Rock, an extension of the main plaza forms a series of wide terraces which configure a landscape resembling an amphitheater that comes to an end at the bottom in a trapezoidal stage. The houses to the north and the palace of the three portals sit on terraces that appear to be stepped gardens over the main plaza.

In the center, the great plaza is decomposing on various wide terraces, which on the west, face the imposing Cyclopean parameters of the sacred plaza, which are stepped almost vertically over them. On the east they face the highest part of urin, which contains the palace that has been called the aqllawasi from the supposition that it would have lodged a group of chosen women whose service to the Inca included fine handcraft labor. In fact, it is a matter of a second plaza, or perhaps a garden or orchard, formed by a flat space with a well-defined rectangular ground plan.

To the south the large plaza also takes in another space differentiated at a lower level and in the form of a trapezoid. It is at the foot of the palace to the west and of a shrine and an urin mausoleum to the east; it is also very elegant and associated with a surrealistic allegory of a condor in the pose of descending upon a cave. Here the plaza ends, which, as we see, crosses the whole north-south axis of Machu Picchu with its various levels of flights of steps. All of it except the south end of the shrine, where the royal mausoleum is located to the west and a group of houses to the east, both separated by rather high terraces. This face without a plaza borders on the north with the main flight of steps, the one which, moreover, is accompanied from the Torreon by a chain of fountains united by canals carved into the rock.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

Wayna Picchu and the temple of the moon

Wayna Picchu, the “young mountain”  Owing to the documents that have been found in the last few years, we know that the site in times previous to the visit of Hiram Bingham was simply called Picchu or “mountain”. It had two sections: the southern a humpbacked massif called Machu (“elder” or “old”), and the northern slender and standing erect, called Wayna (“younger” or “young”). The sanctuary is really in the middle, between the two peaks, on the crest which bridges them together. The name Machu Picchu is due to Bingham’s guides’ reference to the section to which they had to climb in order to arrive at the ruins.
When we arrive at the north end of the sanctuary, behind the Sacred Rock we find the path that leads to Wayna Picchu. After passing a small hill called Uña, the path becomes a long narrow flight of steps which circles the hill on the west. Its steps, in some stretches, are carved directly into the rock.  

Together the path, which adapts to the curves of the hill, we can appreciate small terraces for cultivation that formed part of the two gardens which adorned the sanctuary and its surroundings. Another path ascends Wayna Picchu from Mandorpampa, to the northeast. It is steeper, longer, and crosses terraces and grottos which served for keeping the dead.

On the summit, which is knife-shaped, at an altitude of 2720 m, in the middle of the rocks there is a carved stone that popular imagination has designated the “Inca’s chair”. There are also a few chambers and terraces. The view is impressive: the whole sanctuary is seen as though it were a scale model and in the setting one appreciates the wide horizon made up by mountain peaks, the meanders of the Urubamba and the ruggedness of the ravines.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

The temple of the Moon

Although the landscape and the few remains of buildings and terraces situated on top of the mountain are worthy of esteem for themselves, there is no doubt that that the set of caverns on the north slope, with their back to the sanctuary, is a spectacular monument. The caverns are perched on the cliffs of the Cordillera, virtually over the Urubamba River, which runs several hundred feet down in the depths of the canyon which surrounds the mountain as it changes its south – north course in the opposite direction to form a sort of great scroll.

Many of the caverns have been embellished by man and converted into chambers probably destined for burials. The more notable ones are known as the Temple of the Moon. Actually this name is arbitrary, just like many the many names by which the other sectors of Machu Picchu are known.  
And it is that here there did not even have to be a temple, even though the forms and location of the caverns announce a ceremonial rather than domestic administrative or military function. Several of the caverns are interconnected.

There is a very large cavern on the route which comes up from Mandorpampa. It is a cavern stationed under a large rock, similar in a way to that of the royal mausoleum or the Crypt of the Condor. It is some 7 m wide, 12 m long and 2.5 m high, and the earth floor is flat. Over this is another similar one and both are associated with covered corridors, stairs and intermediary passages. The caverns have been conditioned with much care: the internal walls are of fine masonry and present luxurious details, such as niches with triple jambs and altars carved into the rock. Apart from the royal and the condor mausoleums, these are the most outstanding.

In the excavations performed by Bingham’s team, on the northern and eastern slopes, about five caves were found that were occupied presumably for keeping mummified bodies. Lamentably, the caves that were associated with the Temple of the Moon do not still contain remains, which were probably looted. Those that remained were poorly finished and just hid broken ceramics. They were crevices rather than caves. 

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

The productive activities – Construction Engineering

It is necessary to point out that Inca constructions are characterized by adapting their forms to the conditions of the terrain on which they are built. They reserved naturally flat soils for fields for cultivation and moved construction for housing and other types of building to pieces of land on hillsides. Therefore, when they lacked flat pieces of land – as is characteristic in most of the territory of the cordillera – they provided them in the form of terraces, and artificially produced efficient fields for cultivation and housing. Machu Picchu is not, then, an exceptional case. For this reason, this site like most Inca settlements is built on terraces and appears stepped, with its paths and communication networks turned into flights of steps.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

The productive activities – Agricultural technology

In Peru agriculture implies the need to combine strategies which come from different sources of knowledge. One of these is astronomy, which with using a calendar, permits appropriate management of agricultual cycles; another is the provision of flat lands for cultivation and the last is the technology of preparing agricultural products for conserving them and deferred use, which goes joined to the work of building warehousing installations.

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top

The productive activities –  Manufactured production

There is a series of manufactured objects which, like the products of agricultural activities, could have been produced in Machu Picchu or have been brought there from Cuzco or other locations. The objects are the same used by the Incas in other cities at the time, especially in Cuzco. The objects of gold which surely existed have not been found, nor the jewels or other luxury goods which always accompanied personages of the Cuzco nobility. In the archaeological excavations carried out in Machu Picchu essentially objects of domestic use and some ordinary adornments have been found in the tombs, which were obviously of peasant farmers external to the sanctuary. This group of objects includes ceramics, objects of copper, bronze and some of silver, remains of rustic cloth, as well as isolated objects of bone, wood and horn of little artistic or technical value. It has already been said elsewhere the site was sacked and burned. 

Peru Tour Operator: Classical Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, Machu Picchu tours Cuzco.Back to top