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Information about Machu PicchuMachu Picchu (Quechua: Machu Pikchu, "Old Peak", is a pre-Columbian Inca site located 2,430 metres (8,000 ft) above sea level. It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, which is 80 kilometres (50 mi) northwest of Cuzco and through which the Urubamba River flows. Often referred to as "The Lost City of the Incas", Machu Picchu is one of the most familiar symbols of the Inca Empire.
The Incas started building it around AD 1430 (587 years ago) but was abandoned as an official site for the Inca rulers a hundred years later at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Although known locally, it was largely unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 (106 years ago) by Hiram Bingham, an American historian. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction.
Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 (36 years ago) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 (34 years ago). Since it was not plundered by the Spanish when they conquered the Incas, it is especially important as a cultural site and is considered a sacred place.
Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its primary buildings are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. These are located in what is known by archaeologists as the Sacred District of Machu Picchu. In sep. 2007 (10 years ago), Peru and Yale University reached an agreement regarding the return of artifacts which Hiram Bingham had removed from Machu Picchu in the early twentieth century.
HistoryMachu Picchu was constructed around 1462 (555 years ago), at the height of the Inca Empire. It was abandoned less than 100 years later. It is likely that most of its inhabitants were wiped out by smallpox before the Spanish conquistadores arrived in the area, and there is no record of the Spanish having known of the remote city. One theory about the purpose of the citadel, by Hiram Bingham, is that it was the traditional birthplace of the Inca of the "Virgins of the Suns".
Another theory maintains that Machu Picchu was an Inca "llaqta", a settlement built to control the economy of these conquered regions. Yet another asserts that it may have been built as a prison for a select few who had committed heinous crimes against Inca society. Research conducted by scholars, such as John Rowe and Richard Burger, has convinced most archaeologists that Machu Picchu was an estate of the Inca emperor, Pachacuti. In addition, Johan Reinhard presented evidence that the site was selected because of its position relative to sacred landscape features such as its mountains, which are purported to be in alignment with key astronomical events that would have been important to the Incas.
And still another theory is that it is an agricultural testing station, the purpose of which is to test different types of crops in the many different micro-climates afforded by the location and the terraces, which were not enough to grow food on a large scale, as much to determine what could grow where.
Although the citadel is located only about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Cusco, the Inca capital, it was never found by the Spanish and consequently not plundered and destroyed, as was the case with many other Inca sites. Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle grew over much of the site, and few knew of its existence. On Jul. 24, 1911 (106 years ago), Machu Picchu was brought to the attention of scholars by Hiram Bingham, an American historian employed as a lecturer at Yale University. Bingham was led up to Machu Picchu by a local 11 year old Quechua boy named Pablito Alvarez. Bingham undertook archaeological studies and completed a survey of the area. Bingham coined the name "The Lost City of the Incas", which was the title of his first book.
Bingham had been searching for the city of Vilcapampa, the last Inca refuge and spot of resistance during the Spanish conquest of Peru. In 1911 (106 years ago), after years of previous trips and explorations around the zone, he was led to the citadel by Quechuans. These people were living in Machu Picchu, in the original Inca infrastructure. Bingham made several more trips and conducted excavations on the site through 1915 (102 years ago), carrying off artifacts. He wrote a number of books and articles about the discovery of Machu Picchu in his lifetime.
A complete overview of the site as seen from Huayna PicchuThe site received significant publicity after the National Geographic Society devoted their entire Apr. 1913 (104 years ago) issue to Machu Picchu.
An area of 325.92 square kilometers surrounding Machu Picchu was declared a "Historical Sanctuary" of Peru in 1971 (46 years ago). In addition to the ruins, this sanctuary area includes a large portion of adjoining region, rich with flora and fauna.
Machu Picchu was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1983 (34 years ago) when it was described as "an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization".
On Jul. 7, 2007 (10 years ago), Machu Picchu was voted as one of New Open World Corporation's New Seven Wonders of the World. The World Monuments Fund placed Machu Picchu on its 2008 (9 years ago) Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world because of environmental degradation resulting from the impact of tourism, uncontrolled development in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes that included a poorly sited tram to ease visitor access, and the construction of a bridge across the Vilcanota River that is likely to bring even more tourists to the site in Defiance (10 walls) of a court order and government protests against it.
Discovery prior to BinghamSimone Waisbard, a long-time researcher of Cusco, claims that Enrique Palma, Gabino Sánchez, and Agustín Lizárraga left their names engraved on one of the rocks at Machu Picchu on Jul. 14, 1901 (116 years ago). Likewise, in 1904 (113 years ago), an engineer named Franklin supposedly spotted the ruins from a distant mountain. He told Thomas Payne, an English Christian missionary living in the region, about the site, Payne's family members claim. They also report that in 1906 (111 years ago), Payne and another fellow missionary named Stuart E McNairn (1867–1956) climbed up to the ruins.
It has recently come to light that the site may have been discovered and plundered in 1867 (150 years ago) by a German businessman, Augusto Berns. There is also evidence that a British missionary, Thomas Payne, and a German engineer, J. M. von Hassel, arrived earlier, and maps found by historians show references to Machu Picchu as early as 1874 (143 years ago).
GeographyMachu Picchu is 80 kilometers northwest of Cusco, on the crest of the mountain Machu Picchu, located about 2,450 meters (7,710 feet) above sea level, that is around 1,000 m lower than Cusco. As such, had a milder climate than the Inca capital. It is one of the most important archaeological sites in South America and the most visited tourist attraction in Peru.
It is above Urubamba Valley. From atop the cliff of Machu Picchu, there is a vertical rock face of 600 meters rising from the Urubamba River at the foot of the cliff. The location of the city was a military secret, and its deep precipices and mountains provide excellent natural defenses. The Inca Bridge, an Inca rope bridge, across the Urubamba River in the Pongo de Mainique, provided a secret entrance for the Inca army. Another Inca bridge to the west of Machu Picchu, the tree-trunk bridge, at a location where a gap occurs in the cliff that measures 6 metres (20 ft), could be bridged by two tree trunks. If the trees were removed, it would leave a 570 metres (1,900 ft) fall to the base of the cliffs, also discouraging invaders.
The city sits in a saddle between two mountains, with a commanding view down two valleys and a nearly impassable mountain at its back. It has a water supply from springs that cannot be blocked easily, and enough land to grow food for about four times as many people as ever lived there. The hillsides leading to it have been terraced, not only to provide more farmland to grow crops, but to steepen the slopes which invaders would have to ascend. There are two high-altitude routes from Machu Picchu across the mountains back to Cusco, one through the sun gate, and the other across the Inca bridge. Both easily could be blocked if invaders should approach along them. Regardless of its original purpose, it is strategically located and readily defended.
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