Machu Picchu (Quechua Language: "Old mountain") is a pre-Columbian Inca site located 2,400 meters (7,875 ft) above sea level, on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, which is 80 km (50 mi) northwest of Cusco.
It was re-discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an American Historian who had been searching for the location of the city of Vitcos, the last Incan refuge during the Spanish conquest of Peru. After years of previous trips and explorations around Peru, he was led to the citadel by Quechuan locals who were living in Machu Picchu, within the original Inca infrastructure. He then brought it to the attention of world-wide scholars and labelled it as "The Lost City of the Incas". It has become one of the most familiar symbols of the Inca Empire and a popular tourist attraction for Peru.
The Incas had began building upon the already established and ancient site around AD 1400 but was abandoned within a century later, around the time the Spanish Conquistadors conquered the Americas and their populations. Although, never discovered by the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, it is most likely that the introduction of Smallpox decimated millions of native Inca including those at Machu Picchu. This was certainly the pattern across the whole of the Incan Empire.
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 declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Machu Picchu is another example of archaeological scholars fitting the entire history of a site into a narrow band of history. It is clear that the 15th Century Inca used and adapted an already established and ancient site by building their cruder dry-stone walls and structures over very distinct perfectly placed, polished smooth and much larger stonework that existed as a Sun Worship temple from far earlier times.
The primary buildings are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows.
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