Machu Picchu is an abandoned city that stands on a mountain ridge in Peru. Located on one of the highest points of the valley, it overlooks the nearby mountains and is surrounded by steep slopes covered in tropical forests. A mountain peak, which continues to a mountain ridge, can be seen right next to the far end of the city. During the day, the entire area is covered in light, which allows the visitors to see every detail of the buildings. There are two broad sets of structures, divided by a large green field, and a stairs-like structure, which ascends to the other part of the ridge, on the opposite end of the city from the mountain peak. The walls of the buildings are made of gray stone; they are low but thick, with small windows. The city looks like a citadel, even though the area is not surrounded by any defensive structures. Indeed, these were unnecessary due to the height of the mountain ridge: on a cloudy day, the top of the mountain peak and the ridge disappear behind the clouds, emphasizing the enormous altitude of the location.
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It is considered that an Inka ruler built the city in the mid-15th century (Kleiner 858). Due to the location of the structure, positioned at 2 430 m above the sea level in the Peruvian Andes of South America, it is likely that the city was created as a “place devoted to the understanding and worship of the greatest God of all, the Sun God” (UNESCO sec. 5). One of the main buildings is located on the highest point of the city and has two windows, each one allowing the sunlight to shine right through on the mornings of both winter and summer solstices (UNESCO sec. 5). The windows and walls of the other buildings, too, were constructed in accordance with the nature surrounding the city: “The Inka carefully sited buildings so that windows and doors framed spectacular views of sacred peaks and facilitated the recording of important astronomical events” (Kleiner 858).
The fields covering the southern slopes were used to grow maize for the making of liquor for various religious ceremonies carried out on the site (UNESCO sec. 5). The city had a population of about 500 people, an advanced water supply system, and sophisticated building technologies (UNESCO sec. 5). The location is discreet, and it is impossible to see Machu Picchu from the valley below (Kleiner 858), which is why it was not discovered until 1911. Hiram Bingham, an American explorer, found the site (Kleiner 858) and left it almost untouched after collecting valuable archaeological items. Over 170 remains were investigated by the archaeologists; no traces of violent death were discovered, and no weapons were found in the city, which led the scientists to believe that the people of Machu Picchu led a calm, peaceful life until the city was abandoned in late 15th century (UNESCO sec. 5).
Nowadays, the city of Machu Picchu is a popular tourist destination, although many of its mysteries remain unresolved. It is “an integral part of Peru’s national protected areas system and enjoys protection through several layers of a comprehensive legal framework for both cultural and natural heritage” (UNESCO sec. 1). Machu Picchu is an excellent example of the Inka people’s architectural achievements and can be used in further research to discover the secrets of the lost empire.
Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art through the Ages: A Global History, Enhanced Thirteenth Edition, Cengage Learning, 2011.
UNESCO. “Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.” UNESCO World Heritage Convention, 2016, Web.