Machu Picchu (in hispanicized spelling, Spanish pronunciation: [ˈmatʃu ˈpiktʃu]) or Machu Pikchu (Quechua machu old, old person, pikchu peak; mountain or prominence with a broad base which ends in sharp peaks, "old peak", pronunciation [ˈmɑtʃu ˈpixtʃu]) is a 15th-century Inca site located 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level. It is located in the Cusco Region, Urubamba Province, Machupicchu District in Peru.
It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley which is 80 kilometres (50 mi) northwest of Cuzco and through which the Urubamba River flows. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often mistakenly referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas" (a title more accurately applied to Vilcabamba), it is the most familiar icon of Inca civilization.
The Incas built the estate around 1450, but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was not known to the Spanish during the colonial period and remained unknown to the outside World before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of what the structures originally looked like. By 1976, 30% of Machu Picchu had been restored, restoration continues today.
Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.
Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary structures are the Inti Watana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows.
The site is roughly divided into an urban sector and an agricultural sector, and into an upper town and a lower town. The temples are in the upper town, the warehouses in the lower.
The architecture is adapted to the mountains. Approximately 200 buildings are arranged on wide parallel terraces around a vast central square that is oriented east-west. The various compounds, called kanchas, are long and narrow in order to exploit the terrain. Extensive terraces were used for agriculture and sophisticated channeling systems provided irrigation for the fields. Numerous stone stairways set in the walls allowed access to the different levels across the site. The eastern section of the city was probably residential. The western, separated by the square, was for religious and ceremonial purposes. This section contains the Torreón, the massive tower which may have been used as an observatory.
Located in the first zone are the primary archaeological treasures: the Inti Watana, the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows. These were dedicated to Inti, their sun god and greatest deity.
The Popular District, or Residential District, is the place where the lower-class people lived. It includes storage buildings and simple houses.
The royalty area, a sector for the nobility, is a group of houses located in rows over a slope; the residence of the amautas (wise persons) was characterized by its reddish walls, and the zone of the ñustas (princesses) had trapezoid-shaped rooms. The Monumental Mausoleum is a carved statue with a vaulted interior and carved drawings. It was used for rites or sacrifices.
The Guardhouse is a three-sided building, with one of its long sides opening onto the Terrace of the Ceremonial Rock. The three-sided style of Inca architecture is known as the wayrona style.
Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, both cultural and natural. Since its discovery in 1911, growing numbers of tourists have visited the site, reaching 400,000 in 2000. As Peru's most visited tourist attraction and major revenue generator, it is continually threatened by economic and commercial forces. In the late 1990s, the Peruvian government granted concessions to allow the construction of a cable car and a luxury hotel, including a tourist complex with boutiques and restaurants. Many people protested against the plans, including Peruvians and foreign scientists, saying that the greater numbers of visitors would pose a tremendous physical burden on the ruins. Many protested a plan to build a bridge to the site as well. A no-fly zone exists above the area. UNESCO is considering putting Machu Picchu on its List of World Heritage in Danger.
During the 1980s a large rock from Machu Picchu's central plaza was moved out of its alignment to a different location to create a helicopter landing zone. Since the 1990s, the government has forbidden helicopter landings there. In 2006, a Cusco-based company, Helicusco, sought to have tourist flights over Machu Picchu and initially received a license to do so, but the government quickly overturned the decision.
In recent years, Machu Picchu has experienced a multitude of issues of tourist safety. There have been several accounts of tourist deaths linked to altitude sickness, floods and hiking accidents. It has also been noted that UNESCO has received harsh criticism for allowing tourists to go to the location even though there are high risks of landslides, earthquakes and injury due to decaying structures.
Naked tourism is recent trend to the dismay of Peruvian officials. In several incidents, tourists were detained for posing for nude pictures or streaking across the grassy fields of Machu Picchu. Peru's Ministry of Culture has denounced these acts for threatening Peru's cultural heritage. Cusco's Regional Director of Culture has increased surveillance to crack down on naked tourism.
Roads and Transportation:
As part of their road system, the Incas built a road to the Machu Picchu region. Today, thousands of tourists walk the Inca Trail to visit Machu Picchu each year. They congregate at Cusco before starting on the one-, two-, four- or five-day journey on foot from Kilometer 82 (or 77 or 85, four/five-day trip) or Kilometer 104 (one/two-day trip) near the town of Ollantaytambo in the Urubamba valley, walking up through the Andes mountain range to the isolated city.
The people of Machu Picchu were connected to long-distance trade, as shown by non-local artifacts found at the site. For example, Bingham found unmodified obsidian nodules at the entrance gateway. In the 1970s, Burger and Asaro determined that these obsidian samples were from the Titicaca or Chivay obsidian source, and that the samples from Machu Picchu showed long-distance transport of this obsidian type in pre-Hispanic Peru.