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La1910_machu_picchu_-_juin_2009_-_edit.2
Machu Picchu
Created: 05/15/2017

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Hiram Bingham, after traveling extensively through the Peruvian countryside both by foot and by mule, arrived at a city lost to the ages, whose location was a secret kept by locals for hundreds of years. This city was Machu Picchu and it is a modern architectural wonder. He found it on July 24th, 1911 on a cold and rainy day, however, the tumultuous weather was not enough to stop this determined explorer. What is most significant about this site is that it was somehow left untouched by Spanish conquistadors and so none of the typical defacement is present at this site. Machu Picchu is located in between Cuzco and the Urubamba Valley, (only 80 miles from the Peruvian capital) and is tucked away into the mountainside. Outfitted with over 3,000 stone steps, Machu Picchu is widely thought to have been the vacation site of Incan emperors. Initially though, historians believe it to have been built specifically for an emperor known as Pachacuti, who lived from 1438-1472. It was built in classic Incan style, and contains three main structures: the Inti Watana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. However, if you visit Machu Picchu today you will be able to see that much of the outcroppings and outlying buildings have been repaired (this is done with the intention of providing some of the annual 300,000 tourists a better visual of this monumental structure.) The town can be thought of as being divided in two different ways: into an upper town and a lower town and an agricultural sector and an urban sector. Carefully thought out and planned, elaborate irrigation channels and terrace gardens dot the mountainside of this structure. The most astonishing thing about Machu Picchu’s design is the way that the Incans were able to adapt to the challenging terrain. For example, Machu Picchu is situated along two major fault lines, and as such, typical building materials such as “mortar” was unusable. So the Incans carefully mined and cut stones that fit perfectly into one another, in order to stabilize the structures. Another example of Incan innovation can be seen in the layout of the garden terraces, which were carefully coated with topsoil and rocks in order to maximum water retention (this was very effective prevention against mudslides and flooding.) Despite its location and relative seclusion, by all accounts the Machu Picchu that the Incans knew experienced a great deal of trade and was included in the Incan road system. Evidence of this type of long distance trading is seen through the discovery of artifacts that are not native to the region surrounding Machu Picchu. Though Bingham’s discovery ultimately led to the creation of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bingham’s discovery was not always favorably viewed by the natives. At one point, Bingham was accused and vilified by the Peruvian press for stealing artifacts from Machu Picchu and smuggling them out of Peru. Despite being raked over the coals for this, there is no proof Bingham did anything illegal with the artifacts and in fact, any artifacts that he did take were removed in a legal and fair way.

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