Why is Machu Picchu known as ‘The Lost city of the Incas’?
Machu Picchu is situated above a bow of the Urubamba River, which surrounds the site on three sides, where cliffs drop vertically for 450 metres (1,480 ft) to the river at their base. The city sits in a saddle between the two mountains Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, 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 were terraced, to provide more farmland to grow crops, and to steepen the slopes that invaders would have to ascend. The terraces reduced soil erosion and protected against landslides.
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.
image source: wikimedia commons
After centuries, lost in the jungle of Cuzco, Peru, Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1911 by an archaeologist, Hiram Bingham. Actually, Machu Picchu was not a city at all. It was built by the Incas as a royal estate and religious retreat in 1460-70, and it was abandoned less than 100 years later, as the empire collapsed under Spanish conquest.
The Spanish arrival was preceded by small pox, which killed roughly half the Inca population. The Inca rulers also died from the spread of the disease. The Incas would not have had the resources needed to maintain Machu Picchu.
Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle grew to cover the site, and few knew of its existence.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 and designated one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, Machu Picchu is Peru’s most visited attraction and South America’s most famous ruins, welcoming hundreds of thousands of people a year.