History of Machu Picchu
The date of Machu Picchu’s construction is thought to have been around 1430. Many theorists poise that it was abandoned less than 100 years afterwards and that the region was uninhabited by the time of the Spanish Conquest, perhaps a result of the onslaught of Small Pox that reached Peru before the Spaniards themselves. This depopulation would partly explain the inability of the conquistadores to easily track the site down and it remained untouched and unseen by Europeans for centuries. The fact that it was exempt from Spanish plunder makes it one of the most complete sets of Inca ruins in the country.
Almost 400 years after the fall of the Incas, Yale scholar Hiram Bingham was led to the ruins by locals to the area during his search for the last Inca Outpost of Vilcabamba. At first he thought he had found his prize - and understandably so - but after further research it became apparent that this was not the case. Bingham had in fact already visited what is now believed to be Vilcabamba, but he had dismissed these ruins as he was not aware of their full extent, which today is still engulfed by thick jungle.
Since his discovery of Machu Picchu, the site has been cleared and has dramatically risen in profile. It is now considered to be the most important archeological site in the Americas, and one of the most significant in the world. Archeological discoveries continue to be made around the site, and its historical importance is recognized by UNESCO who declared it a World Heritage Site in 1983. It has also been named as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and has become an extremely popular tourist destination drawing crowds of people every single day.
So why exactly was Machu Picchu built? A myriad of theories have been given in an attempt to answer this question. These range from it having importance as a sacred religious city to it being a high security prison. The most likely explanation, however, is that it was built as a spiritual and ceremonial retreat for the Inca Pachacutec during an expansionist period of the Inca Empire in the mid fifteenth century. At its height, it is even thought that this was the center of a buzzing economic region that could have been populated more than just within the city.
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