Machu Picchu 101 | National Geographic


– [Narrator] The stone
city of Machu Picchu
is one of the most fascinating
archeological sites
on the planet.
Located northwest of
Cuso, Peru, Machu Picchu
is a testament to the power
and ingenuity of the Inca people.
During its prime, the Inca
civilization stretched
about 2500 miles along South
America’s Pacific Coastline.
From modern day Ecuador down into Chile.
This distance is nearly
the horizontal width
of the continental United States.
Machu Picchu located at the
center of this once expansive
empire is one of the few
well-preserved remnants
of the Inca civilization.
Built around the mid 15th century,
Machu Picchu is a stunning example
of the Inca’s engineering feats.
The Inca constructed Machu
Picchu’s palaces, temples,
terraces, and infrastructure using stone
and without the help of wheels or tools
made of steel or iron.
One particularly notable
aspect of their construction
is foregoing the use of
mortar, a material often used
to bind stones together.
Nonetheless, the stones of Machu Picchu
were cut so precisely that
they snugly fit together.
Located on two fault lines Machu Picchu
often experiences earthquakes
but because of the stones’
exceptional cut and fit,
they bounce during
tremors and then are able
to easily fall back into position.
These engineering marvels
have preserved Machu Picchu’s
remarkable condition for over 500 years.
Machu Picchu’s purpose is still a mystery
to many archeologists.
Some theorize that it may have
served as a ceremonial site,
a military stronghold, or
a retreat for nobility.
The site’s geographic
layout may be significant
in another way.
Many of both the manmade and
natural structures appear
to align with astronomical events.
But in the early 16th century,
only about 100 years after it was built,
Machu Picchu was abandoned.
And since the Inca had
no written language,
no records exist to explain
the exact purpose of the site.
Although local communities
knew about Machu Picchu,
the site remained largely
unknown to the outside world
for hundreds of years.
Spanish conquistadors who
invaded the Inca civilization
in the 16th century never
came across the site.
It wasn’t until the early 20th
century when Melchor Arteaga,
a local farmer debuted Machu
Picchu to outsiders when he led
Yale University professor
Hiram Bingham to the site.
Bingham and successive
explorers devoted much of their
academic careers to studying
the archeological wonder.
Despite its enigmatic nature,
Machu Picchu still stands
as one of the world’s most
important archeological sites.
It is a testament to
the power and ingenuity
of one of the largest
empires in the Americas.
In 1983, UNESCO designated Machu Picchu
as a world heritage
site and today visitors
from around the world come to pay homage
to this piece of history.

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