Machu Picchu Facts
Machu Picchu Facts

35 Amazing Machu Picchu Facts

James Israelsen
By James Israelsen, Associate Writer
Published November 14, 2019
  • Machu Picchu is an Incan city located between the Andes Mountains of Peru and the Amazon rainforest basin.[7]
  • The Incas built Machu Picchu in the fifteenth century AD; it was abandoned when Spaniards conquered the Inca civilization around ninety years later.[7]
  • Machu Picchu is a site covering over 100 square miles (259 square kilometers), with around 200 religious, ceremonial, agricultural, and astronomical structures built on its lands.[7]
  • The terraced city of Machu Picchu was planned in advance, with an upper area designated for agricultural development and lower levels intended for domestic use.[7]
  • Some archaeologists believe that the site of Machu Picchu was selected in part for its higher altitude. Sand flies, which are common in South America and which transmit leishmaniasis, a face-deforming disease, cannot survive at the altitude of Machu Picchu.[5]
  • The Incas that lived at Machu Picchu cultivated the coca crop, from which cocaine is derived. Many of their rituals were associated with coca agriculture.[5]
  • In 1948, the Peruvian government built a highway leading directly to Machu Picchu, hoping to encourage tourism from other countries.[6]
  • Although Machu Picchu is built at a higher altitude, it was just low enough for the Incan farmers to continue growing coca.[5]
  • Hiram Bingham Explorer
    Bingham made Machu Picchu's existence known to the wider world
  • Machu Picchu was officially discovered by explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911, although the city had never really been “lost” to the indigenous people who lived around it.[6]
  • Machu Picchu is located in the center of a region that was known as Cuzco to the Incas who built it.[6]
  • The development of Machu Picchu into a major tourist site was largely the result of the “Good Neighbor” policy of US President F. D. Roosevelt, who encouraged the development of infrastructure in neighboring Latin American countries.[6]
  • Machu Picchu was built sometime in the mid-1400s, at the height of the Incan Empire’s rule in what would become known as Latin America.[6]
  • After overseeing several expeditions to Machu Picchu from 1911 to 1914, Hiram Bingham, the explorer credited with making Machu Picchu famous, left Peru under a cloud of suspicion that he had been illegally exporting artifacts from the ancient site.[6]
  • Machu Picchu was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.[2]
  • Probably only around 500 to 750 people at a time ever actually lived at Machu Picchu.[2]
  • The easiest way for tourists to get to Machu Picchu is by taking a train from Lima, Peru—although some tourists prefer to hike the long Salkantay Trail to get there.[2]
  • Although Machu Picchu was home to hundreds of people, the only residence with a private toilet area was the emperor’s.[3]
  • Machu Picchu City
    Everyone else had to share public accommodations

  • For almost 50 years after its discovery, explorer Hiram Bingham and his wide readership believed he had found the lost city of Vilcabamba, where the last of the Incas warred with the Spanish Conquistadors.[2]
  • One early theory regarding the purpose of Machu Picchu was that it had been built as a sort of convent, where chosen women would be trained to serve Incan royalty. This theory was based on a misidentification of most of the site's human remains as female.[2]
  • Ceramics from as far away as Lake Titicaca, in modern-day Bolivia, have been found in the Machu Picchu region.[2]
  • Although the Spanish Conquistadors had found and confiscated most of the Incan Empire’s riches by 1572, they apparently never entered Machu Picchu and were unaware of its existence.[2]
  • Machu Picchu was built by the Incan ruler Pachacuti, most likely as a sort of vacation retreat for royalty and other elites.[2]
  • Machu Picchu Architecture
    The artisans who built Machu Picchu had a highly developed technique
  • The structures at Machu Picchu were built using stone without mortar; each piece was cut so precisely that, even now, it is impossible to fit a knife blade between the blocks.[2]
  • In 2007, Yale University, responsible for funding the original explorations of Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham, agreed to return thousands of artifacts that Bingham removed from the site.[2]
  • Quechua, the native language of the Incan Empire, was the language spoken by the residents of Machu Picchu, although the language had no written form.[2]
  • The very first expedition sponsored by the National Geographic Society—now known for its support of archaeological endeavors—was an expedition to explore the ruins of Machu Picchu.[4]
  • The Incan Empire, responsible for building Machu Picchu, had only been in existence for 90 years before being wiped out by the disease and violence brought by Spanish explorers.[4]
  • The name “Machu Picchu” comes from the indigenous Quechua language spoken by the peasants who led American explorers to its ruins; the words mean “Old Peak.”[4]
  • The indigenous peasant guide who led explorer Hiram Bingham to the ruins of Machu Picchu did so for a payment of one American silver dollar.[4]
  • Machu Picchu sits atop a mountain ridge that is almost 8,000 feet above sea level.[3]
  • Machu Picchu Inhabitants
    It was never really "lost"
  • Although Machu Picchu is generally considered to have been a “lost” Incan city, when it was re-discovered in 1911 there were three indigenous families living right next to the site.[1]
  • There are several temples at Machu Picchu, including a Sun Temple near the emperor’s home, a Principal Temple with an altar inside, and a temple known as the “Temple of Three Windows,” in which was found a large amount of pottery that had been ritually smashed before the Incas left Machu Picchu for good.[3]
  • Machu Picchu was totally abandoned in the 16th century, after war and disease destroyed the Incan Empire, and remained unused ever after.[3]
  • Machu Picchu was built on two fault lines; however, because the entire site of Machu Picchu was built without mortar, when the occasional earthquake does occur, the stones are free to bounce and then fall right back into place. If it hadn’t been built this way, Machu Picchu would have fallen into complete ruins years ago.[1]
  • Machu Picchu was built so that the entire site was oriented towards mountains considered sacred by the Incas.[1]

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