100 years ago, American archaeologist Bingham discovered the remnants of one of the most fascinating in the world; the spectacular pre-Columbian site of Machu Picchu. Since then, this mecca of tourism, the emblem of Peru and its past Inca, Colombian Machu Picchu, has continued to amaze visitors, but also to disturb. In 2011, to mark the centenary of the fabulous discovery, Peru organized a cultural week highly festive and pays tribute to the Inca civilization.
An unexpected Discovery
The persistence sometimes pays. 100 years ago, Hiram Bingham, an archaeologist and American academic, is persuaded of the existence of an Inca lost city somewhere in the Andes. For many years, he finds no evidence, but do not lose hope. He surrounded with members of the local population, a farmer and a sergeant in Peru, and started boldly, despite the heavy rain, in search of the site. Together, they left the city of Cuzco, followed the rivers Urubamba and Vilcanota, Climbed mountains and hills and met the farmers who showed them the way. And finally, Bingham’s efforts were rewarded. Buried under vegetation, the walls of the solemn Inca building stood before him in July 24, 1911.
Indeed, Bingham is not the first to have discovered the remnants. A few other solitary adventurers entered the building earlier, Auguste during the nineteenth century, engraved their names on the walls. But it is nevertheless due to the American archaeologist scientists that excavations began and thousands of historical objects found a new shelter under the roof of the Peabody Museum at Yale. The site was then opened to the public. Today, Peru is aware of the importance of the architectural gem which they own and tries to recover the many valuable items scattered throughout the world. Thus, the establishment of Yale will soon say goodbye to his Inca “legacy”. However, given the success of the tourist site, UNESCO has recently expressed concern about the conservation status of the Inca citadel, which may be found on the list of World Heritage in Danger.
The Mysteries of Machu Picchu
What was the true role of Machu Picchu? Was it a sanctuary or place of residence of the emperor? Was it a place of worship dedicated to the sun or a summer resort palace for the Inca elite? Was it a sumptuous fortress or an administrative city? Was it a place of pilgrimage, an astronomical observatory and all this at once?
Many of the assumptions fueling the contemporary imagination, but no one know the primary function of Machu Picchu. The gigantism of the site hints at its importance to the Incas. Nestled between the Huayna Picchu, which in Quechua means “young mountain” and Machu Picchu, “old mountain”, the monument was built in the fifteenth century by the ninth Inca emperor, Pachactec. Nearly 1500 people could have lived there to its heyday.
In perfect calm of the Andes, to over 2000 m altitude, Machu Picchu, completely invisible from the valley, emerges from the lush wilderness, surrounded by towering peaks, watered by rains. As if a giant had accidentally dropped from his pocket, while going there.