New World Myst

Bishesh Manandhar and Ameya Telang 2nd Period Dutton

Topic: Machu Picchu

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1. General History

General History

  • Located between the Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu mountains in Peru, Machu Picchu is a 15th century Inca site which is situated almost 8,000 feet above sea level on the eastern slope of the Andes and overlooks the Urubamba river below. (A)

  • Explorer Hiram Bingham III, a professor from Yale, visited the site and made its existence well known. When he found it, Machu Picchu was covered in vegetation, but such vegetation is present anymore. (A)

  • Bingham was actually searching for the Incan capital city of Vilcabamba, the last capital of the Incas before they were defeated by the Spanish in 1572. (A)

  • Machu Picchu is believed to have been built by the ninth emperor of the Incas, Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui in the mid 15th century. Pachacuti was an empire builder, and he instigated a series of conquests that built up the Inca Empire, stretching it from Ecuador to Chile. (A)

  • Machu Picchu was built during the the peak of the Inca Empire, but was abandoned 100 years after it was built due to Spanish invasions. (A)

  • Although there is no evidence that the Spanish conquistadors even reached Machu Picchu itself, archaeologists have reached one idea that the population of the magnificent site was wiped out by the smallpox disease, which the Inca were very susceptible to. (A)

  • Hiram Bingham was led by a child up to the ruins of the great city and wrote and published a book over it called, “The Lost City of the Incas.” (A)

  • Bingham also excavated multiple artifacts and brought them back to Yale to study and inspect, which led to many controversies. Eventually, Peru filed a lawsuit against the US, and Yale agreed to complete their repatriation. (A)

  • Evidence on the site as a whole suggests that it was a thriving city with its unique residential areas, and even religious places as well. One unique feature about Machu Picchu is the Temple of the Sun. (A)

  • The Temple of the Sun is a temple that has a similar elliptical design to the temple that was found in the Inca capital of Cuzco. The temple itself is situated next to the place where the emperor is believed to have resided. Not much is known about its history, though. (A)

2. Color Map showing the geographical location

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3. Show it - Pictures and Videos

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Music: El Condor Pasa

This is a famous song that came from Peru. This form of Andean music is a folk song from Peru and is most associated with Machu Picchu. This is a classical folk song from Peru and later in 1970, Simon and Garfunkel reintroduced the song and put lyrics in it. The first video is the original folk song instrumental. The video below that is the newer version with vocals. The final video is a video of Bishesh, singing and playing the song on my guitar on a slightly altered version. Bishesh's singing is off key, but it is an altered version of the song.
El condor pasa - PERU
Simon & Garfunkel : El Condor Pasa (1970)
El Condor Pasa: Bishesh's Version

4. What is so mysterious / strange / unusual / fantastical

What is so mysterious?

Perched atop a mountain crest, mysteriously abandoned more than four centuries ago, Machu Picchu is the most famous archeological ruin in the Western Hemisphere and an iconic symbol of the power and engineering prowess of the Inca. In the years since Machu Picchu was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, there have been countless theories about this "Lost City of the Incas," yet it remains an enigma. Why did the Incas build it on such an inaccessible site? Who lived among its stone buildings, farmed its emerald green terraces, and drank from its sophisticated aqueduct system? (B)

In a way, given its strategic location, it could have been a military defense position to control potential rebellions. It is also believed that it was the ideal resting place of the Inca, the largest shrine dedicated to Pachacutec, who saved Cuzco from the invasion Chanca. It even could have been a graveyard of women, real virgin, dedicated to deities and the service of the Incas. Machu Picchu may have been too Vitcos fortress, guarded by Vilcabamba, due to similarities between Quechua words Vitcus and Picchu. Other historians believe that Machu Picchu may have been Tamputoco, the legendary birthplace of the Inca elite. Moreover, given the number of graves of women found, it was considered a cemetery of women who used to hide to perpetuate the old traditions and rituals. Generally, all historians agree when said that Machu Picchu was used as housing for the Inca aristocracy after the Spanish conquest of in 1532. It was an important agricultural center, away from the main roads. However, Machu Picchu is undoubtedly one of the archaeological wonders of the world, not only because it was built on a hill with difficult access, but also because it is one of the urban projects that blend seamlessly with surrounding natural landscape. There is no doubt that these ruins are just valuable to humanity than any of the other wonders of the world. (C)

The stones in Machu Picchu are also very mysterious. The Incas never used the wheel in any practical manner. Its use in toys demonstrates that the principle was well-known to them, although it was not applied in their engineering. The lack of strong draft animals as well as terrain and dense vegetation issues may have rendered it impractical. How they moved and placed enormous blocks of stones remains a mystery, although the general belief is that they used hundreds of men to push the stones up inclined planes. A few of the stones still have knobs on them that could have been used to lever them into position; it is believed that after the stones were placed, the Incas would have sanded the knobs away, but a few were overlooked. (B)

It's highly unlikely that researchers will find an archaeological smoking gun that will definitively identify the purpose and uses of Machu Picchu. Scientists, however, continue to excavate and rebuild the site. Modern scientific advances, such as those that re-identified the gender of the skeletons that Bingham found, could help uncover clues to reveal the reasons for its construction, the activities that took place there, and its subsequent abandonment. (B)

5. What are theories or explanations regarding the mystery?


  • The original explorer of Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham, theorized that Machu Picchu had served as a sort of monastery in which women that were chosen from the Inca realm were trained to serve the Inca emperor and his clique. (D)

  • One misconception that Bingham had had was that he thought Machu Picchu was actually the Inca capital city of Vilcabamba, also known as the city he was searching for originally. (D)

  • Bingham’s theory of a female monastery was supported by his “evidence.” He had encountered a variety of bones and skeletons and inspected them closely. He concluded that 3/4 or 75 percent of the skeletons were female. This evidence turned out to be incorrect however, as modern inspection revealed that the skeletons were 50 percent male, and 50 percent female. (E)

  • Became also had another theory claiming that Machu Picchu was actually Tampu-tocco, the birthplace of the Inca forefathers. (E)

  • Modern theories about Machu Picchu correct, modify, and mold the legend’s history. One modern theory, made by John Rowe, Richard Burger, and Lucy Salazar-Burger says that Machu Picchu was a retreat built by Inca emperor Pachacuti, rather than it being a defensive stronghold. Burger suggested that it was built for the elites of the society in order for them to escape the noises and congestion of the cities,

  • Brian Bauer, an Andean civilization expert from the University of Illinois at Chicago claims that Machu Picchu, built in AD 1450, was small in terms of Inca standards and only housed 500 to 750 people. (D)

  • Bauer also stated that one certainty is that archaeological evidence proves that the Incas were not the only people to reside at Machu Picchu. The evidence shows practices of head modeling, which rather than with the Incas, was popular with peoples associated with coastal regions as well as in some highlands. Occasionally, archaeologists have found ceramic artifacts that come from as far as Lake Titicaca.(D)

  • In terms of how the population sustained itself, archaeologists believe that the residents made use of the grand terraces that were situated upon the site, but the terraces alone couldn’t support the entire population, so the residents most likely used the surrounding hills for farming as well. (D)