A century has gone by, since the discovery of Machu Picchu, and archaeologists still remain baffled by it. The Incas left no written records related to this site, so answers about its purpose and existence can merely be speculated.Machu Picchu has held its allure right since its discovery, and is now understood, everything we knew about it so far may or may not be completely true. Such is the mystery of this site, that Hiram Bingham III, the Yale professor who was until now believed to be the first to discover these ruins, may not really have been the first one at all.
Speculations rage on about everything concerned with Machu Picchu, and its creators, the Inca people, who left us no documented evidence related to the creation, the purpose, or the functionality of this site. As archeologists grapple with putting the pieces together, new findings keep emerging, only to dispute what were hitherto considered facts.
A bit about the discovery of Bingham's Machu Picchu
Alright, let's get this straight - everything about this place is so way-out interesting that even a blade of grass on this mountain classifies to be on the list. We've complied a bunch of facts which held their ground during Bingham's time, and the modifications that followed.
The world was properly introduced to Machu Picchu through the 1913 issue of National Geographic magazine. The National Geographic Society had also funded Bingham's excursions in 1912 and 1915.
Upon his arrival, what Bingham found was an amazing citadel comprising houses, temples, palaces, and warehouses all constructed out of stone, sans the use of any mortar to fuse them together.
Spectacular Inca Masonry
Interestingly, the stone slabs used for construction have not been cemented to stay in place. They have been cut to such precision that they fit into each other seamlessly without even allowing a knife blade to pass through. Being an earthquake-prone area, this style of construction has definitely stood the test of time.
Bingham's interpretation was that Machu Picchu served as a religious getaway or a convent, housing mostly women. More than half of the unearthed skeletons were understood to be those of females, but this fact was dismissed during later examination, and the population was revealed to be balanced.
The actual Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu: A view from the top
This mountain stands in the middle of the Andes, at a height of 2,430m above sea level in the Cuzco region of Peru.
Machu Picchu is not the 'Lost City of the Inca', as assumed by Bingham. That honor goes to Espíritu Pampa, further away from Machu Picchu, hopefully settling the debate.
The architecture, the farming, and the overall creation of the site stands as a perfect example of synchronicity between humans and earth.
It is strange how Machu Picchu, despite being situated within close quarters of the capital Cuzco, has little or no reference made about its creation or its subsequent desertion.
The Spanish occupation of the area has been well-documented, however, there were no references made to the existence of Machu Picchu.
The Inca have been known to steer clear of making use of animals or set of wheels in their construction work. For them, to carve out a flat space amidst peaks, and build a city at the spot, is quite the architectural marvel.
The mystic's Machu Picchu
The Intihuatana Stone
Often ranking among the most mystical places in the world, Machu Picchu's energy vortexes attract those interested in alternative healing.
It is speculated that the site could have served as an astronomical observatory. The Intihuatana stone here, also called 'the hitching post of the sun' heralds the equinox, when at midday, the overhead Sun aligns exactly on top of the stone, obliterating its shadow.
The Intihuatana stone, along with the Temple of the Sun, and the Temple of the Moon (on the nearby Huayna Picchu) beckon spiritual travelers from the world over.
... And the skeptic's Machu Picchu
There is a yin and a yang to everything, and Machu Picchu's mysticism has its fair share of detractors. This is their version.
In the absence of concrete records and information, any allusion to Machu Pichhu's role as a place of spiritual enlightenment cannot be substantiated.
Keeping in mind the location of the site, and a study of the skeletal remains found there, Machu Picchu could at the most have been a retreat or a getaway for the nobility. This point of view was based on a 16th-century Spanish document that had a reference to a royal estate called Picchu, and was assumed to be in the same area.
What we now know about Machu Picchu
Houses at Machu Picchu
One research believes that the site was more like a home away from home, meant for those belonging to the higher classes.
Its compact size suggests that the place could not accommodate a large number of people.
Fresh evidences from archeologists suggest that the residents here may not have been restricted to the locals. The relics found here can be identified to be related to those residing along the coastline, as well as the highlands, with some as far as Lake Titicaca.
The Urubamba river snakes around the mountain, and is regarded as sacred by the locals till date. This, along with its geographical location to its subliminal relation to cosmology that mirrors the celestial pathways, only adds to its allure.
If you happen to be there...
Machu Picchu photo bomb!
Remember to snap a picture of the llama, the native camelid of the Andes. These animals held a place of importance in the Inca culture.
If you come here as a traveler, you may find the lack of signboards or information plaques to be frustrating, but if you're in search of answers, head to the Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón, a museum situated at the base of Machu Picchu, on the outskirts of Aguas Calientes town.
Hiking up the trail is the best way to reach it. Keep in mind, however, that the trail is quite steep, takes about an hour and a half, and is not recommended for the fainthearted.
Do not consider this to be a digression, but since you are in the vicinity, do make it a point to visit Huayna Picchu, the horn-shaped peak visible from Machu Picchu. It offers a spectacular view of Machu Picchu, and is the perfect place to snap the perfect shot.
To conclude, there is a separate school of thought which believes that the existence of Machu Picchu could be based on dual needs, one as a retreat for the nobility, and as a spiritual center. Speculative theories regarding the monument will continue to sprout, since any means of garnering facts are not in sight.