Machu Picchu History - Discovery of Machu Picchu

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We all know Machu Picchu is the lost Inca city. But why it is called lost! There are other cities built by Inca civilization. Why they are not called lost! Have you thought about it? I will discuss all the detail of Machu Picchu history in this page. I hope you will read my writings before you go to visit Machu Picchu.

Hiram Bingham wrote books on Machu Picchu after his discovery, one of which was 'LOST CITY of the INCAS', since then the name became popular. He named it as lost city, because he thought this city was the last capital of Inca-'Vilcabamba the old', which was lost to Peruvian Historians and could not be traced until 1960. Most important fact is that it was lost to Spaniards too, that is why this city remained intact. All the Incan city were partly of fully destroyed by Spaniards. They did not know about Machu Picchu , so It remained hidden  for centuries until Hiram Bingham brought this city to the attention of whole world.

Discovery of Machu Picchu

Vitcos and Vilcabamba la vieza

In 1908 Hiram Bingham Bingham was appointed as delegate to the First Pan American Scientific Congress at Santiago, Chile . At this tour he visited Choqquequirau, to search for Inca ruins. After his return he spent long time reading old Spanish Chronicles and papers. He was trying to find out the last two capital on Inca's. When Manco II left Cusco, he started to live in Vitcos, and continued his battle against Spaniard from Vitcos. But After his death Vitcos was abandoned  and a new place, difficult to access and in between river and mountain, was selected,  which was Vilcabamba la vieza, or 'Vilcabamba the old'. Hiram Bingham read about Vitcos and Vilcabamba and just like the Peruvian historian, he was interested to find those cities.

In search of lost capitals

Bingham started his first expedition to identify lost Inca capitals. While asking people about those cities, he came across a prospector who said there were numerous ruins on Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu. Since the new government road passes very close to Huayna Picchu, they moved along that way. When on their way they camped one night on Mandor Pampa. That night one person named Melchor Arteaga came into their camp and introduced himself as owner of the area. He said that their were ruins across the river, on top of the mountain Huayna Picchu. He agreed to  lead the party towards the ruins, in exchange of fifty cents a day. Next morning they followed him and found the ruins on the ridge called Machu Picchu. Since this ruins had no name, according to the name of the mountain, Hiram Bingham and others started to call it Machu Picchu. Bingham tried identify this city and mistakenly thought it was the last Incan capital Vilcabamba la vieza.

Bingham actually found Vitcos and even Vilcabamba, which is presently known as Espiritu Pampa, but he did not realize that Espiritu Pampa is Vilcabamba. Bingham died thinking that Machu Picchu was the Vilcabamba he had searched for.

Espiritu Pampa

As I just discussed, Bingham found Vilcabamba the old, which was then ( and now too) named as Espíritu Pampa. He failed to realize the importance of this discovery, because he preffered to beleive that Machu Picchu was Vilcabamba. Anyway after he died Antonio Santander and Gene Savoy were the very first persons in the 1960s who realized that Espiritu Pamapa is the actual Vilcabamba the Old. In 1976 Prof. Edmundo Guillen and Polish explorers Tony Halik and El¿bieta Dzikowska again found the ruins. However, before the expedition in a museum in Seville Guillen discovered letters from Spaniards, in which they were describing the progress of the invasion and what they found in Vilcabamba. Comparison between the letters' content and the ruins provided additional proof of the location of Vilcabamba.

Machu Picchu abandoned

Fact is that when the Spaniards conquered Incas, they did not find Machu Picchu. No where the Spaniard writers wrote anything about Machu Picchu, because they did not know about the existence of Machu Picchu. Since most of our present knowledge on Inca civilization is from the writings of Spaniards, until Bingham discovered Machu Picchu ,nobody knew anything of it. It is fully understandable that Incas abandoned the city before the Spanish arrival. But it is still a mystery whey they abandoned the city.

Why Machu Picchu was built

Again nobody knows the purpose they served to the Incan. Bingham thought it was Vilcabamba the old- the last Incan Capital. But afterwards it was proved that Machu Picchu is not Vilcabamba. So what is Machu Picchu? There is lot of speculation on the purpose it served. According to one theory, it was the royal retreat. Other theory states that it was a religious place. Also it is believed that it was an ancient fortress. Because of it's location, the city was easily defendable. Think of the steep trail and drawbridges - it was really difficult to conquer the city. But still nobody knows which theory is the true one. That is why Machu Picchu is so mysterious. 

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