|Location||Cusco Region, Peru|
|Height||2,430 metres (7,970 ft)|
|Official name: Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu|
|Criteria||i, iii, vii, ix|
|Designated||1983 (7th session)|
|Region||Latin America and the Caribbean|
Machu Picchu (in hispanicized spelling, Spanish pronunciation: [ˈmatʃu ˈpiktʃu]) or Machu Pikchu (Quechua machu old, old person, pikchu peak; mountain or prominence with a broad base which ends in sharp peaks, "old peak", pronunciation [ˈmɑtʃu ˈpixtʃu]) is a 15th-century Inca site located 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level. It is located in the Cusco Region, Urubamba Province, Machupicchu District in Peru. It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley which is 80 kilometres (50 mi) northwest of Cusco and through which the Urubamba River flows. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often mistakenly referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas", it is the most familiar icon of Inca civilization.
The Incas built the estate around 1450, but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then, Machu Picchu has become the largest tourist attraction in South America. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of what the structures originally looked like. By 1976, thirty percent of Machu Picchu had been restored. The restoration work continues to this day.
Since the site was not known to the Spanish during the colonial period, it is highly significant as a relatively intact cultural site. Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.
Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary structures are the Inti Watana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. These are located in what is known by archaeologists as the Sacred District of Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is vulnerable to threats. While natural phenomena like earthquakes and weather systems can play havoc with access, the site also suffers from the pressures of too many tourists. In addition, preservation of the area's cultural and archaeological heritage is an ongoing concern.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Theories on the use of Machu Picchu
- 1.2 Early encounters
- 1.3 Demystifying the discovery of Machu Picchu
- 1.4 Human sacrifice, aliens and mysticism
- 2 Geography
- 3 Site
- 4 Threats
- 5 In media
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
- 10 Related information
Machu Picchu was built around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire. The construction of Machu Picchu appears to date from the period of the two great Incas, Pachacutec Inca Yupanqui (1438–71) and Tupac Inca Yupanqui (1472–93). It was abandoned just over 100 years later, in 1572, as a belated result of the Spanish Conquest. It is possible that most of its inhabitants died from smallpox introduced by travelers before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the area. The latter had notes of a place called Piccho, although there is no record of the Spanish having visited the remote city. The types of sacred rocks defaced by the conquistadors in other locations are untouched at Machu Picchu.
Although the citadel is located only about 80 kilometers (50 mi) from Cusco, the Inca capital, the Spanish never found it and consequently did not plunder or destroy it, as they did many other sites. Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle grew over the site, and few knew of its existence.
Hiram Bingham was an American historian employed as a lecturer at Yale University; he was not a trained archaeologist. In 1909, on his way back from attending the Pan-American Scientific Congress in Santiago, he traveled through Peru and was invited to explore the Inca ruins at Choqquequirau in the Apurimac Valley, which gave him an interest in Inca ruins, and an introduction to Peruvian President Augusto Leguía. He organized the 1911 Yale Peruvian Expedition with one of its objectives to search for the lost city of Vitcos, the last capital of the Incas. He researched sources and consulted Carlos Romero, a historian in Lima who showed Bingham helpful references and Father Calancha’s Chronicle.
Armed with this information, the expedition went down the Urubamba River valley on the new road that was completed in 1895. En route he asked local people to show them Inca ruins. By the time they camped at Mandor Pampa with Huayna Picchu 2000 feet above them on the opposite bank they had already examined several ruins, including five sites that Herman Tucker explored. But none fit the descriptions they had of Vitcos.
At Mandor Pampa Bingham asked a local farmer and innkeeper, Melchor Arteaga, if he knew of any ruins in the area and he said he knew of some excellent ruins on the top of Huayna Picchu. The next day, 24 July 1911, Arteaga led Bingham and Sergeant Carrasco across the river on a primitive log bridge and up the mountain. At the top of the mountain they came across a small hut occupied by a couple of Quechua, Richarte and Alvarez, who were farming some of the original Machu Picchu agricultural terraces that they had cleared four years earlier. After a rest and refreshments Bingham was led along the ridge to the main ruins by Pablito, the 11-year-old son of Alvarez.
The ruins were mostly covered with vegetation except for the cleared agricultural terraces and clearings used by the farmers as vegetable gardens. Because of the vegetation Bingham was not able to get a full extent of the site. He took some preliminary notes and measurements, took some pictures and observed the fine quality of Inca stonework of several principal buildings. Bingham was unclear of the original purpose of the ruins, but decided that there was no indication that it matched the description of the city of Vitcos.
The expedition continued down the Urubamba and up the Vilcabamba Rivers, examining all the ruins they could find, eventually finding and correctly identifying the site of the old Inca capital, Vitcos, and the nearby temple of Chuquipalta. He then went across a pass and into the Pampaconas Valley where he found more ruins heavily buried in the jungle undergrowth at Espiritu Pampa. Because the site was so heavily overgrown, he only noted a few of the buildings and didn’t appreciate the large extent of the site. In 1964, Gene Savoy  did further exploration of the ruins at Espiritu Pampa and revealed the full extent of the site, identifying it as Vilcabamba Viejo where the Incas fled to after the Spanish drove them from Vitcos.
On the return of the expedition up the Urubamba River, Bingham sent two of the team to do some clearing and mapping of the site he referred to as Machu Picchu. As Bingham failed to identify the ruins at Espiritu Pampa as Vilcabamba Viejo, he erroneously theorized that Machu Picchu was Vilcabamba Viejo.
Bingham returned to Machu Picchu in 1912 under the sponsorship of Yale University and National Geographic Society and with full support of President Leguía. The expedition undertook a massive four-month clearing of the site with local labor, which was expedited with the auspices of the Prefect of Cuzco. Excavation started in 1912 with further excavation of the site undertaken in 1914 and 1915.
Bingham’s focus on Machu Picchu was because of the fine Inca stonework and the well preserved nature of the ruins that had not been disturbed since it was abandoned. Although Bingham put forward various hypotheses to explain the existence of Machu Picchu, none of them has stood the test of further examination and study. Bingham’s lasting contribution is in publicizing Machu Picchu to the world and undertaking a rigorous and thorough study of the site. Bingham wrote a number of books and articles about the discovery of Machu Picchu, the most popular of which today is "Lost City of the Incas", a retrospective account of his 1911 Yale expedition and his discovery of Machu Picchu, written in 1948 near the end of his life.
During Bingham's archaeological studies, he collected various artifacts which he took back to Yale. One of the more prominent artifacts he recovered was a set of ceremonial Incan knives made from bismuth bronze. These knives were molded in the 15th century and are the earliest known artifacts containing this alloy.
As Bingham's excavations took place on Machu Picchu, local intellectuals began to oppose the operation of Bingham and his team of explorers. Though local institutions were initially enthused at the idea of the operation supplementing Peruvian knowledge about their ancestry, the team began to encounter accusations of legal and cultural malpractice. Local landowners began to demand payments of rent from the excavation team, and rumors arose about Bingham and his team stealing artifacts and smuggling them out of Peru through the bordering country of Bolivia. (In fact Bingham removed many artifacts, but openly and legally; they were deposited in the Yale University Museum.) These accusations worsened when the local press caught wind of the rumors and helped to discredit the legitimacy of the excavation, branding the practice as harmful to the site and claiming that local archaeologists were being deprived of their rightful knowledge about their own history because of the intrusive excavations of the American archaeologists. By the time Bingham and his team left Machu Picchu, locals began forming coalitions in order to defend their ownership of Machu Picchu and its cultural remains, while Bingham claimed the artifacts ought to be studied by experts in American institutions, an argument that still exists today.
The site received significant publicity after the National Geographic Society devoted their entire April 1913 issue to Machu Picchu.
In 1981 Peru declared an area of 325.92 square kilometres (125.84 sq mi) surrounding Machu Picchu as a "Historical Sanctuary". In addition to the ruins, the sanctuary includes a large portion of the adjoining region, rich with the flora and fauna of the Peruvian Yungas and Central Andean wet puna ecoregions.
The World Monuments Fund placed Machu Picchu on its 2008 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world because of environmental degradation. This has resulted from the impact of tourism, uncontrolled development in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes, which included a poorly sited tram to ease visitor access, and the construction of a bridge across the Vilcanota River, which is likely to bring even more tourists to the site, in defiance of a court order and government protests against it.
Theories on the use of Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu was the last Incan city
Bingham theorized that site was both the last city of the Inca, and also the legendary "lost city" of Vilcabamba la Vieja, where the last of the independent Inca rulers waged a lengthy battle against Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. He was wrong on this account, as archaeologists later discovered the actual last city was Espíritu Pampa, a jungle site about 80 miles west of the Inca capital city of Cusco. Bingham did visit Espíritu Pampa in 1911. However, he decided the site was not grand enough to be the legendary city.
Excavations in the 1960s by Gene Savoy and latter extensive mapping by Vincent Lee, an architect and Andean explorer, exposed the site to be far bigger than Bingham thought. " ... there were 400 to 500 buildings at the site ... but Bingham had only seen about 20," Lee said, which is more representative for the indigenous name of the site being Vilcabamba Grande.
Machu Picchu was for the Virgins of the Sun
Bingham suggested that Machu Picchu might have been a temple devoted to the Virgins of the Sun. These women dedicated their lives to the Inca Sun god. This theory was largely based on dozens of skeletons Bingham's team found buried at the site. US osteologist George Eaton said in the early twentieth century that the remains were nearly all females. This theory was overthrown in 2000, when Verano, then at Yale, examined the remains and found that the skeletons were about half males and half females. Verano's analysis was based on skeletal differences between the genders that were not known during Eaton's time. Verano believes Eaton may have been misled by the relatively diminutive size of the Andean people, who are typically shorter and less robust than the European and African skeletons with which Eaton would have been more familiar."He probably saw the small bones and assumed they must be female," he said. Archaeologists now generally agree that the skeletons at Machu Picchu were not those of Inca priestesses, but rather helpers who were brought in from all over the Inca Empire to serve at the site."If you thought of Machu Picchu as a royal hotel or a time-share condo for the Inca emperor and his guests, then these were the staff who cooked the food, grew the crops, and cleaned the place," Verano said.
Machu Picchu was a royal retreat
Most historians agree with Verano's interpretation of the Machu Picchu skeletons as a group of individuals who worked on a royal retreat under the fifteenth-century Inca Emperor Pachacuti. According to this theory, Machu Picchu was a place for Pachacuti and his royal court, or panaca, to relax, hunt, and entertain guests.
The royal estate theory was first proposed in the 1980s, and is largely based on a sixteenth-century Spanish document that referred to a royal estate called Picchu, which was built in the same general area as Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu was built to honor a sacred landscape
A theory posed by archaeologist and anthropologist Johan Reinhard suggests that Machu Picchu occupied a special place in the "sacred landscape" of the Inca. For example, Machu Picchu is built atop a mountain that is almost completely encircled by the Urubamba River, which the Inca named the Vilcamayo, or Sacred River. Reinhard also pointed out that the rising and setting of the sun when seen from certain locations within Machu Picchu aligns neatly with religiously significant mountains during solstices and equinoxes.
Although Bingham was the first person to bring word of the ruins to the outside world, previous outsiders were said to have seen them. Simone Waisbard, a long-time researcher of Cusco, claims that Enrique Palma, Gabino Sánchez, and Agustín Lizárraga left their names engraved on one of the rocks at Machu Picchu on 14 July 1901. In 1904, an engineer named Franklin supposedly spotted the ruins from a distant mountain. He told Thomas Payne, an English Christian missionary living in the region, about the site, Payne's family members claim. They also report that in 1906, Payne and missionary Stuart E. McNairn (1867–1956) climbed up to the ruins.
The site may have been discovered and plundered in 1867 by a German businessman, Augusto Berns. There is some evidence that a German engineer, J. M. von Hassel, arrived earlier. Maps found by historians show references to Machu Picchu as early as 1874.
Demystifying the discovery of Machu Picchu
The discovery of Machu Picchu and much of its history has been glorified by Hiram Bingham. This issue has come to light after Hiram's son, Alfred, discovered a collection of letters that his father had sent his mother in 1911. Due to early publications, many people were led to believe that Hiram had long sought after the lost city of the Incas and eventually found it after trekking through a hazardous tropical jungle. Alfred Bingham reveals that this was not the case. In actuality, Machu Picchu was not a chief objective of Hiram's 1911 expedition. Nor was the search for the city long and dangerous. Hiram had been led to the location just forty-eight hours after beginning his journey. The road to Machu Picchu was not hidden in a treacherous wilderness, rather it was located next to a heavily populated region of farmers. Furthermore, Hiram frequently claimed that the paths to Machu Picchu were the most inaccessible in all of the Andes. However, the letters indicate that Hiram used a modern road system and travelled to the region with ease. It is said that the original journey only took Hiram one hour and a half's time. Today, tourists can make the trip from the train line to the ruins in fifteen minutes.
Alfred further demystifies his father's expedition after discovering a series of unpublished photographs from the original journey. Hiram had claimed that all the ruins of Machu Picchu were covered in a dense vegetation. Contrarily, the photographs depict the ruins in a clear open space. The letters and photographs suggest that Machu Picchu was not isolated in wilderness, but rather connected and populated by several indigenous families. Alfred also suggests that his father did not originally value his findings at Machu Picchu as he only spent one afternoon at the location before returning to his camp. He only decided to further investigate the ruins after some prominent plantation owners told him they knew little of the location's existence.
Human sacrifice, aliens and mysticism
There is little information on human sacrifices taking place at Machu Picchu. This can be attributed to the fact that many sacrifices were never given a proper burial and their skeletal remains have succumbed to the elements.:115 However, there is evidence that indicates the use of retainer sacrifices. In these unique cases, human sacrifices were made to accompany a deceased noble in the afterlife.:107,119 Although human sacrifices occurred, it was much more common to offer animal, liquid, and dirt sacrifices to the gods. These offerings were made at the Altar of the Condor and are still made today by members of the New Age Andean religion.:263
It is a belief among some New Age Andean cosmologists that aliens once inhabited the Cusco region of Peru and are responsible for building Machu Picchu's grand architecture. These views have been widely refuted by Peruvians as they feel their ancestors were capable of such technological and architectural feats.:273–4
Machu Picchu lies in the southern hemisphere, 13.164 degrees south of the equator. It is 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of Cusco, on the crest of the mountain Machu Picchu, located about 2,430 metres (7,970 feet) above mean sea level, over 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) lower than Cusco, which has an elevation of 3,600 metres (11,800 ft). As such, it had a milder climate than the Inca capital. It is one of the most important archaeological sites in South America, one of the most visited tourist attractions in all of Latin America  and the most visited tourist attraction in Peru.
Machu Picchu is situated above a bow of the Urubamba River, which surrounds the site on three sides, with cliffs dropping vertically for 450 metres (1,480 ft) to the river at their base. The area is subject to morning mists rising from the river. The location of the city was a military secret, and its deep precipices and steep mountains provided excellent natural defenses. The Inca Bridge, an Inca rope bridge, across the Urubamba River in the Pongo de Mainique, provided a secret entrance for the Inca army. Another Inca bridge was built to the west of Machu Picchu, the tree-trunk bridge, at a location where a gap occurs in the cliff that measures 6 metres (20 ft). It could be bridged by two tree trunks, but with the trees removed, there was a 570 metres (1,870 ft) fall to the base of the cliffs.
The city sits in a saddle between the two mountains Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, with a commanding view down two valleys and a nearly impassable mountain at its back. It has a water supply from springs that cannot be blocked easily, and enough land to grow food for about four times as many people as ever lived there. The hillsides leading to it have been terraced, not only to provide more farmland to grow crops, but to steepen the slopes which invaders would have to ascend. The terraces reduced soil erosion and protected against landslides. Two high-altitude routes from Machu Picchu go across the mountains back to Cusco, one through the sun gate, and the other across the Inca bridge. Both could be blocked easily, should invaders approach along them. Regardless of its original purpose, it is strategically located and readily defended.
The site is roughly divided into an urban sector and an agricultural sector, as well as the upper town and the lower town. The temples are part of the upper town, the warehouses the lower.
The architecture is adapted to the natural form of the mountains. Approximately 200 buildings are arranged on wide parallel terraces around a vast central square that is oriented east-west. The various kanchas or compounds are long and narrow in order to exploit the terrain. Extensive terraces were used for agriculture and sophisticated channeling systems provided irrigation for the fields. Numerous stone stairways set in the walls allowed access to the different levels across the site. The eastern section of the city was probably residential. The western, separated by the square, was for religious and ceremonial purposes. This section contains the Torreón, the massive tower which may have been used as an observatory.
Located in the first zone are the primary archaeological treasures: the Inti Watana, the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows. These were dedicated to Inti, their sun god and greatest deity.
The Popular District, or Residential District, is the place where the lower-class people lived. It includes storage buildings and simple houses.
The royalty area, a sector for the nobility, is a group of houses located in rows over a slope; the residence of the amautas (wise persons) was characterized by its reddish walls, and the zone of the ñustas (princesses) had trapezoid-shaped rooms. The Monumental Mausoleum is a carved statue with a vaulted interior and carved drawings. It was used for rites or sacrifices.
The Guardhouse is a three-sided building, with one of its long sides opening onto the Terrace of the Ceremonial Rock. The three-sided style of Inca architecture is known as the wayrona style.
Inti Watana stone
The Inti Watana stone is one of many ritual stones in South America. These stones are arranged to point directly at the sun during the winter solstice. The name of the stone (coined perhaps by Bingham) is derived from the Quechua language: inti means "sun", and wata- is the verb root "to tie, hitch (up)". The Quechua -na suffix derives nouns for tools or places. Hence inti watana is literally an instrument or place to "tie up the sun", often expressed in English as "The Hitching Post of the Sun". The Inca believed the stone held the sun in its place along its annual path in the sky. The stone is situated at 13°9'48" S. At midday on 11 November and 30 January the sun stands almost above the pillar, casting no shadow at all. On 21 June the stone is casting the longest shadow on its southern side and on 21 December a much shorter one on its northern side. Researchers believe that it was built as an astronomic clock or calendar.
Inti Mach'ay and the Royal Feast of the Sun
Inti Mach'ay is a special cave designed to celebrate and observe the Royal Feast of the Sun. This festival was only to be celebrated by the nobility in the Incan month of Qhapaq Raymi and was associated with the December solstice. The festival would begin earlier in the month and would conclude on the solstice. On this day, boys of the nobility would be initiated into manhood by undergoing an ear-piercing ritual as they watched the sun rise from within the cave.
Architecturally, Inti Mach'ay is the most significant structure located at Machu Picchu. Its entrances, walls, steps and windows are all comprised with some of the finest masonry found in Incan Empire. The cave also includes a unique tunnel-like window which cannot be found in any other Incan structure. This window was strategically constructed to only allow sunlight into the cave for a span of several days around the time of the December solstice. For this reason, the cave was inaccessible for much of the year. Inti Mach'ay is located on the eastern side of Machu Picchu, just north of the "Condor Stone." Many of the caves surrounding this area were prehistorically used as tombs, yet there is no evidence to suggest that it too was a burial ground.
The central buildings of Machu Picchu use the classical Inca architectural style of polished dry-stone walls of regular shape. The Incas were masters of this technique, called ashlar, in which blocks of stone are cut to fit together tightly without mortar. Many junctions in the central city are so perfect that it is said not even a blade of grass fits between the stones.
The section of the mountain which Machu Picchu was built on provided several beneficial and detrimental factors. The most apparent detriment was that Machu Picchu was built between two fault lines. This location also frequently received heavy rainfall; this meant that land and mud slides in the area were also common. The Inca needed a solution to these detriments, and Machu Picchu would offer everything they needed.
The seismic activity which is caused by being between two fault lines led the use of mortar and other such building materials to be nearly useless. However, the Inca developed a successful method which allowed the construction of Machu Picchu to be possible. The site offered a natural quarry which was used to construct the over 200 buildings which would sit on the mountaintop. The stones harvested from this quarry were lined up, and shaped to perfectly fit together in a manner which would supply a more sturdy method than mortar would have. However, the Inca would also use the chips which they carved off of the stones in their construction and as a method to avoid mud and landslides, as well as flooding.
These stone chips were used in the terraces and in the large courtyard in the center of Machu Picchu. The terraces were used chiefly to drain and syphon the water from rain, as well as to hold the mountain in place. Each terrace was multi layered: first top soil, then dirt, sand and finally stone chips. This meant that water which sat on the terraces would sift downward into the mountain, as opposed to overflowing and running down the mountain.
The large center area of Machu Picchu also had a system similar to this in place which, again, assisted the main inhabited portion of Machu Picchu from flooding.
Inca walls had numerous design details that helped protect them against collapsing in an earthquake. Doors and windows are trapezoidal and tilt inward from bottom to top; corners usually are rounded; inside corners often incline slightly into the rooms; and "L"-shaped blocks often were used to tie outside corners of the structure together. These walls do not rise straight from bottom to top, but are offset slightly from row to row.
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 steep terrain and dense vegetation issues, may have rendered the wheel impractical. How they moved and placed the 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.
Roads and transportation
As part of their road system, the Incas built a road to the Machu Picchu region. Today, thousands of tourists walk the Inca Trail to visit Machu Picchu each year. They congregate at Cusco before starting on the two-, four- or five-day journey on foot from Kilometer 82 or Kilometer 104 (two-day trip) near the town of Ollantaytambo in the Urubamba valley, walking up through the Andes mountain range to the isolated city.
The people of Machu Picchu were connected to long-distance trade, as shown by non-local artifacts found at the site. As an example, Bingham found unmodified obsidian nodules at the entrance gateway. In the 1970s, Burger and Asaro determined that these obsidian samples were from the Titicaca or Chivay obsidian source, and that the samples from Machu Picchu showed long-distance transport of this obsidian type in pre-Hispanic Peru.
At present (2014) Macchu Picchu has no road suitable for vehicles connecting it with the outside world. Access is by train to a station at the foot of the hill.
3D laser scanning of site
In 2005 and 2009, the University of Arkansas made detailed laser scans of the entire Machu Picchu site and of the ruins at the top of the adjacent Huayna Picchu mountain. The university has made the scan data available online for research purposes.
Concerns over tourist impact
Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since its discovery in 1911, growing numbers of tourists have visited Machu Picchu, reaching 400,000 in 2000. As Peru's most visited tourist attraction and major revenue generator, it is continually threatened by economic and commercial forces. In the late 1990s, the Peruvian government granted concessions to allow the construction of a cable car and development of a luxury hotel, including a tourist complex with boutiques and restaurants. Many people protested against the plans, including members of the Peruvian public, international scientists, and academics, as they were worried that the greater numbers of visitors would pose a tremendous physical burden on the ruins. Many protested a plan to build a bridge to the site as well. A no-fly zone exists above the area. UNESCO is considering putting Machu Picchu on its List of World Heritage in Danger.
During the 1980s a large rock from Machu Picchu's central plaza was moved out of its alignment to a different location to create a helicopter landing zone. Since the 1990s, the government has forbidden helicopter landings there. In 2006 a Cusco-based company, Helicusco, sought to have tourist flights over Machu Picchu and initially received a license to do so, but the government quickly overturned the decision.
In recent years, Machu Picchu has experienced a multitude of issues with tourist safety. There have been several accounts of tourist deaths linked to altitude sickness, floods and hiking accidents. It has also been noted that UNESCO has received harsh criticism for allowing tourists to go to the location even though there are high risks of landslides, earthquakes and injury due to decaying structures.
To the displeasure of Peruvian officials, it has become a recent trend amongst tourists to enjoy the sites of Machu Picchu in the nude. There have been several incidents where tourists have been detained while posing for nude pictures. Among other occurrences, some tourists have been detained for streaking across the grassy fields of Machu Picchu. Peru's Ministry of Culture has denounced these acts as they claim that events such as these threaten Peru's cultural heritage. Cusco's Regional Director of Culture has since increased surveillance in an attempt to crackdown on naked tourism.
January 2010 evacuation
In January 2010, heavy rain caused flooding which buried or washed away roads and railways leading to Machu Picchu, trapping more than 2,000 local people and more than 2,000 tourists, who were taken out by airlift. Machu Picchu was closed temporarily, but it reopened on 1 April 2010.
In July 2011, the Dirección Regional de Cultura Cusco (DRC) introduced new entrance rules to the citadel of Machu Picchu. The tougher entrance rules were a measure to reduce the impact of tourism on the site. Entrance was limited to 2,500 visitors per day, and entrance to Huayna Picchu (within the citadel) was further restricted to 400 visitors per day, in two allocated time slots at 7am and 10am.
In May 2012 a team of UNESCO conservation experts called on Peruvian authorities to take "emergency measures" to further stabilize the site’s buffer zone and protect it from damage due to tourism-related development, particularly in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes, which has grown rapidly.
Cultural artifacts: Dispute between Peru and Yale University
In 1912 and 1914–15, Bingham excavated treasures from Machu Picchu—ceramic vessels, silver statues, jewelry, and human bones—and took them from Peru to Yale University in the United States for further study, supposedly for a period of 18 months. Yale retained the artifacts until 2012, under the argument that Peru did not have the infrastructure or proper conditions to take care of the pieces.
Eliane Karp, an anthropologist who is married to the former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, accused Yale of profiting from Peru's cultural heritage by claiming title to thousands of pieces removed by Bingham. Many were on display at Yale's Peabody Museum since their removal. Yale returned some of the artifacts to Peru in 2006, but the university kept the remainder, claiming its position was supported by federal case law involving Peruvian antiquities.
On 19 September 2007, the Courant reported that Peru and Yale had reached an agreement regarding the requested return of the artifacts. The agreement included sponsorship of a joint traveling exhibition and construction of a new museum and research center in Cusco about which Yale advised Peruvian officials. Yale acknowledges Peru's title to all the excavated objects from Machu Picchu, but Yale will share rights with Peru in the research collection, part of which will remain at Yale as an object of continuing study.
On 19 June 2008, National Geographic Society's vice-president Terry Garcia was quoted by the daily publication, La República. "We were part of this agreement. National Geographic was there, we know what was said, the objects were lent and should be returned."
On 21 November 2010, Yale University agreed in principle to the return of the controversial artifacts to their original home in Peru. The third and final batch of thousands of artifacts were delivered November 2012.
La Casa Concha (The Shell House) located close to Cusco's colonial center is the permanent site where the Yale University artifacts are exhibited. Owned by the National University of San Antonio Abad Del Cusco, La Casa Concha also features a study area for local and foreign students.
The 1954 film Secret of the Incas was filmed by Paramount Pictures on location at Cusco and Machu Picchu, the first time that a major Hollywood studio filmed on site. Five hundred indigenous people were hired as extras in the film.
NOVA TV Documentary "Ghosts of Machu Picchu" presents an elaborate documentary on the mysteries of Machu Picchu.
The song "Kilimanjaro" from the 2010 South Indian Tamil film Enthiran was filmed in Machu Picchu. The sanction for filming was granted only after direct intervention from the Indian government.
- Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
- Salkantay Trek, Alternative trek to Machu Picchu
- The Chilean Inca Trail
- Iperu, tourist information and assistance
- Lares trek, an alternate route to that of the Inca Trail
- List of archaeoastronomical sites by country
- List of largest monoliths in the world
- Phutuq K'usi, neighboring mountain
- Tourism in Peru
- Religion in the Inca Empire
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- Excerpted Clip of Machu Picchu from the film The Motorcycle Diaries directed by Walter Salles, distributed by Focus Features, 2004
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- Burger, Richard; and Lucy Salazar (eds.) (2004). Machu Picchu: Unveiling the Mystery of the Incas. New Haven, Connecticut, USA: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-09763-4. OCLC 52806202.
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- Kops, Deborah (2009). Machu Picchu. Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA: Twenty-First Century Books. ISBN 978-0-8225-7584-9. OCLC 189667204.
- es:Daniel Eisenberg, "Machu Picchu and Cuzco", Journal of Hispanic Philology, vol. 13, 1989, pp. 97-101, https://web.archive.org/web/20140224185451/http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/deisenbe/JHPcolumn/MACHUPIC.htm.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Machu Picchu. Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Machu Picchu.
- UNESCO – Machu Picchu (World Heritage)
- Wright Paleohydrological Institute with reports on water management at Machu Picchu
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