On the 24th of July 2011, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the rediscovery of Machu Picchu by the American archeologist Hiram Bingham. To commemorate this significant milestone, I published this short photo essay with images I took while in Machu Picchu in 2010.
Machu Picchu is a pre-Columbian Inca site built around 1450AD at the height of the Inca Empire. It was abandoned just over 100 years later, in 1572AD, as a belated result of the Spanish Conquest in Peru and other American regions.
From that moment on, knowledge of its existence was lost as the ruins were buried by the dense Andean jungle.
On July 23rd, 2011, Bingham and his team, who had been searching for the city of Vilcabamba –the last Inca refuge during the Spanish conquest– made their way from Cuzco into the Urubamba Valley. There a local farmer told them of some ruins located at the top of a nearby mountain. The farmer called the mountain Machu Picchu, which meant “Old Peak” in the native Quechua language.
The next day, July 24th, Bingham met a small group of peasants who showed him the rest of the way. Led by an 11-year-old boy named Pablito Alvarez, Bingham got his first glimpse of the intricate stone terraces that mark the entrance of an impressive ruin of a lost civilization. It was not Vilcabamba, it was Machu Picchu.
For hundreds of years Machu Picchu had kept its existence secret, except for the knowledge of the peasants living in the region. From this moment forward everything changed, making Machu Picchu one of the most popular destinations in the entire world.
(click images to enlarge)
Although the citadel is located only about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Cusco, the Inca capital, the Spanish never found it and consequently did not plunder or destroy it, as they did many other sites. For this reason, Machu Picchu is highly significant as a relatively intact cultural site.
Today, more than 300,000 people visit Machu Picchu every year, braving crowds, landslides, and challenging treks to see the sun rise over the aging stone monuments of the “Lost Sacred City” and marvel at the mysterious character of one of the world’s most famous man-made wonders.