Treading in the Steps of the Incas lies the legendary lost city of Machu Picchu in Peru, which continues to reveal the mysteries of the Inca Empire.
This isolated citadel, probably built some 500 years ago, is still a mystery as it conceals some hidden truths about its existence. 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.
Evidence reveals that Machu Picchu is divided intothree main regions: the residential area, with the home of the wise men or amautas; trapezoidal rooms occupied by ñustas or princesses; and the popular and sacred neighborhood. The sacred neighborhood, dedicated to their principal deity Inti, the Sun God, is where the main jewels of Intiwatana (Intihuatana), the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows are located.
Approximately 200 buildings are arranged on wide parallel terraces around an east–west central square. The various compounds, called kanchas, are long and narrow in order to exploit the terrain. Sophisticated channeling systems provided irrigation for the fields. Stone stairways set in the walls allowed access to the different levels across the site.
Led by a boy, in July 1911 American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered this lost city. The boy was to show Bingham “nearby ruins” in the tropical forest on the peak called Machu Picchu. But when the boy showed him a wall, it seemed like an unbelievable dream. Dimly he began to realize that the wall and its adjoining semicircular temple over the cave were as fine as the finest stonework in the world.
At the time Hiram Bingham arrived at the territory, it was uninhabited at least since the fifteenth century, when the Inca Huayna Capac was still young. According to historian Victor Angles, the last Incas did not utilize Machu Picchu and therefore the Spanish never penetrated it, because by that time there were no roads or towns that would have led there.
The purpose of this ancient wonderland is still unknown, but there are several theories that suggest the purpose it served. One theory holds that it was a refuge for Virgins of the Sun, perhaps because most of the chambers that Bingham uncovered contained the remains of females. Another theory is that the city served as a military outpost. Some have also suggested that it could have been an imperial retreat or a refuge to which the Incas fled from Spanish conqueror Pizarro’s hand. Or it could have been the capital of Vilcabamba, a new Inca domain established by Manco Inca in the impenetrable Amazon jungle.