The ruins of Machu Picchu, the “lost city of the Incas,” are hidden in the jungle thickets high in the Peruvian Andes and are surrounded on three sides by the turbulent mountain river Urubamba. The city was built as a sanctuary in 1438 by the ninth ruler of the Inca Empire – emperor Pachacuti.
Machu Picchu in Peru – the last stronghold of the Incas
The Spanish colonialists, who invaded Peru in the 1520s, could not find the citadel, where the Incas took refuge, who did not want to obey foreigners. For more than 300 years, only legends circulated the existence of the city, and only 100 years ago, the Inca stronghold “rose again from non-existence” thanks to the American archaeologist Hiram Bingham.
According to legend, Bingham met several peasants who worked on the slopes of the Andes, and presented one of them with silver salt (equivalent to 30 American cents), for which he agreed to show the archaeologist the way to the “lost city”. At the top of a remote mountain range, Bingham saw hundreds of huge stone-lined terraces and stone ruins of houses. The city was named after the nearby mountain – Machu Picchu (“Old Top”). Bingham brought 4,000 Inca items from Machu Picchu. In 2011, artifacts stored in the Museum of Yale University (USA) were returned to Peru.
Machu Picchu – the city of sunny maidens
Presumably, Machu Picchu (Peru) served as the center of sun worship, to which only the elect were allowed. Here lived the priestesses – the sun maidens, who devoted their lives to the cult of the Sun, as well as the nobles and their servants. Religious rites of the Incas are devoid of chilling cruelty that is characteristic of the Mayan and Aztec cultures. In order to earn the favor of the sun god Inti, the Incas brought him as a gift corn, coca leaves, guinea pigs and llamas.
At dawn, the priests killed the white llama, and at sunset – the black. The main sacred plant was considered a coca bush, or coca, which exerts a narcotic effect and helps to enter into a trance during religious ceremonies. Coca leaves chewed and slaves to relieve fatigue after hard work. According to archeologists, the population of the city did not exceed 1,200, and the skeletons found here suggest that Machu Picchu had 10 times more women than men. The city flourished, at an altitude of 3000 meters, its inhabitants grew maize, potatoes and other vegetables. Right in the rocks, the Incas cut down the terraces, covered them with earth from the river valley of the Urubamba and erected massive retaining walls that protected the beds from the sun, wind and sand drifts. All year round in Machu Picchu gardens were fragrant, and irrigation canals, wells and baths were full of fresh water.
Machu Picchu – “the place where the sun is tied”
Unknown architects built about 200 structures in Machu Picchu. The city has a clear structure and is divided into sections: a cemetery, prisons, residential quarter and temples. Astronomical observations were made from the Solar Tower, and at the winter solstice its window was lit by the sun’s rays. The Temple of three windows is also connected with the cult of the Sun: through its windows the sun’s rays hit the sacred square.