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Machu Picchu    

Inge Terpening (bottom center) walks past three Inca lawnmowers - llamas grazing on the terraces of the Caretakers Hut

Hidden from the world until 1911, Machu Picchu remains even today a mystery of speculation.  When the Spanish Conquistadors invaded the Urabamba  Valley, they knew nothing of Machu Picchu's existence.  Yet, Machu Picchu was not merely a lost city - it was part of an entire lost region - a fact generally ignored by popular historians.  The usual account portrays Machu Picchu as a secret refuge known only to a select few, and concealed from the Spaniards.  But this would have been an impossible secret to keep.  The only explanation is that after the area was abandoned, the memory of it was lost even to the Incas and Indians themselves.  If Machu Picchu was built for Pachacutec, perhaps after his death the citadel was simply deserted.  Perhaps it was devastated by plague, or overrun by Antis, the hostile jungle tribesmen.  Who can resist speculating, when faced with something as impenetrable as the mystery of these silent stones.

Some say that Machu Picchu, built in the "late imperial Inca" style, was built, occupied and abandoned in the space of 100 years, sometime in the 15th century.  Others say that the citadel took 100 years to build.  Some say an estimated population would have been around 1,000.  With no written records, it remains a matter of mere speculation.

It is clearly agreed upon that Machu Picchu was not simply a stonghold, but was a site of great spiritual and ceremonial significance and contained an unusually high proportion of religious architecture, with important agricultural functions.

 

Caretakers Hut

Overlooks the extensive agriculture sections.  A great area of terracing made the city self-sufficient in crops.  There is speculation that a large coca supply was grown here for Kings and nobility.

 

Temple of the Sun

This round, tapering tower contains sacred niches for holding idols or offerings.  The rock in the center of the tower has a straight edge cut into it, and is precisely aligned through the adjacent window to the rising point of the sun on the morning of the June solstice.  An astronomical observatory?

 

Intihuatana - Hitching Post of the Sun

Every major Inca center had a stone like this, but it is only speculation as to how it was used.  Perhaps for astronomical observations, or calculating the passing seasons?  Unlike many of the others, the Hitching Post survived Spanish vandalism.

 

Intimachay

A small cave near the Condor Temple which is thought to be a solar observatory for marking the December solstice.  The cave features a window carved out of a boulder that forms part of the front wall.  This window is precisely aligned with the winter solstice sunrise.

 

Looking across the citadel to

Intiwatana, Hitching Post of the Sun.

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