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
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.
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
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.
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.