Also known as "The Lost City of the Incas", Machu Picchu has become not only a symbol of the Inca Empire but an important tourist attraction. In Quechua language Machu Picchu meas 'Old Peak'. This Old Peak has been locally known for centuries until the American Historian rediscovered the site and brought it to worldwide attention. But there is substantial evidence that Thomas Payne - a British missionary, and J. M. von Hassel - a German engineer, arrived before Hiram. Maps found by historians show references to Machu Picchu as early as 1874.
The Incas started building the enigmatic ancient site around AD 1430 but it was abandoned as an official site for the Inca rulers at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, a hundred years later. The Inca turned the site into a small city, watered by natural springs and surrounded by terraces perfect for agriculture, enough to feed the population. The 5 square miles site is invisible from below. Ruins of palaces, baths, temples, storage rooms and some 150 houses, all carved from the gray granite, are in remarkable state of preservation. Some of the block weight 50 tons or more, and are perfectly sculpted to fix perfectly together.
Not a lot is known about the social or religious use of the site during Inca times. Some think that the site may have been a sanctuary for the training of priestesses and /or brides for the Inca nobility, but recent research indicates that the number of men and women bones found on the site is equal, indicating that Machu Picchu was not exclusively a temple or dwelling place of women.
The Sacred District of Machu Picchu contains the most important buildings: the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. The site was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
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