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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Machu Picchu in Peru

Machu Picchu is an important tourist place located on a mountain ridge over Urubamba Valley in Peru. It is a Columbian Inca site located 2,430 metres / 8,000 ft above sea level. It is 80 kilometres / 50 miles northwest of Cuzco and through which the Urubamba River flows. It is also referred to as "The Lost City of the Incas" which is one of the most familiar symbols of Inca Empire.
Machu PicchuThe Incas started building it around 1430 AD but was abandoned as an official site for the Inca rulers a hundred years later at the time of Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Although known locally, it was largely unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an American historian. Machu Picchu was stated a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Since it was not plundered by the Spanish when they conquered the Incas, it is especially important as a cultural site and is considered a sacred place.

Machu Picchu was built in classical Inca style, with elegant dry-stone walls. Its main buildings are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. These are situated in what is known by archaeologists as the Sacred District of Machu Picchu. In September 2007, Peru and Yale University reached an agreement regarding the return of artifacts which Hiram Bingham had removed from Machu Picchu in early twentieth century.

The primary archaeological treasures: the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows. These were dedicated to Inti, their sun god and greatest deity. The Popular District, is place where the lower class people lived which includes storage buildings and simple houses. In the royalty area, the residence of the Amautas / wise persons was characterized by its reddish walls, and the zone of the Nustas / princesses had trapezoid-shaped rooms. The Monumental Mausoleum is a carved statue with vaulted interior and carved drawings. It was used for rites or sacrifices.

The Inca built a road to the Machu Picchu region. Today, tens of thousands of tourists walk the Inca Trail to visit Machu Picchu each year at Cusco before starting on a two to four day journey on foot from the Urubamba valley up through the Andes mountain range to the isolated city.
Temple of the SunIntihuatana stoneThe Intihuatana is believed to have been designed as an astronomic clock or calendar by the Incas and one of many ritual stones in South America. The Spanish did not find Machu Picchu so the Intihuatana Stone was not destroyed as many other ritual stones in Peru were. These stones are arranged to point directly at the sun during the winter solstice. The name of the stone is Quechua in inti it means 'sun'. Hence inti watana is an instrument or place to 'tie up the sun', often expressed in English as "The Hitching Post of the Sun" because the stone was believed to hold the sun in its place along its annual path in sky. At midday on March 21 and September 21, the sun stands almost above the pillar casting no shadow at all.

"Machu Picchu is the heart of our archaeological heritage and the Intihuatana is the heart of Machu Picchu. They've struck at our most sacred inheritance," said Federico Kaufmann Doig, a Peruvian archaeologist. A growing number of people visit Machu Picchu 400,000 in 2003. For this reason, there were protests against a plan to build a bridge to the site. A no-fly zone exists above the area. UNESCO is considering putting Machu Picchu on its List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

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