Secrets of The Lost City of the Inca Civilization Essay

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Machu Picchu, which when loosely translated means Old Peak, is a pre-Columbian Incan city, which is situated high above the Machu Picchu Mountain, which is some 2,400 meters above sea level. It is often referred to as the Lost City of the Inca civilization, and is considered one of the most important symbols of the Inca Empire, as it was able to somehow preserve some aspects of the historical civilization. It is regarded as a royal estate and religious retreats for the Incas, and is one of the few sites that were not found by the Spanish conquistadores.

Because of this, it was able to preserve the Incan culture in its entirety, which up to now is a very important treasure to the history of the world. History of Machu Picchu The Machu Picchu is speculated to have been constructed some time around 1460, during which the Inca Empire flourished with all its glory. It is assumed that it was abandoned in less than a hundred years late, and that the inhabitants may have been wiped out by a disease even before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, since no one knew about the remote Incan city (Kubler).

The person responsible for building the Machu Picchu is the Incan ruler, Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, mainly as his royal estate or a site for religious purposes. It was then handed down to his kin, which were the ones responsible for maintaining the place, as well as new construction and administration. The area has approximately 200 structures or buildings, most of which are for residential purposes, and some are the temples, storage, and some other public buildings. Machu Picchu Buildings and Architecture

More than a thousand people were assumed to have populated the Machu Picchu area, wherein most of them are women, children, and religious heads. The buildings of the area are assumed to have been well planned and were built under the close watch of some professional Inca architects. The main buildings of Machu Picchu are mostly from granite blocks which were cut and shaped using bronze and stone tools, and then carefully smoothed using sand. These blocks of stone fit perfectly together even without mortar to hold them in place.

These blocks have different sizes and have many corners, but despite this, the joints of the walls and structures are so tight not even the thinnest knife blade could be placed in between the stones (Niles). One unique and important characteristic of Machu Picchu, which would also hold importance in the aspect of the Inca Civilization, is how they were ale to integrate architecture into their landscape. They were able to utilize the existing rocks in the area and used it in the construction of their structures, as well as significant sculptures.

The flow of water was carefully direct through stone channels for the convenience of the people, and their temples were built on steep elevated areas. One of the speculated functions of Machu Picchu is that it primarily served as a site of astronomical observations. An evidence of this assumption is the existence of the big slab of stone device, the Intihuatana stone, which is a precise indicator of the date based on the two equinoxes, as well as other relevant celestial concepts (Gray). Inihuatana, loosely translated as the hitching post of the sun, is designed in a way that it would hitch the sun at the two equinoxes.

At the midday of the 21st of March and the 21st of September, the sun would be standing almost directly over the pillar, which casts no shadow at the device. This is the moment where the sun is said to sit upon the pillar in all its might, and is momentarily tied to the Inihuatana stone. This is a moment for them to celebrate, and the Incas held ceremonies at the stone that was able to tie the sun, holding it from moving northwards towards the sky. In this aspect, we can see that Machu Picchu is indeed a very important site in order to further understand the Inca Civilization.

Because of the well preserved structure, we are able to form a perspective of the how the people during those times lived, and we are able to see the products of the civilization. They are great architectures and stone builders, and they were able to incorporate their natural landscape into their structures. The purposes of these structures were not only to be inhabited by the people, but also for religious and astronomical reasons. We can see that the Inca civilization had the same ideas about how the earth, the skies, and the heavenly bodies worked, just like other known civilizations (Dearborn, Schreiber and White).

Their knowledge and skills were important in the establishment of their empire and the spread of their culture. The Machu Picchu is a proof of what the Inca people can do. With their high regard of nature and the environment, they chose to incorporate it in the designs of the buildings they dwell in and use in their daily activities. We can consider this as a dominant characteristic of the Incan civilization, and this was all possible because of the preservation of Machu Picchu. The Life in Machu Picchu With more than a thousand inhabitants in the area, we can say that the Machu Picchu is teeming with life.

They were atop a mountain, so there is a limited area to live in. Because of this the houses were built in a space saving fashion. They were grouped closely together around a communal courtyard (Porter). Some they were also aligned on narrow terraces, which would then be connected by small alleys running around the houses. These houses had steep roof which are thatched, and their doors were somewhat trapezoidal. The windows were unusually shaped, which makes it unique in every house. There are some houses which were two stories tall, though the second story is not that accessible and can be reached only through a rope ladder (Bingham).

At the center of the area were large open squares, which contain enclosures for their livestock, and have terraces stretching around the citys edges, usually used for planting maize, which is one of their staple crops. The Incans relied on agriculture as their main source of food, and this is evident in Machu Picchu. The inhabitants of Machu Pichu planted crops like potatoes and maize in some areas of the city, usually on the terraces on the citys edge. They used advanced terracing and irrigation methods so that they could avoid erosion while increasing the land area wherein they could grow their crops.

Through this, they were able to get the highest yield possible for their crops, especially with a limited land for planting in Machu Picchu. Because of this, they were able to produce enough supply for the population, but not enough for them to produce surplus that they could use for export to other Incan cities. With this, it is evident that Machu Picchu is self sufficient and was able to support its population with its own means, without relying on other cities for their needs. The Inca Civilization regarded the world and its environment as sacred elements of their lives.

It was the mother earth that cared for them and breathed them to life, which is why in turn; they are responsible for her care also. All the components of nature were believed by the Inca to contain the spirits of their creator, including the earth, the mountains, skies, the sun and the moon, and many more. In their worship and reverence for these elements, they chose to erect temples and other places for ritual and religious purposes. This is where Machu Picchu comes in. It is evidently one of the key roles that this archeological site has on the Inca history.

The Machu Picchu is the manifestation of the Incas harmonious relationship with nature and the environment, and this can be seen with the blending of the structures of the site and the natural beauty of the setting. At the time of the Spanish Conquistadores, a new religion was forced into the regions indigents, forcing them to convert to Catholicism. Despite this, they were able to maintain their traditional beliefs, and Machu Picchu is the clear manifestation. At this point, we can see that Machu Picchu is a perfect example of an Incan community, a scaled-down Incan civilization.

Machu Picchus existence is very important in understanding Incan history because it was able to provide us first hand information of things worked the Inca way. Right now, there are a few documents left to tell us how this people lived, as most of the Inca cities were pillaged and plundered, especially during the time of the Spanish conquistadores. We wouldnt have a clear idea of how the Inca Civilization worked if not for the discovery of the Machu Picchu. The Discovery of Machu Picchu The one credited for the discovery of the Incan city Machu Picchu is Hiram Bingham.

Bingham is an American historian, who was at that time worked at Yale University as an instructor or lecturer. He was led to the area by the local residents who had been in the site, which was being occupied at that time by a few natives that succeeded the Incan culture. He surveyed the area and performed several archeological studies, and he was the one to name the place, The Lost City of the Incas, which eventually became the title of his first book. Hiram Bingham came to Peru in search of the city of Vicapampa, which was the last Incan place of refuge and site of resistance in the heat of the Spanish conquest of the country.

It was in 1911 when he was able to stumble upon the site of the Machu Picchu, and it was with the help of the Quechuans. They lived in the Machu Picchu area, along with some of the smaller number of families that survived from the original Machu Picchu inhabitants. Along with this, Bingham also discovered a lot of mummies in the area, which are mostly women. The year 1911 was the considered time of discovery for the archeological site. Bingham conducted several other trips and excavations on the site for the following years, carrying off artifacts for further studies.

Other researchers and explorers came into the site, following the success and the importance of Hiram Binghams studies. They conducted further researches and excavations, and have made their own assumptions and speculations about the history of Machu Picchu. The discovery of this archeological site is very important to the world because it helped us understand more about the Incas and their ways, especially since there is very limited information available on them. The Machu Picchu provided a very important link in the modern day understanding about the Inca Civilization and their culture.

But it took a long time for someone to finally discover this lost Inca site. For the Machu Picchu to be left unscathed by the Spanish Conquistadores, it was almost impossible. It was the events that happened within the Machu Picchu area and the Inca Empire made it possible. Keeping the Machu Picchu Secret The Machu Picchu remained unknown from the world until Hiram Bingham stumbled upon it in 1911. It was more than 400 years since the Spanish conquistadores pillaged and plundered every Incan site that they set their foot on, but to miss an area like the Machu Picchu, it was almost a mystery.

But if we look closely at the sites details, we can understand how the secret was kept for such a long time. We should take note that Pachacutis royal estate and religious retreat is situated on a remote secondary road high above the Urubamba River canyon forest, with a nearly impassable terrain, making sure that it was inaccessible for the purposes like administrative, commercial or military (Ziegler). Any movement to other Inca areas would have to be through other Inca roads, and Machu Picchu would remain isolated from the rest of the Inca sites.

After the death of Pachacuti, his kin remained in the area and were the ones who maintained it and added new structures and buildings. Only a few people came in and visited the area, and were limited to high ranking people of the Empire, like Huayna Capac, Incas last great ruler. Not much interest to Machu Picchu was given by these nobilities, as they had built their own estates and palaces on other Inca sites as well. Only very few people specially those from Incas retainers had any idea about the existence of the Machu Picchu.

It is evident here that from the very start, very little attention was given to the area, as most of them had other concerns to attend to. The Inca civilization maintained an ordered society, wherein great number of people responded to their leaders and complete whatever they are ordered accordingly. They follow a pyramidal hierarchy of information, which was passed on from those on higher positions down to their subordinates. If a certain information, like the existence of an Incan site like the Machu Picchu, remained undisclosed or were not handed down to their subordinates, then the information remains with them.

There were no known written language characteristic to the Incas, and they used colored strings and knots solely for record keeping and accounting. The answer as to why the Machu Picchu remained as a secret for a long time can be found in the structure of the Incan society. Information is not easily leaked to the populace, keeping it perfectly hidden in the heads of the few people who have been in the area. The inhabitants of Machu Picchu chose to settle in the area and they were self sufficient, getting whatever they need from their controlled environment.

There are other reasons why Machu Picchu remained hidden even from the Spanish scourge of their lands. Even before the time of the Spanish Conquistadores, Machu Picchu was already out of the picture. Small pox hit the Incas and it was assumed that 50% of the population died from the disease. The Inca government suffered, weakening their armies as well as workers. This has led to a time of unrest over the empire, with civil wars continually tearing the area apart. At this time, Machu Picchu was abandoned, since it was very costly to maintain, especially with the reduced population, which greatly weakened their labor force.

By the time the Spanish conquistadores came, the trail leading to the Machu Picchu site have long been overgrown, coupled with seasonal landslides which made traveling to the area and back to Peru, almost impossible. Machu Picchu Today The historical site of Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is the leading attraction in Peru. It is the most visited tourist area in the country for the past decades, and it is a major source of revenue not only for the country but also for the people as well (McLeod). However, all this fame and attention directed towards Machu Picchu has its drawbacks.

The site is continually being threatened by economic and commercial forces, like construction of various modes of transportation, development of hotels and tourist complex, and a lot more. These would all contribute to the degradation of the area, which would cause damages beyond repair. Even though it has survived the Spanish pillaging and plundering, it wouldnt be able to escape the threats it faces in the present. These prompted the locals and other concern groups to protest with these plans. Scientists and academic people combined forces with the locals of Peru to call off the possible physical burdens in the historic site.

Lately, it has been recognized as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, boosting its worldwide fame and attention, although more and more conservationist efforts were given to the site. Machu Picchu proved to be of great importance both in the old Incan civilization and the present day generation. It was able to capture the Inca culture in its entirety, as it was able to survive the time of Spanish Conquistadores, and has remained undisturbed until its recent discovery. It has helped the world to understand more about the Incas, from how they constructed their buildings, their social structure, as well as their beliefs and practices.

With the discovery of Machu Picchu, we can confidently say that we are able to known more about the Inca Civilization, and how it relates to the present day generation.

Works Cited: Bingham, Hiram. Types of Machu Picchu Pottery. American Anthropologist, New Series Vol. 17. No. 2 (1915). Dearborn, David S. P. , Katharina J. Schreiber, and Raymond E. White. Intimachay: A December Solstice Observatory at Machu Picchu, Peru. American Antiquity Vol. 52. No. 2 (1987). Gray, Martin. Machu Picchu, Peru. 2006. Places of Peace and Power. November 17 2008.
html>. Kubler, George. Machu Picchu. Perspecta Vol. 6 (1960). McLeod, Christopher. Machu Picchu. 2008. November 17 2008. . Niles, Susan A. Niched Walls in Inca Design. The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians Vol. 46. No. 3 (1987). Porter, Meghan A. Machu Picchu. 2008. November 17 2008. . Ziegler, Gary. Machu Picchu: How They Kept the Secret. 2008. November 17 2008. .

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