Everyone knows the famous Machu Picchu ruins. It is the most well known landmark in Peru, probably even South America. The location is spectacular: the site is on a hill with steep slopes, surrounded by tropical vegetation and often covered in fog or passing clouds. The impressive site was never unveiled to the Spaniards, was forgotten and only “rediscovered” by Hiram Bingham in 1911 for the world at large.
Despite much recent research, knowledge about Machu Picchu is still patchy today. Archaeologists rely on speculation about the site’s function. One theory suggests that the citadel could have been a retreat or a country residence for the Inca ruler Pachacutec. The site is said to have been abandoned at the time of the Spanish conquest. Others believe that Machu Picchu was a city and a political, religious and administrative center.
The names of the individual objects within the complex reflect presumptions about their function. The most important include:
- Main Square: This vast green area separates the ceremonial area of Machu Picchu from the living areas.
- Temple of the 3 Windows: From here you have an excellent overview of the square below. There is speculation about the importance of the 3 giant trapezoidal windows.
- Sun Temple: This temple could have served astronomical purposes. Here are the site’s finest stoneworks, an altar and trapezoidal windows.
- Intihuatana: this very finely carved stone was probably used by the Inca astronomers to predict solar eclipses.
- Waynu Picchu: the 2720m high summit with a temple at the top can be climbed over steep steps in around an hour.