By Anne Elizabeth Eaves
Machu Picchu is an ancient fortress city, nestled high in the Andes Mountains of Peru in South America.
Machu Picchu, which means “Old Peak,” was built by the Incan Indians around 1460 AD, less than 100 years before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors.
Machu Picchu is often referred to as “The Lost City of the Incas.”
The Incan people constructed a green paradise of five square miles saddled between two mountains.
Above their city, hover dense clouds. Below their city, the Urubamba River snakes its way through the Urubamba Valley.
Machu Picchu was a self-contained city that included stone houses, water fountains, baths, parks, terraces, sanctuaries and temples.
Machu Picchu also had an abundance of vegetable gardens and llamas.
The Incas who built Machu Picchu were brilliant architects and masters of masonry.
Most of the structures were built of granite rock.
The Incas placed each rock together so precisely that, even today, something as thin as a credit card cannot be wedged between the rocks.
Many of the stones weighed over 50 tons each. The stones were carried up the mountainside without the use of the wheel.
The Intihuatana stone points directly at the sun during the winter solstice and is believed to have been built as an astronomic calendar.
The Incas terraced the steep mountainsides to grow crops and had enough land to grow food for about four times as many people as ever lived there.
The Incas liked to eat corn, potatoes, beans and a variety of fruits.
They constructed an impressive water irrigation system that carried water up the mountain from a natural spring to each of the houses.
Machu Picchu was strategically located between two mountains with a commanding view down two valleys. This view helped the Incas see if anyone was coming.
Machu Picchu’s location is so well hidden in the mountains that, when the Spanish conquistadors invaded Peru in 1528, they could not find the legendary city.
Curiously, the Incas abandoned their great city less than one hundred years after they had built it. Nobody is certain why the Incas left. Some people believe that a small pox epidemic was to blame for their disappearance.
For centuries, many people forgot that Machu Picchu existed until the archeologist Hiram Bingham brought it worldwide attention when he rediscovered it in 1911.
Today, Machu Picchu is one of the most important archaeological locations in South America and the most visited tourist attraction in Peru.
Machu Picchu exhibits the accomplishments of the ancient Inca Empire and is one of the most intriguing and beautiful sites on the planet.
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