Archaeological scholars generally speculate about things they don’t have answers for, whereas researchers investigate deeper and find evidence to support their theories. We see this contrast in approach at Machu Picchu. Yet the story we hear is the one the scholars spin. So what is the establishment trying to hide?
“Machu Picchu was built between the 13th and 14th century,” Ariel, my guide tells me.
Official views state the plans for the settlement began in the 11th century. Other mainstream archaeologists believe the city was built in the mid 15th century by Pachacuti Yupanqui, the ninth Inca King who was focussed on expanding the empire.
Four hundred years is a pretty wide time span, but supporting evidence shows that building work was never finished. This has led some scholars to speculate the Inca was interrupted by the Spanish invasion in 1532, but all it really means is they were continuing the expansion. Like most ancient sites, the foundations at Machu Picchu were built many years before scholars say, but it is only the surface layer that is carbon dated.
Mainstream scholars also speculate that Machu Picchu was used as the retreat the Inca used to rebuild and plan a rebellion against the Francisco Pizarro’s conquistadores. The likelihood is the Spanish never found Machu Picchu, which is why it is the only ancient ruins in Peru that remains in a reasonable condition. The last Inca King, Tupac Amaru Yupanqui was not defeated until 1572. If Machu Picchu had been the Inca hiding place they would have had time to finish building it.
That’s not to say that would have been the case. Contrary to popular belief the Inca were not great builders. It is thought they adopted techniques developed by earlier cultures and perfected them – but the only time the Inca tried to build something on a grand scale for themselves, a boulder was dropped down the mountain and wiped out over 2000 workmen. The project was subsequently abandoned.
To build Machu Picchu, there is evidence to show the stones were sourced from close by. Huge boulders within the grounds of the complex have clearly been stripped and researchers believe the fragments could only have been used to build the city. It is known the Inca had the techniques to carry out this type of work – but there is evidence all over Peru to support other cultures did too, even if the site is accredited to the Inca by the establishment.
Rolf Muller, professor of Astrology at the University of Potsdam, found convincing evidence to suggest that the most important features of Machu Picchu possessed significant astronomical alignments that were attuned to the precession of the equinoxes – an astronomical phenomenon that takes place every 25,400 years or so. Muller also concluded the original layout of the site was built between 4000BCE to 2000BCE.
Maria Schulten de D’Ebneth concurred with Muller’s finding and by also using mathematical methods, established Machu Picchu was built before the time of the Inca. A long time. Based on her measurements she determined the city had been built in 3172 BCE – some 14,000 years before the Inca emerged as the dominant force in the region.
Andean legends also talk about a place in the mountains known as Tampu-Tocco, the Haven of the Three Windows. It is here that Viracocha is said to have sent the four Ayar brothers and three of the brothers emerged through the windows to civilize the Andean region. One of the brothers, Ayar Manco, otherwise known as Manco Capac founded the Ancient Empire thousands of years before the Inca – and according to ancient legends is the first Inca, albeit mythical.
Llamas at Machu Picchu
The Llama was sacred to the Andean cultures and often used as a sacrifice to Pachamama (Mother Earth). The Inca also used the animal skin to bind wooden storehouses and thatched roofs. Llama skin is surprisingly coarse and strong, and firmer than a bit of old rope.
In honour of the Llama, the animal is represented at Machu Picchu today. In fact, there are 16 Llamas living here and draw the attention of tourist’s cameras. They start the day on a patch of lawn at the far end of the settlement which would have originally have been used as a market place where the inhabitants of the city traded goods.
The Llamas though are unpenned and untied, left to roam freely as they wish. They are perfectly harmless and docile, but as the day wears on can be found just about anywhere; and in the most unusual places. Imagine my surprise to find one on the narrow path ¾ of the way up to the Sun Gate. It looked at me as if to say, “Uh hello, are you lost as well.”
Later that afternoon two of them chased me from my resting place as I jotted down notes and sheltered from the glaring heat of the sun. Having both relieved themselves in front of a small group of American girls (which I found amusing) they came over to where I was laid and started chewing in the grass, one either side of me (the llamas, not the American girls). This wasn’t so amusing. They were so close I could still smell what they’d dropped off with the girls. It was a surreal moment and almost made me vomit. I thought I’d better move before they started chewing my jacket.
The Archetypes Designed in Machu Picchu
High in the Andes Mountains Machu Picchu would become known as the most famous Inca sanctuary. Designed by a team of architects made up of priests and astronomers the already impressive architecture is even more stunning when you learn of the archetypes you find in the building work. From the panoramic angle, which is also known as the postcard shot, the settlement takes the shape of a lizard, representing Amaru Tupac, who was given the nickname “Flying Lizard.”
If you look closely at the photograph above you can make out the shape of a lizard, the walls coming down the terraces towards the houses at the bottom is the tail and the main section of the city is the body. The terraces form the legs.
In the rock face of Wayna Picchu, you can see the face of an angry Puma. In fact, the whole mountain rock takes the form of a gigantic Puma with its back curved and in a pose of attack. On top of the mountain, the narrow terraces used as watch towers by guards and storehouses for agricultural produce represent raised heckles.
Looking down on Machu Picchu from this standpoint you can see the city takes the shape of a condor which has led some authorities of the Quechua language to speculate the original name of the complex was Machu Picchu, which means “Old Bird.”
Just below Wayna Picchu is another rock formation which takes the form of a Condor. Whether this is natural or done by design is open for speculation, but, unlike many shapes cut into the rocks by the Inca archaeologists try to pass off as natural rock formations simply because they don’t have an answer for how the shape was carved, this one really does appear to be a natural formation. Perhaps even the reason why the Inca chose this site to build a city.
In the area known as the Hanan sector which was dedicated to government administration, we also find the layout of a Puma, this time laid down in a state of relaxation. The entire city complex makes up the body of the animal whilst its head is seen in the green grass of high terraces at the far end. The terraces that cascade down the sides of the abyss to the form of its legs.
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Visitors arriving at Machu Picchu from along the Inca trail will enter the site from the Sun Gate and be greeted by stunning views overlooking the city and surrounding areas. If you enter through the tourist’s reception by bus at the bottom, you can still make the climb along the narrow path up to the Sun Gate in about 45 minutes. It’s worth the effort for the view, but the Sun Gate is also the original entrance the Inca used to enter the site.
Since 2011, travellers hoping to tackle the Inca Trail may have trouble securing a permit due to new regulations imposed by the Peruvian government. Permits used to be issued on a first-come-first-served basis, but tour operators are now being asked to stagger orders throughout February and March. This could pose a problem to anybody thinking of a late booking at the back end of the year.
The regulations limit up to 500 people a day to walk the trail and with such fierce competition for permits, holidaymakers are advised not to leave it too late to confirm their booking or they are likely to miss out. Tour operators have bemoaned the new system as unfair and say it offers priority to individual tour operators at random.
I missed out on a permit, but only wanted to walk the last day anyway. I’m glad I did. At the sun gate, I met Dave, an experienced climber from Australia who told me the trail was a difficult hike even for him, particularly the second day. In fact, I didn’t hear any positive experiences of the Inca trail. The path is also very narrow in places and if you don’t have a head for heights, the steep path is not an ideal route to get you to Machu Picchu.
You can learn more about Machu Picchu and the Ancient Civilisation of South America in my book, available now on
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