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  • Machu Picchu M. Anderson, 2006


  • The legendary 'Lost City of Machu Picchu, located high in the Peruvian Andes,is without a doubt the most important tourist attraction in Peru and one of the world's most impressive archaeological and civil engineering sites.


  • The natural setting on the eastern slope of the Andes encompasses the upper Amazon basin with its rich diversity of species.
  • The whole archaeological complex covers approximately 5 square km. It is situated in the high jungle.
  • Its climate is semi-tropical, warm and humid.


  • The Ancient City was built by the Incas on the summit of "Machu Picchu" (Old Peak).
  • It overlooks the deep canyon of the Urubamba River in a semi-tropical area 120 km (75 miles) from the city of Cusco at 7,000 feet above sea level.


  • Machu Picchu was probably the most amazing urban creation of the Incan Empire, with its giant walls, terraces and ramps, which appear as though they have been cut naturally into the rock escarpments.
  • This site was so well constructed that even after 5 centuries of neglect in the Peruvian jungle, only the thatch and reed roofs are missing.

Machu Picchu The valley below and the zig-zag road leading up to Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu

  • Machu Picchu was a complex of temples, palaces and observatories and was believed to be the home of the Inca ruling classes.
  • From here, high priests made observations and calculations enabling them to chart the heavens - a knowledge which gave them both religious authority and temporal power.


  • Machu Picchu is also one of the Inca's best kept secrets, since they did not leave written records and Spanish chronicles make no mention of the citadel, it remains a mystery.
  • The City was discovered in 1911 by the American Yale professor, Hiram Bingham.


  • The building style is "late imperial Inca" thought to have been a sanctuary or temple inhabited by high priests and the "Virgins of the Sun" (chosen women).
  • Excavations revealed that of the 135 skeletons found,109 were women. No signs of post Conquest occupation were unearthed.

Machu Picchu

  • The original entrance to the complex is on the southwestern side of the citadel at the end of the Inca Trail, a short walk away from "Intipunko " (Sun Gate), the ancient final check point to Machu Picchu.
  • The present entrance on the southeastern side leads to the agricultural section.

Machu Picchu

  • The complex can be divided in three distinct sections: Agricultural, Urban, and Religious.
  • The urban section starts at the wall that separates it from the agricultural area, this group of buildings were constructed on the ridge that descends abruptly to the Urubamba valley.

3 Distinct Sections

  • View of left side from above. Urban on left, agricultural on far right. Religious upper left.


  • Intihuatana
  • (alter)

The central plaza that separates the religious from the urban section, has a great rock in the center.The religious section contains splendid architecture and masonry works.One of the most important and enigmatic is probably the Intihuatana shrine, this block of granite was presumably used to make astronomical observations. Religious

  • Curved outer temple of the Sun wall.
  • The "Temple of the Sun", is a circular tower with some of the best stonework of Machu Picchu.
  • Its base forms a cavern known as the Royal Tomb.
  • Recent studies show that the actual purpose was for astronomical observance.


  • Theagricultural area consists of a series of terraces and channels that serve dual purpose, as cultivation platformsand as retention walls to avoid erosion.

Residential / Agricultural

  • Looking up terraces to huts.

Some smaller buildings next to large terraces are part of this section and thought to have served as lookout posts. Urban

  • In the southern part of this section are found a series of niches carved on rock known as "the jail" with elements that include man size niches, stone rings would have served to hold the prisoner's arms, and underground dungeons.


  • The group of refined structures next to "the jail" is known as the "intellectuals' quarters", with tall walls, nooks, and windows built with reddish stone.
  • They are considered to have been accommodations for the Amautas (high ranked teachers).

Urban One of the buildings has several circular holes carved on the rock floor named the "mortar room" believed to have been used for preparation of dyes. Urban

  • The largest urban section in Machu Picchu is located on the north western part. It is reached by a 67 steps staircase and involves a group of buildings not as finely constructed as other parts of the complex.

Huayna Picchu

  • Huayna Picchu, young peak, is as much a part of the site as the buildings of the citadel, the towering granite peak overlooks Machu Picchu to the North with a steep well preserved original Inca path, well worth the one hour climb for an astounding view of the citadel and the entire valley.


  • Hiram Bingham found many objects of stone, bronze, ceramic and obsidian, but no gold or silver.
  • There should have been fabulous riches of these metals comparable to those found at the 'Temple of the Sun' in Cuzco where even the garden contained life-size gold replicas of maize and other plants.

The Fall

  • The Peruvian scholar Dr Victor Angles Vargas thinks the city became depopulated toward the end of the 15th century before the Spaniards arrived.
  • Perhaps the city was ravaged by a plague so terrible it was permanently quarantined by the authorities .
  • What brought this about is one of the deepest enigmas surrounding this sacred site.

Only from the nearby hilltop observatory of Intipunku, can you visualize the full extent of this great engineering and architectural site. Hydrology

  • In 1976, Ken Wright-the president of Wright Water Engineers, of Denver decided to find out. After all, who better to study the Inca water supply than a water engineer?
  • Wright spent the next 20 years seeking permission from the Peruvian government to study water engineering at Machu Picchu.
  • In 1994 he was finally granted permission by the Peruvian government, with political coaxing from President Clinton.
  • Machu Picchu sits on the top of a mountain ridge so where did the Inca get their water?

The Questions

  • Wright soon discovered that the Incas had accumulated a practical knowledge of hydrology, hydraulics, drainage, and foundation engineering.
  • "They had a perfect site," notes Wright, but its suitability would have been apparent only to a trained engineer.
  • The slopes were steep; how would buildings be prevented from sliding downhill in a heavy rain?
  • How would drinking water be made accessible?
  • And from what source would the water come?

Urban Planning

  • Wright discovered that the Inca must have planned the city carefully before building it.
  • First, the Inca engineers had to determine the exact location of the spring and whether it would meet the needs of the anticipated population.

Left side of ruins. The Citadel is a stupendous achievement in urban planning, civil engineering, architecture and stone masonry. Urban Planning. Water Source 1 st

  • The Wright team found that the spring, on a steep mountain slope to the north of Machu Picchu, is fed by a 16.3 ha tributary drainage basin.
  • After conducting an inflow-outflow evaluation, the team also concluded that the spring draws on drainage from a much larger hydrogeologic catchment basin.

Urban Planning

  • There was no urban sprawl in this mountain retreat of about 1,000 residents; thoughtful consideration was made before the first stone was cut.
  • The placement of the residence of the Inka (the title of the ruler is used today to name the people) was determined by the location of the mountain spring.
  • The Inca engineers built the canal at a slope that allowed gravity to pull the water at just the speed they desired for the citys use, then they used that information to place the royal residence, as well as, the city.

Natural Springs to Canal

  • A natural spring flows from a geological fault above the city on the steep side of Monte Machu Picchu.
  • The Inkas gathered drinkable water from the spring by building a wall in a cut in the mountainside that they had made.
  • This stone wall was made to let water through, unlike their watertight stone canal into which the spring poured.

Enhancing the Water Source

  • The Inca enhanced the yield of the spring by building a spring collection system set into the hillside.
  • The system consists of a stone wall about 14.6 m long and up to 1.4 m high.
  • Water from the spring seeps through the wall into a rectangular stone trench about 0.8 m wide.