100 years of Machu Picchu

The history of Machu Picchu


One hundred years since the rediscovery

Machu Picchu celebrated its re-discovery in 2011. During its first hundred years, it not only became an iconic travel destination but also had its fair share of controversy and celebrity... let's hope the next hundred keep it rock solid in terms of sustainability and responsibility:

15th century:
The 'Lost City of the Incas' was built high up in the mountains above Cusco, at the height of the Inca Empire and housed as many as 1,000 people.

16th century: Abandoned by the Incan rulers at the time of the Spanish Conquest.

24 July 1911: Yale professor Hiram Bingham III re-discovered the overgrown ruins of this ancient Incan city, having been led there by a local Quechua boy. "Suddenly we found ourselves in the midst of a jungle-covered maze of small and large walls, the ruins of buildings made of blocks of white granite, most carefully cut and beautifully fitted together without cement." He started archaeological studies of the area, and removed ceramic vessels, silver statues, jewellery, and human bones, taking them back to Yale University. (After negotiations Yale have finally agreed to return them.)

1913: The site had an entire issue of the National Geographic Society devoted to it.

1954: The film 'Secret of the Incas' was made by a major Hollywood studio on location, employing 500 indigenous people as extras. (It also featured in The Motorcycle Diaries, filmed in 2004, and the sundial was chipped during the filming of a beer commercial at the site.)

1970s: 30 percent of Machu Picchu's dry-stone walls had been restored.

1980s: Declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary and then a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2003:
Machu Picchu was receiving 400,000 visitors a year.

2007: Declared one of the 'new' Seven Wonders of the World

2008: The World Monuments Fund placed Machu Picchu on its Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world because of environmental degradation. The Peruvian government and UNESCO agree to limit visitor numbers to 2,500 per day.

2010:
Celebrities Denise Van Outen, Fearne Cotton and Alexandra Burke trekked to Machu Picchu as part of an ITV2 programme in aid of Breast Cancer Care.

If you want to trek the Inca Trail to this amazing site be sure to book early as there are only a very limited number of trekking permits available.
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Written by Justin Francis
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