LOCATED in the countryside northwest of Cuzco, Peru, the Machu Picchu is a 15th-century citadel believed to have been a royal estate or sacred religious site.
But who built the mysterious landmark?
Who built Machu Picchu?
The Machu Picchu is believed to have belonged to Inca leaders, whose civilisation was virtually wiped out by Spanish invaders in the 16th century.
The Inca Empire dominated western South America in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Historians believe the site was abandoned roughly 100 years after its construction, probably around the time the Spanish began their conquest of the mighty pre-Columbian civilisation in the 1530s.
There is no evidence that the conquistadors ever attacked or even reached the mountaintop citadel, in which some have suggested that the residents’ desertion occurred because of a smallpox epidemic.
For hundreds of years, until the American archaeologist Hiram Bingham stumbled upon it in 1911, the abandoned citadel’s existence was a secret known only to peasants living in the region.
The Incas had no written language, and therefore, there are no written records of the site while it was in use.
The names of the buildings, their supposed uses, and their inhabitants are all the product of modern archeologists, on the basis of physical evidence, including tombs at the site.
Many modern-day archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu served as a royal estate for Inca emperors and nobles, particularly for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472).
Others have theorised that it was a religious site, pointing to its proximity to mountains and other geographical features that the Incas held sacred.
It is considered the most familiar icon of Inca civilisation, and is often referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas”.
Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls.
The Incas were masters of a technique known as ashlar, in which blocks of stone are cut to fit together tightly without mortar.
It has three primary structures: the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows.
Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give visitors a better idea of how they originally appeared.
By 1976, 30 per cent of Machu Picchu had been restored and its restoration continues.