Lost Incan City of Machu Picchu: 100 Years after Discovery by ‘Indiana Jones’

July 8th, 2011 Permalink

Peru is celebrating 100 years since the rediscovery of Machu Picchu by Yale professor Hiram Bingham III. On July 24, 1911, the American, who some believe was later the “model” for Indiana Jones, stumbled upon jungle-and-vine-coated ruins during an expedition to find an ancient Inca Empire in the Andes mountains. Machu Picchu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. In 2007, it was crowned as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World via a worldwide Internet vote. To mark the Machu Picchu centennial celebration, here is a collection of pictures from the “Lost City of the Incas.”
[46 Photos]

Early morning in wonderful Machu Picchu

Early morning in wonderful Machu Picchu, a pre-Columbian 15th-century Inca site located 2,430 meters (7,970 ft) above sea level. Most archaeologists think Machu Picchu was built around AD 1400 as “an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti” and is often referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas.” It is probably the most familiar icon of the Inca World. Around the time of the Spanish Conquest in 1572, the Incas abandoned their empire and the Peruvian jungle swallowed Machu Picchu. It wasn’t rediscovered until 1911 by American historian and explorer Hiram Bingham. There are about 140 structures or features, ranging from temples, to sanctuaries, parks, and residences, with more than 100 flights of stone steps carved from a single block of granite. Photo #1 by Pedro Szekely

Machu Picchu's sunset panorama

Machu Picchu’s sunset panorama. Like many explorers, Bingham wasn’t sure what he had discovered. He wrote about stumbling upon Machu Picchu in a 1913 Harper’s Monthly article, “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. Surprise followed surprise until we came to the realization that we were in the midst of as wonderful ruins as any ever found in Peru.” Bingham added, “Yet so far as I have been able to discover, there is no reference in the Spanish chronicles to Machu Picchu. It is possible that not even the conquistadors ever saw this wonderful place.” Photo #2 by Martin St-Amant


Meet Hiram Bingham III, aka Indiana Jones, who rediscovered Machu Picchu

Meet Hiram Bingham III, aka Indiana Jones. See the resemblance? The year is 1911 as Bingham is standing atop ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru. This photo came from a hand-colored glass slide taken by Harry Ward Foote. Professor Foote was a Yale Ph.D. who served as the expedition collector and naturalist on Bingham’s expeditions to Peru. Photo #3 by Harry Ward Foote via Yale University Manuscripts & Archives Digital Images Database

The Inca Bridge, near Machu Picchu

The Inca Bridge, near Machu Picchu. Photo #4 by Martin St-Amant

A few ruined buildings and structural terraces remain on Wayna Picchu, the summit often seen behind Machu Picchu

A few ruined buildings and structural terraces remain on Wayna Picchu, the summit often seen behind Machu Picchu. Photo #5 by Sascha Wenninger

Wayna Picchu viewed from Machu Picchu's access gate

Wayna Picchu viewed from Machu Picchu’s access gate. The Incas were masters of the ashlar technique of building. They cut blocks of stone that fit together tightly without using mortar. Many junctions in the central city are so perfectly cut and constructed that not even a blade of grass fits between the stones. By not using mortar, the buildings are able to withstand earthquakes. Photo #6 by Martin St-Amant

Rainbow over the Andes and Machu Picchu

Rainbow over the Andes and Machu Picchu. Photo #7 by Thomas Quine

This skull was deformed by binding wood to the skull of a new born baby, a common Inca practice. Yucay valley, Peru

An odd photo to be sure, but the photographer explained. “This skull was deformed by binding wood to the skull of a new born baby, a common Inca practice. Yucay valley, Peru. There have been movies and TV specials that have suggested it was an alien skull….LOL.” Photo #8 by Dennis Jarvis

tourists on Incan terraces

Tourists on Incan terraces. The ruins of Machu Picchu are divided into two main sections, Urban and Agricultural Sectors which are divided by a wall. The Agricultural Sector is further subdivided into Upper and Lower sectors, while the Urban Sector is split into East and West sectors, and further separated by a wide plaza. Photo #9 by Samuel Renard

An Incan sunrise

The photographer wrote, “We were there measuring astronomical alignments during sunrise on the solstice. It was every bit as awesome as it sounds, and considerably awesomer than this photo conveys.” Photo #10 by dann toliver

Temple of the Moon, Machu Picchu

Temple of the Moon on Huayna Picchu, near Machu Picchu. Photo #11 by Martin St-Amant

Machu Picchu is surrounded by these beautiful pink orchids

Machu Picchu is surrounded by these beautiful pink orchids. Photo #12 by Matt Riggott

Llactapata, a ruined settlement along the Inca trail in Peru

Llactapata, a ruined settlement along the Inca trail in Peru. Photo #13 by Bcasterline

A llama sits atop one of the terraces of Machu Picchu, Peru, admiring the view

A llama sits atop one of the terraces of Machu Picchu, Peru, admiring the view. Photo #14 by Roger Nelson

A Mountain Caracara taking off at Machu Picchu, Peru

A Mountain Caracara taking off from a wall at the Lost City of the Incas. Photo #15 by Ville Miettinen

forest path near Inkaterra lodges

The photographer noted, “This is from the paths through the small patch of cloud forest behind the lodge we stayed at near the base of Machu Picchu. All of the Inkaterra lodges we stayed at were very well integrated with their native environments, and this was not exception. Not shown: the dozens of hummingbirds and dozens more orchid species thriving on their grounds.” Photo #16 by icelight

Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu in Peru

Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu in Peru. Photo #17 by Rick McCharles

Lama poses at Machu Picchu

This llama seems to be posing for a picture. Photo #18 by Robert Luna

Temple of the Sun

Temple of the Sun. According to archaeologists (and Wikipedia), the urban sector of Machu Picchu was divided into three great districts: the Sacred District, the Popular District to the south, and the District of the Priests and the Nobility. Located in the first zone are the primary archaeological treasures: the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows. These were dedicated to Inti, their sun god and greatest deity. Photo #19 by Fabricio Guzmán

Terraces of Machu Picchu, Peru

Terraces, tourists and a llama. Photo #20 by Martin St-Amant

Peru Machu Picchu guide demonstrates stocks

The photographer wrote, “Our guide to Machu Picchu demonstrates what are believed to be stocks to constrain prisoners.” Photo #21 by Dan Lundberg

Stairs at Machu Picchu Peru

These stairs lead to the “Popular District” which is also called the “Residential District.” It was where the lower-class people lived. It includes storage buildings and simple houses. There is also a royalty area which was meant for the nobility; that group of houses are located in rows over a slope. Houses for the Amautas (wise persons) was characterized by its reddish walls, while the zone of the Ñustas (princesses) had trapezoid-shaped rooms. Photo #22 by Roger Nelson

1911 Bingham expedition to Machu Picchu in Peru

1911 Bingham expedition to Machu Picchu in Peru, taken from a series of hand-colored glass slides. At top left is the explorers and crew on the road along the Urubamba River. The top right and lower left are of the expedition crew trekking through the overgrown jungles of Peru. On the lower right is a photo of the ruins before clearing away the vegetation as Bingham first encountered Machu Picchu. Photos in #23 by Harry Ward Foote via Yale University Manuscripts & Archives Digital Images Database

ghosts in the foggy ruins of Machu Picchu

Do ghosts of Incas roam in the foggy ruins? Photo #24 by ckmck

Partially restored Inca building in Machu Picchu

The interior of a partially restored Inca building that features trapezoidal windows. The Inca designed walls to help protect them against damage and from collapsing in an earthquake. Doors and windows have this trapezoidal design and and tilt inward from bottom to top. The corners are usually rounded, while inside corners often incline slightly into the rooms. “L”-shaped blocks were used to tie outside corners of the structure together. These walls do not rise straight from bottom to top, but are offset slightly from row to row. Photo #25 by Martin St-Amant

Inca trail

This is by far the most popular of the Inca trails for trekking. It’s called the Capaq Nan trail, which leads from the city of Cusco to the so-called “Lost City of the Incas.” Bingham remarked on the fact that Machu Picchu is only a 5 day hike from Cusco. You can still make that trip if you are daring and willing to hike. You should be in good shape to take the Incan Trail and plan on 3 – 6 days for your journey. Photo #26 by Pajaro

Bingham to Peru for Machu Picchu

From Yale Peruvian Expedition these glass slides represent (from left to right): Indigenous Peruvians, Bingham atop ruins after clearing the overgrowth at Machu Picchu, Harry Ward Foote who accompanied Hiram Bingham and acted as photographer for expedition, Indians and lamas in front of ruins, Transport for the expedition crew crossing a river on downed trees while carrying packs. Photos in #27 by Harry Ward Foote via Yale University Manuscripts & Archives Digital Images Database

Terraces over Space - Machu Picchu

The photographer pointed out, “For all the attention paid to the awesome construction of the city itself, not enough credit is given to the amount of work it took just to insure Machu Picchu didn’t instantly slide off of its precarious perch. This system of terraces serve as reinforcement, holding the bulk of the city thousands of feet above the valley floor. Dramatically they appear to suddenly end, the depths leaving the viewer unsupported high above the steep Andean cliffs.” Photo #28 by icelight

All creatures enjoy viewing the ruins of Machu Picchu

Apparently all creatures enjoy the views. Photo #30 by Marrovi

Small water canal sweeping through ruins

Small water canal sweeping through the ruins. The 140 structures were interconnected by channels; water-drains perforated in the rock were designed for the original irrigation system. Evidence implies that the irrigation system was used to carry water from a holy spring to each of the houses. The Inca Empire was amazing. Photo #31 by Martin St-Amant

Shrine at Holy City of the Incas

The photographer wrote, “Declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, this outstanding Sanctuary rises above 2400 meters sea level. Also known as The Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu is considered to be one of the most important and visited destinations in South America.” Photo #32 by Danielle Pereira

View of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu, showing the Hiram Bingham Highway used by tour buses to and from the town of Aguas Calientes

View of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu, showing the Hiram Bingham Highway used by tour buses to and from the town of Aguas Calientes. Photo #33 by Martin St-Amant

Ruins in the Lost City. The photographer remarked, “Machu Picchu is a pre-Columbian 15th-century Inca site located 2430 metres (7970 ft) above sea level.” Photo #34 by nwhitford

Rainbow over the Andes and valley

According to the photographer, “Making your way down from the impressive Inca ruins of Phuyu Pata Marca is hard on the knees, but the sight of an impressive rainbow over the mountains is a welcome distraction. Inca Trail, near Huinay Huayna, Peru.” Photo #35 by Jayegirl99

panorama of Machu Picchu

Panorama of the ruins taken on a cloudy day. Mornings are often foggy as the Lost City is surrounded by a cloud-forest high in the Andes Mountains. Photo #36 by Martin St-Amant

Machu Picchu is situated above a loop of the Urubamba River, which surrounds the site on three sides, with cliffs dropping vertically for 450 metres (1,480 ft) to the river at their base

Machu Picchu is situated above a loop of the Urubamba River, which surrounds the site on three sides, with cliffs dropping vertically for 450 metres (1,480 ft) to the river at their base. Photo #37 by Alexson Scheppa Peisino

Incan ruins of residential sector of Machu Picchu

After “discovering” the ruins, Bingham believed the complex was the traditional birthplace of the Incan “Virgins of the Suns” which was an elite group who took a vow of chastity. Their high priestess was of noble blood. But after human remains were found at Machu Picchu that proved not all the people were women, the “Virgins of the Suns” theory was disproved. Photo #38 by refractor

The old mountain, Machu Picchu, as seen from the Huayna Picchu, the young mountain

The old mountain, Machu Picchu, as seen from the young mountain, Huayna Picchu. Photo #39 by HÃ¥kan Svensson

Choquequirao -  Crossing the Apurimac, the river that speaks

The photographer said this was where they crossed the Apurimac River, located at 1750 meters (over 5,741 feet) above sea level. According to the legend, the name Apurimac means ‘talking river’ because during rainy seasons, “a great amout of water drags the rocks which hit one another and produce a sound pretty much alike a human conversation.” Photo #40 by Danielle Pereira

Panoramic photograph of the Machu Picchu residential section

Panoramic photograph of the residential section. Photo #41 by Martin St-Amant

Machu Picchu, Peru. The Urubamba river seen 600 m from above

The Urubamba river seen from 600 meters (over 1,968 feet) above. Photo #42 by HÃ¥kan Svensson

Machu Picchu in the clouds

Machu Picchu in the clouds. Photo #43 by GothamNurse

Machu Picchu from the top of Wayna Picchu

Machu Picchu from the top of Wayna Picchu. Photo #44 by Colegota

Bingham at Machu Picchu

The two photos of Incan ruins at Machu Picchu were taken in 1911. On the right is Hiram Bingham III at his tent door near near the ruins a year later in 1912. Photos in #45 by Harry Ward Foote via Yale University Manuscripts & Archives Digital Images Database

Green as if still alive, ruins of Machu Picchu

This is the ruins of Machu Picchu as they are now, 100 years after Bingham rediscovered the ‘Lost City of the Incas.’ Photo #46 by Dennis Jarvis


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