Machu Picchu 'rediscovered'

July 24, 1912

American explorer Hiram Bingham stumbled upon the ruins of the Incan city of Machu Picchu, in Peru.

American explorer Hiram Bingham stumbled upon the ruins of the Incan city of Machu Picchu, in Peru.

Carefully planned and built high in the Andes Mountains, Machu Picchu was most likely a royal retreat for Pachacuti, an Incan emperor. The city was constructed so that it had spectacular views of the surrounding mountain peaks, most of which were sacred to the Incan people. It also included several points ideal for making observations of the sun.

Machu Picchu was likely occupied by a fairly small group of caretakers who kept everything ready for the emperor and his entourage. It was abandoned before the Spanish arrived in Peru, and was quickly overgrown by the jungle. Because it had been known only to a few local farmers, it remained largely untouched and hidden from the world for nearly 500 years.


Today, Machu Picchu has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A few hundred thousand people visit it each year, leading to some concerns about the longevity of the ruins.