On July 24, 1911, an American explorer by the name of Hiram Bingham discovered the ruins of Machu Picchu (meaning "Old Peak" in the Quechuca language). Bingham was born in Honolulu and educated at Yale, the University of California, and Harvard. Machu Picchu was built around 1450 A.D. It was burned in 1562 A.D. and finally abandoned ten years later. It likely stopped normal operation by 1540 A.D. because of the collapse of the Inca empire (Reinhard 91). Machu Picchu is located in Peru, about 50 miles Northwest of the Inca capital Cuzco. From Cuzco to Machu Picchu it is about a 4 hour walk. Machu Picchu is perched high on a rock in a narrow area between two sharp mountain peaks and it overlooks the Urubamba river 2,000 ft below. Machu spreads over 5 sq miles, with over 3,000 steps linking its many different levels.
Hiram Bingham was searching for another lost city called Vilcampapa when he stumbled on the ruins of Machu Picchu. The city was so overgrown with vegetation that he could barely make out the find Inca stonework or the layout of the site. After clearing and mapping the ruins with his team, Bingham revealed the city to the world, and published a large amount of his photos of Machu Picchu in the April 1913 issue of National Geographic. Bingham then realized the Machu Picchu was Vilicapampa, from which the Inca Manco Capac had resisted the Spanish (Bennett 35).
Historical and archaeological research has not thrown out Bingham" theories. Instead they have shown that Bingham had actually found was a city that was probably built by the Inca emperor Pachacuti, probably to serve as a royal retreat. The location of the site and its architecture, give clues to the true nature and function of Machu Picchu(Morris, Van Hagen 92).
Even though the Inca didn"t have a written language, the well preserved remains of Machu Picchu show that they had an advanced understanding about things like urban planning, hydrology, drainage, and durable construction methods.