Machu Picchu (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈmatʃu ˈpiktʃu], Quechua: Machu Picchu [ˈmɑtʃu ˈpixtʃu], “Old Peak”) is a 15th-century Inca site located 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level. Machu Picchu is located in the Cusco Region of Peru, South America. It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, which is 80 kilometres (50 mi) northwest of Cusco and through which the Urubamba River flows. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas”, it is perhaps the most familiar icon of Inca civilization.
The Incas built the estate around 1450, but abandoned it as an official site for the Inca rulers a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of what the structures originally looked like. By 1976, thirty percent of Machu Picchu had been restored. The restoration work continues to this day.
Since the site was not known to the Spanish during their conquest, it is highly significant as a relatively intact cultural site. Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.
Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary structures are the Intihuatana (Hitching post of the Sun), the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. These are located in what is known by archaeologists as the Sacred District of Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is vulnerable to threats from a variety of sources. While natural phenomena like earthquakes and weather systems can play havoc with access, the site also suffers from the pressures of too many tourists. In addition, preservation of the area’s cultural and archaeological heritage is an ongoing concern. Most notably, the removal of cultural artifacts by the Bingham expeditions in the early 20th century gave rise to a long-term dispute between the government of Peru and the custodian of the artifacts.
The origin of the name Titicaca is unknown. It has been translated as “Rock Puma”, as local communities have traditionally interpreted the shape of the lake to be that of a puma hunting a rabbit. “Titicaca” combines words from the local languages Quechua and Aymara. The word is also translated as “Crag of Lead”. Locally, the lake goes by several names. Because the southeast quarter of the lake is separate from the main body (connected only by the Strait of Tiquina), the Bolivians call it Lago Huiñaymarca (Quechua: Wiñay Marka) and the larger part Lago Chucuito. In Peru, these smaller and larger parts are referred to as Lago Pequeño and Lago Grande, respectively.
The lake has had a number of steamships, each of which was built in the United Kingdom in “knock down” form with bolts and nuts, disassembled into many hundreds of pieces, transported to the lake, and then riveted together and launched.
In 1862 Thames Ironworks on the River Thames built the iron-hulled sister ships SS Yavari and SS Yapura under contract to the James Watt Foundry of Birmingham. The ships were designed as combined cargo, passenger and gunboats for the Peruvian Navy. After several years’ delay in delivery from the Pacific coast to the lake, Yavari was launched in 1870 and Yapura in 1873. Yavari was 100 feet (30 m) long but in 1914 her hull was lengthened for extra cargo capacity and she was re-engined as a motor vessel.
In 1905 Earle’s Shipbuilding at Kingston upon Hull on the Humber built SS Inca. By now a railway served the lake so the ship was delivered in kit form by rail. At 220 feet (67 m) long and 1,809 tons Inca was the lake’s largest ship thus far. In the 1920s Earle’s supplied a new bottom for the ship, which also was delivered in kit form.
Trade continued to grow, so in 1930 Earle’s built SS Ollanta. Her parts were landed at the Pacific Ocean port of Mollendo and brought by rail to the lake port of Puno. At 260 feet (79 m) long and 2,200 tons she was considerably larger than the Inca, so first a new slipway had to be built to build her. She was launched in November 1931.
In 1975 Yavari and Yapura were returned to the Peruvian Navy, who converted Yapura into a hospital ship and renamed her BAP Puno. The Navy discarded Yavari but in 1987 charitable interests bought her and started restoring her. She is now moored at Puno Bay and provides static tourist accommodation while her restoration continues. Coya was beached in 1984 but restored as a floating restaurant in 2001. Inca survived until 1994 when she was broken up. Ollanta is no longer in scheduled service but PeruRail has been leasing her for tourist charter operations.