Purpose of Machu Picchu
According to the historian Raúl Pacheco Herrera from Cusco, Machu Picchu is not the original name of the llacta (“land” in Quechua.) It all seems to indicate that this is modern name given to the place. The tourist guides explain that Machu Picchu was an Inca fortress serving as a military checkpoint to protect Cusco from the Antis or inhabit ants from the jungle whom the Incas feared. This, at least, was the interpretation given t/ Hiram Bingham after his fast analysis. However, recent studies establish that under t premise of a theocratic and imperial society, it cannot be sustained that this was the on purpose for such a vast and rich citadel.
Mapi had been occupied before the Incas’ and Pachacútec’s intervention: the subterranean systems architecturally consolidated, the hydraulics, the peculiar construction following the form of the original rocks, the construction of architectonic elements to empower certain astronomic phenomena, the presence of Inca components that were proven as cult – but a cult linked to the management of astronomy based on agriculture that had to feed the whole empire – and finally the luminal beauty of the worked rock in relation to the endless pits that are nailed to the mountain. All of this tells us that this was also a sacred place, enclosed for the royalty and the priests, to deploy pleasure, for political domain, for defense, cultural reproduction, to trap the Sun (Intihuatana) and have him help to yield good harvests.
Pacheco himself agrees with Luis Lumbreras and Mariana Mould de Pease in the hypothesis that Pachacútec -the founder of the Inca Empire, who disrupted the universe and was a deity – organized the construction of this magnificent city as a ma soleum that he deserved after his death. One has to consider that during the Inca Empire, the Incas were not considered as human beings, and therefore their remain received a different treatment than any other ordinary corpse. The mummies were enthroned in the Coricancha and were taken out in procession on specific dates, something that caused horror among the Spanish; that is why they invented the Corpus Christi, where the wooden images replaced the mallquis when taken out on procession. But while Pachacútec was alive, Machu Picchu would be a place for amusement, pleasure and cult for him, his panaca and his priests. The first researcher that linked Mapi with Pachacútec was Luis Valcárcel, in the 1920s, clearing up the obtuse scenario that had been created by Bingham.
The final version of the city was constructed between the 15th and 16th centuries. As other cities of the Inca nobles, it was a small and beautiful city, as we would property say nowadays, since it had platforms where crops were grown, and it had storage places to preserve abundant food. According to historian Antonio Zapata, the Imperial family also practiced religious rituals in the city, “possibly as part of the training for the generation of Sun priests’. Other functions should be added to those of the élite: Mapi is located in the hinge that joins the Amazon with the Andes and from the forests below carne products that were appreciated very much by the Incas: coca leaves, medicinal herbs, feathers of exotic birds for ceremonies, certain varieties of the much appreciated ají; and from the Andes carne dehydrated potato and corn. In other words, Mapi and its roads to Cusco also were part of a bartering system of products that was essential for the life between the people from the Empire and those from the jungle.
If we follow the Inca Trail to reach to Mapi, we will clearly understand this concept of bartering as well as the sacredness of the place. The different Inca groups scattered between Quente and Intipunku that were resting places for the cult and for those that transported the products, also show a circuit of purifying baths. This circuit improves its -architecture as it gets closer to Intipunku, which Inca walkers should have used to arrive clean from humanity to the place where the arcane where the Sun was tied. John Hemming, great expert of the Inca culture, imagines the city of Pachacútec inhabited by nobles, women from the Inca’s entourage, the royalty, and its ornaments and ceremonies: all of the rooms roofed with straws and walls with intense colors, while the macaws, monkeys and other species brought from the plains were roaming in an enchanted place, whose framework of impenetrable forests and abysms continued talking to men about its precarious conditions.
About Mapi there are many other topics that continue being treated as conjectures. For example, why was it abandoned? It seems that the Incas alerted about the arrival of the European invaders, left the city, but it is not known what they took, what they destroyed to prevent it of falling in profane hands, and what they left behind. There is also evidence that the city was occupied during the Colonial period by farmers from the area, since it formed part of the estate that the Spanish Crown handed down to Bethlehemite Monks. There are registries of taxes paid by the Picchu people in the Spanish books. Furthermore: it is feasible that the city might have been one of the first targets during the extirpation of idolatry: which could be the reason why it was abandoned, although its existence to the Spanish was more hearsay than a true fact.
A historical accident gave the glory of Mapi’s “discovery” to the Western World to a North American adventurer called Hiram Bingham, when maybe it could have been given to Charles Wiener, the Austrian-French scientific that travelled the Andes from 1875 to 1877. In his book Peru and Bolivia: A Travelogue, Wiener clearly makes reference to a place named Machu Picchu, to which he would be heading, since he even had contacted guides. The reasons why he didn’t go are unknown.