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Machu
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Machu Picchu is a pre-Columbian Inca site located at 2,430 meters (7,970 ft) above sea level on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, about 70 km (44 mi) northwest of Cusco. Often referred to as "The Lost City of the Incas", Machu Picchu is probably the most familiar symbol of the Inca Empire. It was built around the year 1450 and abandoned a hundred years later, at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Forgotten for centuries by all except for a few locals, the site was brought to worldwide attention in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an American historian. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction, it was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. It is also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Machu Picchu was built in a classic Inca architectural style of polished dry-stone walls. Its primary buildings are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows located in what is known by archaeologist as the Sacred District of Machu Picchu. The Intihuatana is believed to have been designed as an astronomic clock by the Incas There are now concerns about the impact of tourism to the site as its visitors reached over 400,000 back in 2003. On September 2007, Peru and Yale University reached an agreement regarding return of artifacts removed from Macchu Picchu in the early 20th century by Hiram Bingham.

Machu Picchu was constructed around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire, and was abandoned less than 100 years later, as the empire collapsed under Spanish conquest. One theory maintains that Machu Picchu was an Incan "llacta": a settlement built up to control the economy of the conquered regions and that it may have been built with the purpose of protecting the most select of the Incan aristocracy in the event of an attack. Based on research conducted by scholars such as John Rowe and Richard Burger, most archaeologists now believe that, rather than a defensive retreat, Machu Picchu was an estate of the Inca emperor Pachacuti. Johan Reinhard presents evidence that the site was selected based on its position relative to sacred landscape features, especially mountains that are in alignment with key astronomical events.

Although the citadel is located only about 50 miles from Cusco, the Inca capital, it was never found and destroyed by the Spanish, as were many other Inca sites. Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle grew to enshroud the site, and few knew of its existence. On July 24, 1911, Machu Picchu was brought to the attention of the West by Hiram Bingham, an American historian then employed as a lecturer at Yale University. He was led there by locals who frequented the site. Bingham undertook archaeological studies and completed a survey of the area. Bingham coined the name "The Lost City of the Incas", which was the title of his first book. He never gave any credit to those who led him to Machu Picchu, mentioning only "local rumor" as his guide.

Bingham had been searching for the city of Vitcos, the last Inca refuge and spot of resistance during the Spanish conquest of Peru. In 1911, after various years of previous trips and explorations around the zone, he was led to the citadel by Quechuans who were living in Machu Picchu in the original Inca infrastructure. Bingham made several more trips and conducted excavations on the site through 1915. He wrote a number of books and articles about the discovery of Machu Picchu.

Simone Waisbard, a long-time researcher of Cusco, claims Enrique Palma, Gabino Sánchez and Agustín Lizárraga left their names engraved on one of the rocks there on July 14, 1901, having rediscovered it before Bingham. Likewise, in 1904 an engineer named Franklin supposedly spotted the ruins from a distant mountain. He told Thomas Paine, an English Plymouth Brethren Christian missionary living in the region, about the site, Paine's family members claim. In 1906, Paine and another Brethren missionary named Stuart E McNairn (1867–1956) supposedly climbed up to the ruins.

Bingham and others hypothesized that the citadel was the traditional birthplace of the Inca people or the spiritual center of the "virgins of the suns", while curators of a recent exhibit have speculated that Machu Picchu was a royal retreat.

It is thought that the site was chosen for its unique location and geological features. It is said that the silhouette of the mountain range behind Machu Picchu represents the face of the Inca looking upward towards the sky, with the largest peak, Huayna Picchu (meaning Young Peak), representing his pierced nose.[citation needed]

In 1913, the site received significant publicity after the National Geographic Society devoted their entire April issue to Machu Picchu. In 1981 an area of 325.92 square kilometers surrounding Machu Picchu was declared a "Historical Sanctuary" of Peru. This area, which is not limited to the ruins themselves, also includes the regional landscape with its flora and fauna, highlighting the abundance of orchids.

Machu Picchu was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1983 when it was described as "an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization". On July 7, 2007, Machu Picchu was voted as one of New Open World Corporation's New Seven Wonders of the World.

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