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By Jude Limburn Turner
Mythic Machu Picchu continues to enthrall and fascinate people from all over the world, but despite numerous studies knowledge of this incredible site and its ancient resident remains sketchy. We don’t know for sure the exact reason that the citadel was built and occupied, but a mystery that remains even more enigmatic is why Machu Picchu was abandoned, and how it then remained hidden from the world for so many years.
Virgin Sacrifices Took Place at Machu Picchu
Over 50 burial sites have been excavated at the Machu Picchu site, and as a lot of female bones were originally found it was initially speculated that virgin sacrifices may have taken place there. However, whilst human sacrifice could have been an integral part of the Inca religion and performed at major festivals it was more likely that young children were sacrificed and a number of children’s mummified remains have been found on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. Further analysis of the bones actually found at Machu Picchu’s famous citadel show that many of the women had actually had children, and male remains have also since been found on the grounds of Machu Picchu. The virgin reference most probably came about due to the young, female priests sometimes known as ‘The Virgins of the Sun’ who were thought to teach at Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu’s Population Were Massacred by the Spanish Army
This theory can be completely excluded; although historians are still not entirely sure why the Incas left Machu Picchu they know that the settlement was not visited by the Spanish. For a start, there are no signs of Spanish settlement on the Inca trail. There is also no destruction to the area which could have been caused by military force and the area is extremely well conserved. It is thought that the Spanish would have had an extreme disadvantage if they planned to massacre the population of Machu Picchu as the Inca trail trek to the top would have left them vulnerable. All these reasons as well as the fact that none of the bodies found at the site appeared to have died as a result of violence completely rules out a massacre by the Spanish army.
Why or how the Incan population disappeared from Machu Picchu is something that is still disputed amongst historians. One of the theories is that another tribe killed the Inca population of Machu Picchu. This is a possibility because we know that when emperor Huayana Capac defeated the Caranques, he ordered the death of all the remaining members of their community. However, we also know that the bodies found at Machu Picchu rule out the idea of death by violence.
So whilst we often hear tales of violence and massacre leading to the termination of Machu Picchu as an Inca ceremonial centre, it is more likely that the inhabitants of Machu Picchu perhaps died from an epidemic such as syphilis or malaria, or simply abandoned the site on the death of it’s creator,
Whatever the reason for abandonment the magnificent uninhabited Inca city then became ‘lost’ to the outside world, with only a few indigenous Quechua people aware of it’s existence until explorer Hiram Bingham stumbled upon a jungle-clad Machu Picchu in 1911.
About the Author: Jude Limburn Turner is the Marketing Manager for Mountain Kingdoms, an adventure tour company who specialise in
treks. They also offer treks and tours worldwide, including destinations in the Himalaya, the America’s, Europe, Africa and Asia.