The Site Called ‘Machu Picchu’ Had Another Name First, Researchers Say

For decades, the spectacular ruins that bring hundreds of thousands of tourists to Peru each year have been named Machu Picchu, or “Ancient Mountain” in Quechua, the language of millions of the Incas today.

The name appears all over the signs welcoming visitors to the settlement in the Andes, above the Urubamba River valley, and the train journey from Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incas. Website of the Ministry of Culture of Peru there is a page Its dedicated history also links to tickets.

But the name of the town, built by the Incas in the 15th century, is technically Huayna Picchu, or “New Mountain,” according to researchers who have studied documents dating back to the 1500s to verify its distinctiveness. original name.

Donato Amado Gonzales, a historian at the Peruvian Ministry of Culture, and Brian S. Bauer, an anthropologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, write: “The results both suggest that the Inca city was originally called Picchu. , or more likely Huayna Picchu, an article has published online last August in Ñawpa Pacha: Journal of Andean Archeology. Their discovery was announced last month of the university.

Mark Rice, a history professor at Baruch University, who was not involved in the study, said: The find further “dispels the myth that Machu Picchu is a city lost forever”. “Like most of the Andes, this site has been and continues to be a dynamic place with a changing history,” he said.

The ruins became widely known as Machu Picchu after 1911, when Hiram Bingham, a faculty member at Yale University, began visiting the area and publishing accounts of his travels. In 1913, The New York Times Bingham noted finding a “lost city in the clouds”.

“He has just declared that he has had great luck exploring the entire city,” the article read, adding that it was “a place of splendid palaces, temples and enclosing walls.” cruel”.

“He called it Machu Picchu,” the newspaper reported.

The two families lived next to the site when Bingham first arrived, and documents show others knew about the site before he visited. But the professor was the one who told the rest of the world about the city, according to historians.

Bingham apparently heard the name Machu Picchu from Melchor Arteaga, a tenant farmer who lived at the bottom of the valley and served as Bingham’s guide on a trip to the ruins, according to the article.

Bingham had also heard it called Huayna Picchu, the paper’s co-author, Dr Amado Gonzales, said in an interview.

Ignacio Ferro, the son of a landowner near the ruins, told Bingham that Huayna Picchu was the name of the ruined city. And there are documents from the 19th century, including a map of the area, showing the name.

But for unknown reasons, Bingham followed Arteaga’s request.

Dr Amado Gonzales said: “He accepted what they told him at the time.

However, Bingham didn’t seem to believe he had the right name. In 1922, he wrote an article warning that other documents might appear showing that the name of the town was not Machu Picchu, Dr. Amado Gonzales said.

Prof Bauer said that he and Dr Amado Gonzales had studied those documents independently for at least 10 years, poring over evidence that the town’s original name was Huayna Picchu.

“Realizing that we were both working on the same topic, we decided to combine our databases,” Professor Bauer said in an email.

Their findings are based on Bingham’s notes and other documents related to his work at the site, as well as early maps and foundations describing the site and land documents. have been kept in the archives of the region, country and Spain.

A “special document” from 1588 describes the concerns of the Spanish invaders, who feared the natives of the area who were planning to leave Cusco and “re-attract” an area. which they call Huayna Picchu, according to the researchers’ paper.

Bruce Mannheim, a professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the study but knows both the authors and has taught Professor Bauer, said the finding was not a surprise.

“They are two leading scholars, very brilliant, very careful researchers,” said Professor Mannheim. “I value whatever they write.”

Anthropologists and historians who have studied documents about the area, he said, have found texts that reveal the town’s original name. But the scholars did not write about the name or emphasize the problem earlier.

“There is no percentage in regulating tour operators,” says Professor Mannheim. “We’re going to effectively control other people’s use of language, and no one really wants to do that.”

Still, it’s fine to include the original name in an academic record, he said.

Dr Amado Gonzales said it would be “exaggeration” to say that it was wrong to call the town Machu Picchu all these years.

“The city, the Inca town, is under the administration of Huayna Picchu,” he said. But Machu Picchu isn’t a term Bingham invented – it’s the Quechuan name for the larger peak north of the ancient site. Huayna Picchu is the name of the smaller peak to the south.

Dr Amado Gonzales said that there are archaeological remains of the Incas at the top of Machu Picchu, and 19th century documents indicate that people in the area also called the town Machu Picchu.

In other words, tour operators don’t have to start doing repairs themselves.

“You don’t have to change the name,” says Dr. Amado Gonzales.

Natalia Sobrevilla Perea, a Professor of Latin American History at the University of Kent.

“In a way, it doesn’t make much of a difference,” she said. “Both are native names. It doesn’t look like there has been a Spanish name change from the native name. “

The Peruvian government and people in the country are “very attached” to the name Machu Picchu as a “national symbol and an archaeological icon,” said Prof Sobrevilla Perea.

“It’s one of the seven wonders of the world,” she said. “It’s something that Peruvians are very proud of.”

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