Hanging from the clouds, the citadel of Machu Picchu- unknown to the Spanish conquerors of the Incas- remained hidden from the outside world until discovered by explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911.
Excavations supported by the National Geographic Society and Yale University drew back the green veil of jungle to reveal the most spectacular remnant of the Incas vast empire ever found intact. Scores of sparkling granite shrines, fountains lodgings, and steep stairways encrust the saddle between pinnacles some 2,000 feet above the Amazon-bound Urubamba River in Peru.
Here the "Sons of the Sun," as the Inca lords called themselves, worshiped their host of gods, including the mighty Inti, who personified the sun itself. A sacred rock is called the "hitching post of the sun," reflecting a tradition that worshipers once tethered the god to it, lesthe stray too far from their domain.
Bingham speculated that a remnant of Inca nobility took refuge here after the Spaniards dismambered their realm in the 1500's. Later investigators concluded that it was a militarygarrison. In any case, sustaining the mountaintop area without an empire, apparently proved impossible. Its occupants eventually melted away into the jungle, which concealed Machu Picchu from outsiders' eyes for nearly four centuries.
Machu Picchu, situated about 80 Km (50 mi) northwest of Cuzco, Peru , is an ancient Inca town overlooking the Urubamba Valley. The ruins are located about 2400m above the sea level on the eastern slopes of the Andes, near the edge of the warm humid Montaña region . The abandoned site was covered with dense vegetation and remained essentially unknown until its discovery in 1911.