The Early Modern World, C. 1300–1600

Art in the New World

What is Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu was a fifteenth-century royal estate constructed by the Inca king Pachakuti, high in the Andes mountains near Cuzco, Peru. A great deal of mystery and wonder surrounds this long-forgotten and well-preserved site, which caught public attention (and public imagination) after American archeologist Hiram Bing-ham studied it in 1911.

Machu Picchu sits at an elevation of nine thousand feet; the site consists of stone buildings, terraced farm plots, open plazas, and religious shrines. The architecture at Machu Picchu matches other Inca sites and was built out of granite using Inca masonry techniques, a style of stone construction that consisted of joining “pillow-shaped” blocks without mortar. Similar construction can be seen throughout the city of Cuzco, as well as on a large scale in the fortress-palace, Sacsahuaman, in the hills outside of the city.


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