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On The Peruvian Civilisation

One of the seven wonders of the world is Machu Picchu, the 15th Century Inca citadel located in the Eastern Cordillera of southern Peru on a 2,430mt (7,970ft) mountain ridge. The isolated city is located in the Machupicchu District in Urubamba Province above the Sacred Valley in the Andes Mountain Range, 80km northwest of Cusco. Thousands of tourists arrive in Peru every year to visit this Inca city. Now, a century after the discovery of the city, researchers have come to know that the name of the city is not Machu Picchu. As per a study recently published in ‘Ñawpa Pacha: Journal of the Institute of Andean Studies’, the Incans called the city Huayna Picchu.

Machu Picchu

Brian S Bauer, the Lead Researcher and a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois in Chicago, has said that the Incas used to live there in AD 1420, and the capital of the Inca Empire was Cusco. The Royal Family, naturally, used to live in Cusco. It was later when the Spaniards invaded the Inca Empire, prompting the Incas to leave the area, and the city was rendered into oblivion. People did not know about Huayna Picchu for centuries. American Explorer Hiram Bingham III (November 19, 1875 – June 6, 1956) rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911 with the guidance of local indigenous farmers. He gave the name Machu Picchu. In fact, the explorer’s Quechua-speaking guide Melchor Arteaga, a local farmer by profession, suggested Bingham to use the name Machu Picchu.

Bauer is of the opinion that Arteaga, and not Bingham, had made the mistake. The latest study has found some evidence according to which the real name of the city was different. Donato Amado Gonzales, a Peruvian Historian and a senior official of the Ministry of Culture, researched the place names of 19th Century Maps, information in 17th Century documents and the original field notes of Bingham. Surprisingly, he did not find a single reference to the site that mentioned the name Machu Picchu. Instead, he found the name Huayna Picchu.

According to Bauer, Bingham mentioned in his notebook that he was not entirely sure of the city’s name. In fact, this piece of information prompted Bauer to trace the original name of the Inca city in old documents. Both Bauer and Gonzales examined maps of the city prepared before and after Bingham’s discovery. They, incidentally, got a report prepared in 1588, in which it is mentioned that the Vilcabamba Tribes want to return to Huayna Picchu.

Emily Dean, the Professor of Anthropology at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, has explained that Huayna translates to new or young, while Picchu means mountain peak in the Indigenous Quechua language. “Machu means old, so we’ve been calling it old mountain peak,” she stressed. However, it is actually a new mountain. Experts are of the opinion that this mistake was not unusual, as none of the foreign researchers understood the Quechua language. They did not do much research on names of the Inca places.

Bauer has opined that although they discovered the area’s original name, people should use the name Machu Picchu. “We would not suggest that the name be changed since Machu Picchu is known worldwide,” he said. For her part, Dean said: “Machu Picchu is also published in thousands of books, articles, advertisements and legal documents. The Peruvian people and their Government have adopted the new name, so it is an interesting addition to the site’s history, but it will not change the modern name.” No matter the name change, it might initiate a significant change in describing the history of the Inca Civilisation.

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