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Its wonderful setting, its many fine built temples and different sectors and terraces on top of a quite vertical mountain ridge make a visit to Machu Picchu an unforgettable experience. At this point, we must ask two questions.
Although we do not have the details of its past, we can assume that its primary functions were those of an administrative centre for the production of the crops grown on its steep terraces and, at the same time, a religious centre dedicated to the gods upon whom its inhabitants believed their existence depended: The God of Water and Mother Earth, or Pachamama, and the Sun.
With other agrarian centres in the Vilcabamba region, Machu Picchu must have been conceived within the context of a huge state project, the object of which was the extension of agricultural activity into the Amazonian Andes. This hypothesis is based on the fact that in Peru land suitable for agriculture is scarce, both in the highlands and coastal Andes. Since the dawn of Andean civilisations, soils have proven insufficient while the population was growing which was common with all ancient societies that lived on agriculture. Another factor: the El Niño phenomenon, has always affected food production in Peru and brought hunger to people, which regularly unleashes periods of drought and flooding, as well as other meteorological calamities. It was believed that such catastrophes could only be prevented through magical-religious practices, thus, they always wanted to be very close to the sun and other things they worshipped.
There are several hypotheses trying to explain why such an extraordinary place could be suddenly abandoned, although it was never discovered by the Spanish invaders.
With European irruption and the destruction of the Inca state, Machu Picchu and other Inca sites in the area were probably abandoned as its inhabitants were recruited by Manco Inca and his succesors from 1536 to 1572, to offer resistance to Spanish domination.
They might have sought refuge in the more distant Vilcabamba region, in the river basins of Vilcabamba. We have historical evidence to back up this hypothesis, since such forced recruitments used to happen in similar areas, where the whole population followed Manco Inca.
The abandonment of Machu Picchu can also be explained with the death of Pachacutec and the construction of a new ‘royal estate’ for the next Inca. Other experts claim that the city’s water supply may have dried up. The truth about these vital questions will probably remain a mystery forever. The only thing we can do is to visit and get charmed by this amazing structure.
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