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Alumni Travel Reading: Hiking the Inca Trail


Machu Picchu in Fiction

Machu Picchu: A Visual Wonder

Machu Picchu in the Early Morning. Courtesy of

Machu Picchu

Courtesy of

Aerial view of Machu Picchu

Courtesy of

Machu Picchu

Llama looking over Machu Picchu in distance

Machu Picchu. Courtesy of



Machu Picchu (“old pyramid or mountain” in Quechua) is an archaeological site located in the Cusco region, Urubamba province, in Peru.  It is often referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas."

Drawing of Inca Creator God

Inca Creator God. Courtesy of

The Inca built the royal estate around 1450, but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish conquest.  It was brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian (and later Governor of Connecticut and US Senator) Hiram Bingham. Machu Picchu has since become an important tourist attraction, and perhaps the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. By 1976, thirty percent of Machu Picchu had been restored, and the restoration work continues to this day.

Since the site was not known to the Spanish during their conquest, it is highly significant as a relatively intact cultural site.

Illustrated rendition of execution with soldiers, priest, and indigenous Incan tied to post

Execution of Inca Leader Atahualpa by the Spanish. Courtesy of

Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a global Internet poll.

 Machu Picchu is vulnerable to threats from a variety of sources. While natural phenomena like earthquakes and weather systems can play havoc with access, the site also suffers from the pressures of modern tourism.

Black and white photo of excavation

 Machu Picchu Under Excavation in 1911. Courtesy of

Preservation of the area's cultural and archaeological heritage is an ongoing concern. Most notably, the removal of cultural artifacts by the Bingham expeditions in the early twentieth century gave rise to a long-term dispute between the government of Peru and the custodian of the artifacts, Yale University.


Selected and Annotated By:
Lauris Olson
Anthropology and Archaeology
Website Edited By:
Kelsey LeClair
Specialist in Classical Studies
Administrative Assistant, Penn Libraries

For more information about this and other Penn excursions, please visit Penn Alumni Travel.

Discovery and History

Hiram Bingham: Discoverer of Machu Picchu

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