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Machu Picchu in Peru is 20 Years Older Than Previously Thought, Finds Study

The new study, led by Yale archaeologist Richard Burger and researchers from several US institutions, was published in the Antiquity journal. (Credits: Reuters)

The new study, led by Yale archaeologist Richard Burger and researchers from several US institutions, was published in the Antiquity journal. (Credits: Reuters)

The research has found that Machu Picchu was functional from about AD 1420 to AD 1530 and came to an end around the time of the Spanish conquest.

According to the latest study, scientists have discovered that Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world, is much older than earlier thought. Situated in southern Peru, Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca site. Machu Picchu was a country estate of Inca Emperor Pachacuti located on the eastern face of the Andes Mountains.

The new study, led by Yale archaeologist Richard Burger and researchers from several US institutions, was published in the Antiquity journal this week. The research has found that Machu Picchu was functional from about AD 1420 to AD 1530 and came to an end around the time of the Spanish conquest. This makes the site at least 20 years older than the accepted historical record suggests. The latest results also raise questions about understanding of Inca chronology. For their study, scientists used accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) which is an advanced form of radiocarbon dating, to date human remains recovered during the early 20th century at the monumental complex. Researchers used AMS to analyze human samples from 26 skeletons that were recovered from four cemeteries at the site in 1912 during excavations led by Yale professor Hiram Bingham III.

Speaking to Yale News, Professor of Anthropology in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences Burger said that until now, estimates of Machu Picchu’s antiquity and the length of its occupation were based on contradictory historical records written by the Spanish in the period following the Spanish conquest. Burger talked about his research and said that this is the first study which is based on scientific evidence to present an estimate for the founding of Machu Picchu and the duration of its occupation, giving scientists a clearer picture of the site’s origins and history.

Earlier it was believed that Pachacuti took control of the Inca empire in AD 1438 and went on to conquer the lower Urubamba Valley where Machu Picchu is located. Hence, based on those records, scholars had estimated that the site was built after AD 1440, and perhaps as late as AD 1450.

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However, the latest study has clarified that Pachacuti had gained power and began his conquests decades earlier than textual sources indicated.

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first published:August 04, 2021, 20:28 IST