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Machu Picchu: The City in the Clouds

Elvi Bjorkquist - Thursday, November 18, 2010

Machu Picchu:

The City in the Clouds

Machu Picchu stands in luxurious vegetation above the rushing waters of the Urubamba river in the valley below. Many different theories have been made to account for the magnificent city, its strange and imposing buildings, its temples and altars. Recent studies have led to new and interesting interpretations of function of the site, for instance that it was a place of worship linked to observation of the stars. The great Intihuatana, the fountains, altars and other enigmatic buildings demonstrate that rites and ceremonies were practiced here but their significance is still a mystery. 

Machu Picchu's architecture is skillfully adapted to the natural form of the mountain tops. There are around 200 buildings and are arranged on wide parallel terraces around a vast central square. The various kanchas or compounds are long and narrow and extensive terraces were used for agricultural purposes and sophisticated channelling systems provided irrigation for the fields.

One section of the city was residential, while the other, separated by the square, would have been for religious and ceremonial purposes. The ceremonial section contains the building called the Torreon, a massive semicircular tower with rounded walls, niches and windows. The windows in the center look towards the point where the sun rises on the summer solstice. The rocky wall below the tower has a cleft and cave it. The cave was carved out to form a small room which can be reached by a diagonal stairway. The ceremonial area also includes architecturally unusual and highly accomplished structures, such as the Principal Temple, the Temple of the Three Windows, the Temple of the Sun and the famous Intihuatana (the hitching place of the sun). Mysterious carvings are found almost everywhere on the walls of small caves or on natural rocks, but their meaning remains an enigma. There is a high level of craftsmanship involved in building these structures.  The stones are cut, smoothed and placed on one another with great precision.

Machu Picchu, with its magnificent ceremonial buildings, temples, houses and monuments, is surrounded by precipices and walls that were designed to make access difficult and have the appearance of a city-fortress. Machu Piccu never fails to amaze and intrigue and someday will yield the answers to its secrets.