We’ve Been Calling Machu Picchu by the Wrong Name

History

| LAST UPDATE 03/28/2022

by Hayden Katz
machu picchu inca mountains
PERCY HURTADO / Contributor via Getty Images

Machu Picchu is a well-known historical landmark that has symbolized the Inca Empire for many years. But based on a recent paper, the highly visited ruin in Peru has been called by the wrong name ever since it was refound in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. This is what researchers found...

In the 15th century, the Incan citadel started to be built. But unfortunately, at around 1572, the historical site, which is found atop the Andes Mountains, was abandoned by its creators. According to research conducted after examining Bingham's data, the first name that was given to the landmark was Huayna Picchu. This information was uncovered after they looked at three different sources of data: which included maps and names from the 19th century, various 17th-century land documents, and Bingham field notes. After investigating it all, they found that the Incas chose this name because nearby the site, towards the north, was a rocky mountaintop. When it was rediscovered, researchers believed that the name was Machu Picchu after the highest mountain near the building area, which was more towards the south.

peru mountains machu picchu
Three Lions / Stringer via Getty Images
Advertisement

The authors of the paper - historian Donato Amado Gonzales from the Ministry of Culture of Peru and archaeologist Brian Bauer from the University of Illinois Chicago - explained more. "We began with the uncertainty of the name of the ruins when Bingham first visited them and then reviewed several maps and atlases printed before Bingham's visit to the ruins," explained Bauer. "There is significant data which suggest that the Inca city actually was called Picchu or more likely, Huayna Picchu.'" For example, the town of Huayna Picchi was discovered to be named in a 1904 map, which was published just a few years before the American explorer Bingham was in Peru. Also, when the traveler was in Peru in 1912, he was given information about ruins named Huayna Picchu that were said to be along the Urubamba River. A landowner's son even told Bingham that was the original name, but despite that, the inaccurate name of Machu Picchu seemed to stick around. 

machu picchu mountains history
Images Press / Contributor via Getty Images

For over 100 years, historians and people worldwide have referred to these historical ruins by the wrong name - thanks to Bingham's research. But once again, thanks to the explorer's work, new data published in Ñawpa Pacha: Journal of Andean Archaeology has revealed more about the mesmerising site...

Advertisement