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Peru celebrates “100 years of Machu Picchu in the world”

Monday, July 11th 2011 - 07:57 UTC
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Annual visitors peaked at 858.000 in 2008 Annual visitors peaked at 858.000 in 2008

Peru is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, one of the seven new wonders of the world which sits high in the mountains at an altitude of 2.430 meters of difficult access.

The stone architectural complex in the region of Cuzco, thought to date back to the 1450s, was revealed to the world after Hiram Bingham arrived there in July 2011 at the head of a scientific expedition.

Many historians have since dismissed claims that Bingham, a US explorer often cited as one of the inspirations for the character Indiana Jones, discovered Machu Picchu.

It is now widely accepted that a Peruvian got there before him and a German, Augusto R Berns, may have looted the site in the late 19th century long before Bingham's arrival.

But Bingham is still credited with bringing the archaeological wonder to the attention of the world and Peru's government has tried to sidestep the controversy by deciding to celebrate “100 years of Machu Picchu in the world”.

President Alan Garcia traveled to the area to join in the celebrations, which were marked by Andean rituals and live music.

UNESCO declared the citadel a World Heritage Site in 1983 but in June this year decided not to include it on a list of endangered heritage sites. However, it did warn that the site will be subjected to an “enhanced surveillance” amid concerns that the increasing flow of tourists could endanger the stability of the mountain on which Machu Picchu was built.

The number of visitors peaked at 858,000 in 2008 but has now been capped at 1,800 a day on the recommendation of UNESCO - which amounted to 700,000 visitors in 2010, according to Fernando Astete, director of the Archaeological Park of Machu Picchu.

Most archaeologists believe that the citadel was built for the Inca emperor Pachacuti. The Incas started building the “estate” around AD 1400, but abandoned it as an official site for the Inca rulers a century later at the time of the Spanish conquest.

In 2007 it was named as one of the Seven New Wonders of the World after a global internet poll.

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