New research shows that Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan citadel set high in the Andes Mountains in Peru, was occupied from about 1420 to 1532 CE, with activity beginning two decades earlier than suggested by the textual sources.
Machu Picchu, located about 80 km (50 miles) from Cusco, Peru, is one of the most famous archaeological sites in South America.
The precise dating of the monumental complex, however, relies largely on documentary sources.
“Since its ‘scientific discovery’ in 1911, this Inca country palace has become widely recognized and is now probably the best-known archaeological site in South America,” said Yale University Professor Richard Burger and colleagues.
“In 1983, Machu Picchu was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was visited by over a million travelers each year.”
“Historical sources dating from the Spanish invasion of the Inca Empire indicate that Inca Emperor Pachacuti seized power in 1438 and subsequently conquered the lower Urubamba Valley where Machu Picchu is located.”
“Based on those records, scholars have estimated that the site was built after 1440, and perhaps as late as 1450, depending on how long it took Pachacuti to subdue the region and construct the stone palace.”
The researchers used accelerator mass spectrometry, an advanced form of radiocarbon dating, to analyze human samples from 26 individuals recovered from burial contexts at Machu Picchu.