Of Old and New Peaks

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Peru’s most famous archaeological site, Machu Picchu, has been wrongly named for more than 100 years, CNN reported.

The majestic Machu Picchu – which means “old mountain peak” in the Indigenous Quechua language – was part of the Incan empire that spanned from what is now south-central Bolivia to a large portion of Chile.

The settlement was built around 1420 and is believed to have been an estate for royals living in the Incan capital of Cuzco.

Following the Spanish conquest, the settlement was abandoned for hundreds of years until American explorer Hiram Bingham came across it in 1911.

Bingham decided to give the ancient city its current name based on information provided by his guide, but he added in his notes that he was uncertain of the name when he first visited it.

In a new report, researchers Donato Amado Gonzales and Brian Bauer reviewed Bingham’s notes and a number of historical documents, including maps and atlases printed before the explorer’s visit.

Their findings showed that the city was actually named Huayna Picchu, which means “new mountain peak” or “young mountain peak.” One 1588 report also mentioned that the Indigenous population of the Vilcabamba region was considering returning to Huayna Picchu.

Gonzales and Bauer noted that previous non-Peruvian archaeologists did not properly research the name and didn’t grasp the local Quechua. The report also challenges the narrative that Bingham discovered the site.

Despite the findings, it’s unlikely that the site’s name will be changed, the team noted.

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