In the 6th of February, students from Colegio Menor in Quito Ecuador went on a school field trip to Cusco, Peru. There many students took notes in order to collect as much evidence as possible for this research. Each group of students had to choose a research question in order to have a lead into where to focus the most when looking for evidence. In the following research paper the reader will encounter many aspects about how Machu Picchu was greatly hidden from the Spanish conquistadors. This research paper will describe the ways Incan people used to hide Machu Picchu from the conquistadors using aspects like geography and architecture; furthermore, these will be connected in order to find a viable answer into why the city was never discovered. Then, the project will revolve around the main idea of Machu Picchu being purposely hidden from the Spanish, and also answer the “so what?” question. This will give the reader a reason to read and learn about the topic that is being explained.
River next to Machu Picchu (photo credit: Rafael Castello)
Research Question: What architectural and geographic factors enabled the Incas from the early 1400’s to prevent the Spanish from discovering Machu Picchu in the early 1500’s?
This research question enables a specific investigation of how the Incas, one of the most notable Andean civilizations, kept Machu Picchu hidden from the Spanish conquistadors. Machu Picchu is an Inca citadel located in the Cusco region of Peru. The architectural and geographical factors of our research question will not only detail how and why Machu Picchu was never conquered by the Spanish conquistadors, this enquiry will also yield meaningful insight about the purpose for and use of Machu Picchu.
Inside Machu Picchu (Photo: Maria Jose Vela)
Hypothesis: Machu Picchu was never discovered by the Spanish conquistadors because of its strategic geographic location and its advanced architectural style.
This hypothesis clearly gives an answer to our research question by detailing specific aspects that prevented the conquistadors from finding Machu Picchu. The geographical aspects that kept the city intact and unbothered by the Spanish were its unconventional location, in the mountains, surrounded by miles of rural area and vegetation and far away from other known cities like Cusco. This hidden location and the way Machu Picchu was built prevented the Spanish from finding the city. As a result of their proficiency building with stone, we predict the Incas were able to construct huge walls and access points that were hard to find or climb.
View of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu (photo credit: Rafael Castello)
Research Methods: Carefully reviewing academic research and primary sources observed in the field enabled a meaningful analysis of why the Spanish conquistadors did not conquer Machu Picchu.
The sources that we chose to help answer our research guarantee a credible foundation for this research, based on qualified experts that write articles for respected publishers. More specifically, the use of the Ancient History Encyclopedia and National Geographic, which we encountered during our research, offered a professional base of knowledge which could develop our thinking about the aspects that prevented the Spanish conquistadors from conquering Machu Picchu, as well as other valuable information about the citadel.
Moreover, field observations of the landscape, the location, and the ruins of Machu Picchu provided a powerful source of photographic evidence of the information presented within our research. Also, we asked our tour guides questions about why the Spanish never found or conquered Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu from the Caretaker's house (photo credit: Andrew Eland)
Conclusion: Before the Incas abandoned Machu Picchu, they prevented the Spanish conquistadors from finding and conquering the citadel because the city was covered by vegetation, surrounded by miles of rural area, and had an unconventional location.
We confirm our hypothesis because the Spanish conquistadors were unable to discover Machu Picchu due to the citadel’s uncommon location, environment, architectural style, and its abandonment. Evidence collected before and during our visit to Machu Picchu enable this confirmation of our hypothesis. Our research leads us to the conclusion that the Spanish conquistadors could not find Machu Picchu due to the citadel’s location and architecture.
The strategic location of Machu Picchu enables its stealth and contributed greatly to the failure of Spanish colonizers to discover the city. The Incas positioned this citadel in a way where the vegetation and the surrounding mountains covered it from this skepticism that the Spanish may have had. The Incan architectural skills caused the houses and structures to be molded into the shape of the mountain (Cartwright, 2014, para. 6). Based on field observations, we can speculate that the dense vegetation that surrounded the citadel, caused it to remain undiscovered. In addition, another reason that kept Machu Picchu a secret from the Spanish is that the Incas left their city and moved to Paititi, which is a city hidden somewhere within the rainforests of southeast Peru, in order to distract the Spanish so that they could never find it (Dobson, 2016, para. 3). Furthermore, this contributed to the already stated fact of Machu Picchu being abandoned by the Incas and never encountered by the Spanish conquistadors due to its architecture and geography.
The architecture of Machu Picchu also prevented the Spanish conquistadors from finding and destroying the citadel. Machu Picchu unveils important information about the architectural style the Incas possessed. Due to the preservation of Machu Picchu, archeologists and historians are able to speculate that, “The complex of palaces and plazas, temples and homes may have been built as a ceremonial site, a military stronghold, or a retreat for ruling elites” (Reinhard, 2010, para. 2). As explained above the ingenuity of the Incas, the history of Machu Picchu was preserved, so historians were able to uncover more secrets that the culture hid about their lifestyle. In conclusion, Machu Picchu was a very important ceremonial site and that is why the Incas had it hidden and protected.
View of Machu Picchu (photo credit: Pedro Szekely)
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