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Machu Picchu
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We might have been getting the name Machu Picchu wrong all along

According to a new report, the Unesco World Heritage Site should actually be called ‘Huayna Picchu’

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham

You know when someone corrects your pronunciation of something, forcing you to sheepishly admit you’ve been saying it wrong for years? Well, a hell of a lot of us may have been doing that with the Unesco World Heritage site of Machu Picchu… for more than 100 years. Embarrassing, eh?

According to a new report, locals actually called the Peruvian settlement ‘Huayna Picchu’ or even just ‘Picchu’. The paper, titled ‘The Ancient Inca Town Named Huayna Picchu’, was written by Donato Amado Gonzales and Brian S. Bauer, and used centuries-old documents, maps and field notes to figure out the site’s real name.

Huayna/Machu Picchu was built by the Incas in the fifteenth century but abandoned around a century later. It was rediscovered in 1911 by American explorer Hiram Bingham, and the ruins have been known as Machu Picchu ever since.

But Gonzales and Bauer claim that ‘Machu Picchu’ is actually the name of a mountain near the ruins, while the Incas themselves would have referred to it as ‘Huayna Picchu’ – likely because this was their name for another summit near the site.

In other words, there’s a good chance we’ve been butchering Huayna Picchu for more than a century. But whatever you want to call it, the town is undeniably one of the world’s most fascinating archaeological sites. Sat high in the Andes, surrounded by rolling clouds and jaw-dropping mountain scenery, there’s a reason it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

Interested in finding out more about the site’s origins? You can read the paper here.

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