The sun was worshipped by the Incas and they believed that their rulers were the children of the sun. When Hiram Bingham rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911, one of the first questions asked was why such a beautiful site had been built in such a remote and difficult to access location. There have been many theories. One is that it was a sort of holiday place for the king and the nobility. Others believe that the location was ideally situated for an observatory and temple to be built as it was perfectly situated to harness the natural wonder of the solstices against the magnificent backdrop of the surrounding mountains. Each year on June 21st, during the Winter Solstice, the rays of the sun shines through one of the two windows of The Sun Temple and forms a mysterious rectangle on a slab of granite. The Sun Temple was believed to have been used to worship Inti, the Sun god. Only the priests were allowed inside this inner sanctum of the temple. The nobility was allowed to stand in their own separate area while the peasants were allocated a place further away from the priest and the nobility where they could witness the Winter Solstice ceremony. The sun was an integral part of Mayan culture. It represented light and life and a constant point upon which they built their very sophisticated calendar. By closely tracking the movement of the sun and observing the night sky, the Maya were able to learn and make better decisions about the best time to grow crops and other important agricultural decisions.
Recently, Dr. Magli proposed another theory. He believes that the trip to Machu Picchu from Cusco (the religious and government capital of the Incas) was a pilgrimage of sorts which mimicked the first trip that Manco Capac (founder of Incas) and his sister/wife, Mama Ocllo, took when they left their home, The Island of the Sun, on Lake Titicaca. This journey would have finished when the pilgrims reached the Intihuatana Stone, the highest point in the main Machu Picchu terrace. I think this is a very nice theory, especially as there are still no established explanations for the stone’s purpose. Some believe it was a solar clock or a calendar of sorts, but no evidence has been found to substantiate this claim.
While Hiram Bingham is often credited for having found the lost city of Machu Picchu, it was never technically ‘lost.’ There were actually three families living on the site when Bingham and his party finally made their way up. The locals always knew of the city’s existence. Like the clouds which descend and shroud the forgotten city from outsiders, Mach Picchu still holds a lot of unanswered questions for archaeologists. A romantic part of me, however, hopes that Machu Picchu will be allowed to keep some of her secrets forever. After all, this has added to Machu Picchu’s mystery and enduring appeal.