Top Ten Archaeological Ruins

North & South America: Machu Picchu, Peru

Follow the Inca Trail to the archaeological wonder of Machu Picchu high in the Andes mountains. This sacred city of the Incas is perhaps South America's largest tourist site, with a thousand visitors roaming the ruins per day. Machu Picchu is both the best and least known of the Inca ruins. Archaeologists today can only speculate on its function. The city was hidden for centuries, even eluding the Spanish conquistadors rapacious reach. It was known to a handful of Quechua peasants who farmed the area, but the outside world was unaware of its existence until the American historian Hiram Bingham stumbled on it almost by accident in 1911. Centuries of vegetation covered the city, and Bingham returned in 1912 and 1915 to carry out the difficult tasks of clearing the thick forest and mapping the site. Despite the discovery and revival of the ruins, much remains unknown. The discovery of over 50 burial sites, 80 percent of which contained female remains, led some to speculate that the city housed the Inca's chosen women. But no one is sure why it was abandoned.


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