Humanities › History & Culture Machu Picchu, Peru: Wonder of the World Share Flipboard Email Print Gina Carey History & Culture Ancient History and Culture Figures & Events Ancient Languages Greece Egypt Asia Rome Mythology & Religion American History African American History African History Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By N.S. Gill Ancient History and Latin Expert M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota B.A., Latin, University of Minnesota N.S. Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. our editorial process N.S. Gill Updated June 10, 2019 At an altitude of about 8000 feet, Machu Picchu, now one of the 7 wonders of the world, is a small city in the Andes, about 44 miles northwest of Cuzco, Peru, which was once the political heart of the Inca Empire.. and about 3000 feet above the Urubamba Valley. It covers 80,000 acres and means "Old Peak" in the indigenous Quechua. History of the Lost City Inca ruler Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (or Sapa Inca Pachacuti) built Machu Picchu in the mid-15th century. It appears to have been a royal estate or sacred, ceremonial city with an astronomical observatory. The largest peak in Machu Picchu, called Huayna Picchu, is known as "hitching post of the sun." The city was probably occupied for fewer than 150 years. Smallpox devastated Machu Picchu before the conqueror of the Inca, the Spaniard Francisco Pizarro, arrived. Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham discovered the ruins of the city in 1911. Most of the roughly 150 buildings in Machu Picchu were built of granite so their ruins look like part of the mountains. The Inca made regular blocks of granite fit so tightly together (without mortar) that there are areas where a knife cannot fit between the stones. Many buildings had trapezoidal doors and thatched roofs. They used irrigation to grow corn and potatoes. Today, Machu Picchu is an iconic mountain top tourist destination.