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Macchu Picchu was King's Country House

Archeologists have a new interpretation of Macchu Picchu, known as the magical "lost city" of the Incas. To get their new evidence, they didn't have to travel to Peru?they simply dug for artifacts in the basement of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale.

Explorer Hiram Bingham III came upon the deserted city in 1911. Ever since then, archeologists have been trying to figure out what a large city was doing 6,750 feet up in the mountains. Some thought the Incas built it when they fled the European invasion. Others thought it was an ancient spiritual center.

It turns out that, in the tradition of Saddam Hussein, it was the country home of the royal family. This conclusion is based on a study of 16th-century Spanish legal documents and an analysis of pottery, copper and bronze jewelry, tools, dwellings, and skeletal remains.

John Noble Wilford writes in The New York Times that all this treasure was shipped back to Yale by Bingham and stored in the Peabody museum's basement, where it remained untouched until recently, when scientists used it to destroy Bingham's own theories about the city he discovered.

Lucy C. Salazar analyzed the pottery and contradicted Bingham's idea that Macchu Picchu was built by the earliest Incas, since all the pottery styles were 15th century. That suggests that construction began around 1450, during the reign of Pachacuti, who was considered the Alexander the Great of the Incas. From Spanish documents, scholars estimate the site was abandoned after only 80 years.

Bingham's theory about Macchu Picchu being a spiritual sanctuary for virgins and priests was overturned in 1990 by anthropologist John Howland Rowe. In archives at Cuzco, the former Inca capital, he found a 16th-century suit filed by the descendants of Pachacuti, who wanted the return of family lands, including a retreat called "Picchu."

Peabody Museum director Richard L. Burger recently returned to the city for another look around. He says, "We then felt this was a royal estate, a country palace. All Macchu Picchu is a big palace, the emperor's residence across from the temple, the dwellings and workshops, everything spread out around a great plaza.''

If we want to know the secrets of the past, we should ask local people about their legends?that's what William Henry does. He talks with Whitley (and gives him a Tarot reading for subscribers!) this Saturday on Dreamland.

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