The fortress of Machu Picchu
was occupied during different periods. Judging from the crˇnicas
(early written history), the building style and the ceramic articles
found, the following Periods have been calculated:
Early: 1300 ad
Classical: 1400 ad
Imperial: 1533 ad
Transition: 1533-1572 ad
MACHU PICCHU FOUNDATION
Most modern archaeologists and historians coincide that
Machu Picchu was built by the Inca Pachacutec, the greatest
statesman in Tahuantinsuyo, who governed from 1438 to 1471. Archaeologists
infer that the citadel's construction dates from the fifteenth century
approximately, a date confirmed by carbon 14 (radioactive carbon)
Machu Picchu's construction coincides with the
start of the expansion of the small feudal kingdom of the Incas.
According to archaeologists, the final battle defining the Incas'
victory over the Chancas, a prestigious victory that gave much power
to Inca Pachacutec, was fought in this area.
Pachacutec was the first Inca to expand beyond the valley of Cusco after his epic victory over the Chancas. He was the author of Tahuantinsuyo's expansion and is recognized as the "constructor" of Cusco. This was one of his greatest works.
Machu Picchu's origin is attributed, with a certain
degree of authority to Pachacutec, a warlike leader, noted for both
territorial conquests and the development of religion and spirituality.
This is why present archaeological researchers tend to support the
theory that it was a royal hacienda destined for the worship of
the Inca's gods, as well as a mighty challenge to the monarch's
Built as a refuge for the elite of Inca aristocracy, the fortress was located on the eastern slope of the Vilcanota Cordillera, some 80 km from Cusco, the capital of the empire. Its strategic geographic location was amazingly well chosen.
Surrounded by steep cliffs and secluded from the sight of strangers by the thick jungle around it, the citadel of Machu Picchu had the special virtue of possessing only one narrow entry point, which enabled a successful defense by a handful of warriors in the event of surprise attack.
Occupied by at least three generations of Incas, the fortress of Machu Picchu was abandoned in a sudden and mysterious way. The most likely theories explain its disappearance from historical memory by the fact that its existence was unknown to the lower castes, and all but the small circle of the Inca's immediate retinue were forbidden to approach it.
Pachacutec's conquests included the valley of Tampu, that was inhabited by a sister tribe to the Cusco, but one that did not escape its all-encompassing rule. Due to its natural beauty and mild climate (one of the best in the Andes), as well as its fertile soil, Tampu was chosen by Pachacutec as the seat of the new imperial nobility, and the valley was embellished with several of Tahuantinsuyo's most attractive cities, such as Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu.
The choice of Machu Picchu's site must have been made with great care, because it was, and still is, the ideal place to locate a center for worship. According to researcher Antonio Zapata, it is located in a mountain chain of sacred significance, starting at Salcantay (the apu, or great spirit) and ending in Huayna Picchu.
It was a privileged spot to view the heavens and the movements of sun and stars, which were the deities of the Incas. Moreover, according to his research, there was a nearby quarry supplying white granite of very fine quality.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE URUBAMBA OR TAMPU VALLEY
For the Incas, the valley of the Urubamba river is the entry point to the jungle, the Antisuyo, the amazon, the land of the chunchos. The river's ancient name was Willka Mayu or Sun River, and the snowy peak which was its source was called Willkan Uta or "the house of the sun". This valley was inextricably linked to the worship of the sun, since willka is the quechua term for the sun god, a word which was formerly preferred to the now popular inti.
Before the founding of the Tahuantinsuyo in the fifteenth century, the Urubamba river valley was inhabited by small curacazgos or tribal groupings in regions under the authority of a curaca or chieftain. The higher part was occupied by the Kanchis, who often made war against the Collas (or coyas) of the altiplano (high Andean plateau). Further down lived the Ayarmacas, whose curacas termed themselves Tocay Capac. Near the road to Cusco, in the present province of Canchis, Pinau Capac had under his command part of the Cusco valley.
In the legend on how the world was originally distributed, the beneficiaries are named as Manco Capac, Colla Capac, Tocay Capac and Pinau Capac. This is an indication that in epochs preceding Tahuantinsuyo, these were the commanders of the valley of the Urubamba or Tampu river, as it was known in those days
The quechua word tampu has two meanings: that of "inn", and that of a home outside the city. The more frequent meaning is the first one, and this word has survived in local "Castilian" Spanish as tambo (dairy establishment). It is found in many compound toponyms such as Limatambo (Lima Inn), Tambomachay (Cave of the Tampus), and Pacaritambo (Pakarejtampu = where the Tampus appeared).
The meaning of Tampu as the name of a people is used for the curacazgo that inhabited that valley before the Incas. As mentioned in the legends, this was one of the founding nations of Cusco (Qosqo), together with the Maska, the Mara and the Quillke. The legend claiming that Cusco was founded by the four Ayar brothers is based on these four nations.
Thus, according to this legend, the Masca would be represented by Manco Capac (the founder-hero), the Tampu by Ayar Uchu, the Mara by Ayar Kachi and the Quillke by Ayar Auca. Uchu means "garlic", a plant that is widely grown in the Cusco valley due to its suitable altitude and climate.