By: Daniel Nardini

Like Machu Picchu, it is located high up in the mountains. Like Machu Picchu, a large wall surrounds the complex of ruined plazas, temples and a central building called “the castle.” And like Machu Picchu, it had been abandoned and not discovered until the early 20th Century. However, this complex was built around 1,600 years ago—long before the Incas came to the area and long before Machu Picchu was built. This city complex, known by the Quechua name of Marcahuachuco (meaning, “people of the men with hawk-like headdresses”), was known to the Incas. Marcahuachuco was actually discovered in 1900, and archeologists have in fact been working on trying to figure out who built the city complex, why it was built where it is, and why it was abandoned. These questions are still being asked over 100 years after Marcahuachuco was discovered.

The archeologists do not have much to go on. Much of the city complex had been looted in antiquity, so there are very few objects that have been found. So who built the complex is still an unknown. The Incas did not know who built it either, so the only possibility of learning who created this complex can only be done by archeology. What the archeologists are looking for are tombs of kings or priests who might shed light on Marcahuachuco. At this point none have been found. So far there are only three things that the archeologists do know about Marcahuachuco. The city complex was built between 350 and 400 A.D. (based on soil samples of the foundations). It thrived for 700 years, and then by the 13th Century it was abandoned. The rains and weather crumbled much of the city complex, and for centuries other native South American peoples had robbed its treasures.

Recently, the Global Heritage Fund has been helping the archeologists try to learn more about Marcahuachuco. The Global Heritage Fund is trying to prepare the city complex for possible tourism. This way the Peruvian government can make money to help fund the site and hopefully learn more about Marcahuachuco. With tourism dollars, it is hoped that Marcahuachuco will be preserved for future generations and we will have more knowledge about who built it and the people who lived there.

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