Nestled atop a mountain ridge in Peru, the 15th-century Inca city of Machu Picchu had sat largely forgotten for centuries—until archaeologist Hiram Bingham began excavations of the ruins a hundred years ago this week.
Now one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, Machu Picchu’s original purpose is still unknown—though many archaeologists think they are closer to finding an answer.
Here are some of the top theories about Machu Picchu proposed—and in some cases disproven—the century since its “rediscovery.”
1) Machu Picchu Was the Last Inca City
During his lifetime, Bingham, of Yale University, had two theories regarding the purpose of Machu Picchu. The first—that it was the birthplace of Inca society—came about when he was led to the site by local farmers in 1911. Read more.