This world heritage site was named wrong for past 100 years

WION Web Team
NEW DELHI Updated: Mar 24, 2022, 02:52 PM(IST)

Archaeological site of Machu Picchu, in Cusco, Peru Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Almost 100 years after it was brought to the world’s attention, a new academic paper argues that Machu Picchu, a tourist magnet that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, was actually called Huayna Picchu by inhabitants.

A simple misunderstanding may have resulted in the naming of one of the world's most famous archaeological sites.

According to a recent review of historical texts, the ancient Incan city we know as 'Machu Picchu' should probably be called 'Picchu' or 'Huayna Picchu.' 

When Hiram Bingham, a white American historian and explorer, was initially taken to the old Incan remains in 1911, he asked a local landowner to record the site's name in his field journal.

Hiram observed that when the phrase "Macho Pischo" was spoken aloud, it sounded more like "pecchu."

The moniker stuck from then on.

This title has been repeated over the world for more than a century, on maps, papers, and history books.

Some specialists just began to question the term in the 1990s. 


Many Cusco residents were unaware of the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu until the early twentieth century.

However, the mountains on either side of the long-forgotten city were well-known.

In most images, the little and steep mountain behind the ruins is known as 'Huayna Picchu,' while the bigger, sloped hill to the south is known as 'Machu Picchu.'

Bingham's diaries mention a conversation with Adolfo Quevedo, a local politician who referred to the remains as 'Huayna Picchu.'

A local farmer approached Bingham's group a few days later and informed them that nearby were some ruins known as 'Huayna Picchu.'

Other ruins, he claimed, could be found on the peak of Machu Picchu mountain, however they were considerably smaller in scale than those found closer to Huayna Picchu.

Bingham later referred to the place as 'Maccu Piccu, Huayna Pichu' in his journal.

Bingham finally settled on 'Machu Picchu' after Arteaga jotted down the now famous name in answer to Bingham's inquiries.

However, it's possible that Arteaga was referring to the remains of Machu Picchu rather than Huayna Picchu. 

(With inputs from agencies)

Read in App