Recent analysis of human remains buried at Machu Picchu has revealed that the structure is older than previously thought. Located in Peru, Machu Picchu is an Inca citadel located high up in the Andes nearly 8,000 feet up (2,438 meters) on a mountain ridge that archaeologists believe was constructed as an estate for the emperor Pachacuti. It was inhabited by the year 1420 (and perhaps even before then) – several decades earlier than previous estimates that dated the structure between 1440 and 1450.
The new date also provides valuable information in regards to when the Inca Empire rose to power as explained by Richard Burger who is an archaeologist and anthropologist at Yale University in Connecticut, “Machu Picchu is among the most famous archaeological sites in the world, but until now estimates of its antiquity and the length of its occupation were based on contradictory historical accounts written by Spaniards in the period following the Spanish conquest.”
This also suggests that emperor Pachacuti rose to power and started conquering nearby areas earlier than predicted. In an email to Live Science, Dennis Ogburn, who is an anthropologist and archaeologist at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte but wasn’t involved with the study, stated that Inca chronology “shows us not only how fast their empire expanded, but also how long they had to consolidate their control over the provinces they conquered.”
He went on to say, “As we are able to revise and improve the chronology based on radiocarbon dates, we are coming to see that the Inca created and began expanding the Empire perhaps three or four decades earlier than the [historical] chronology indicated.” Furthermore, Machu Picchu would have been inhabited until the year 1530 when it was abandoned due to the Spanish invasion.
Researchers determined this new date by radiocarbon dating 26 human skeletons (thought to have been servants) that were unearthed at the site. They used a technique called accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) to measure the carbon isotopes in the bones.
While it is only a few decades older than previously believed, it is still a pretty significant discovery in regards to Inca history. The study was published in the journal Antiquity where it can be read in full.
Several more pictures of Machu Picchu can be seen here.