The remains of the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu, Peru, were discovered in 1912 by Hiram Bingham.

Photograph by Bates Littlehales, National Geographic
  • On July 24, 1911, American historian Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu, an ancient Inca settlement in Peru. Bingham was fascinated by the “lost” history of the Inca Empire, and intrigued by the ruins he explored near the city of Cusco. A farmer told Bingham and his team that there were more ruins on top of a nearby mountain. The farmer called the mountain Machu Picchu, an indigenous phrase for "old peak." Bingham and his team walked and rode mules to the top of the mountain, where they saw the stone entrance to the old city.

    Machu Picchu has enormous significance as an archaeological site, largely because it remained untouched during Peru’s Spanish colonial period. Archaeologists consider pre-Columbian sites like Machu Picchu “intact.” Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    ancient Adjective

    very old.

    archaeological site Noun

    place where evidence of the past is being studied by scientists.

    colonialism Noun

    type of government where a geographic area is ruled by a foreign power.

    destination Noun

    place where a person or thing is going.

    discover Verb

    to learn or understand something for the first time.

    enormous Adjective

    very large.

    explorer Noun

    person who studies unknown areas.

    fascinate Verb

    to cause an interest in.

    Inca Noun

    people and culture native to the Andes Mountains and Pacific coast of South America.

    indigenous Adjective

    characteristic to or of a specific place.

    intrigue Verb

    to inspire interest or curiosity.

    pre-Columbian Adjective

    having to do with the Americas before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492.

    ruin Noun

    remains of a destroyed building or set of buildings.

    settlement Noun

    community or village.

    significance Noun

    importance.

    tourist Noun

    person who travels for pleasure.