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A Tale Of Two Lost Cities: Machu Picchu and Choquequirao (cont.)
By Brien Foerster

The name Machu Picchu was what Bingham named this amazing find, simply due to the fact that Pablito’s father had told that the ruins that Bingham sought were on a mountain of that name. The name stuck, and ever since then the citadel itself has been called that; however, that is not the name by which the Inca called it. Jesus Gamarra, Cusco historian and student of the megalithic structures for more than 40 years, preceded by his father Alfredo, states that the original name of the “lost city” is and was Yllampu; Quechua for “the Dwelling Place of the Gods.” Jesus and his father have, over the course of their exhaustive studies identified at least 3 distinct construction techniques used at Yllampu and other Cusco and Sacred Valley locations which conventional scholars completely dismiss, due to the earth shattering implications that they reveal. But more of this later…

Choquequirao (Cradle of Gold in Quechua) is regarded as having been a “sister city” of Yllampu, located in the department of Apurimac, about 30 km southwest of her famous “sibling.” The building of Chocquequirao is thought to have been the work of Inca Pachacutec successors Tupac Inca Yupanqui (1471-1 493) and Wayna Capac (1493-1527), with Pachacutec being the presumed builder of Yllampu. Household and ceremonial pottery has been found at Choquequirao that bears both the classic Cusco style and also from other populations who came to live here to build and permanently populate the area. Most likely, they were experienced farmers who knew how to build and use farming terraces in high Amazon forest areas. Located at 3 050 masl on the border with department of Apurímac, the Choquequirao archaeological compound was not built to be a place of easy access. Reaching it demands two days of disciplined march, largely compensated by the beauty of the landscape that wayfarers cross from the beginning of their expedition. Hence, Choquequirao averages less than 20 visitors per day, while Yllampu has 2000 or more.

Choquequirao's first non-Incan visitor was the explorer Juan Arias Díaz in 1710. The first written site reference in 1768 was made by Cosme Bueno, but was ignored at the time. In 1834 Eugene de Santiges rediscovered the site. In 1837 Leonce Agrand mapped the site for the first time, but his maps were forgotten. When Hiram Bingham, visited Choquequirao in 1909 the site gained more attention. The first excavations started in the 1970s.

It is clearly the lack of easy access to Choquequirao that has impeded mass tourism, while Yllampu has service that basically takes you to its doorstep. A bus takes you from the center of Cusco to Ollantaytambo, where a train the carries you in comfort to Aguas Calientes. From there, another bus takes you up the hair pin turns of a road built after Hiram Bingham’s time to the ticket gate.

Approximately 40% of the Choquequirao Inca ceremonial center has been cleared of vegetation. The remaining area is formed by a complex terrace system built on extremely steep slopes. A very impressive stairway of 180 terraces has been recently spotted; it descends from one of the ceremonial center flanks and reaches the river open to swimming. Yllampu has been largely excavated, on the other hand, but newly found agricultural terraces are currently being cleared as of the writing of this article.

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