Do you think you know the name of the mountain depicted here?
If your answer is Machu Picchu, then we have some shocking news for you!
The mountain that you can see here is in fact called Huayna Picchu, a little known fact to most people looking at our hand drawn maps. There is some good news since the historic site that hosts the buildings is constructed on the mountain of Machu Picchu itself. However recent research indicates that maybe we have been using the wrong name for over 100 years and it should in fact be known as Huayna Picchu. So how have we possibly been getting the name wrong for so long?
In 1911 Hiram Bingham the explorer was led up through steep trails to a magnificent set of Incan ruins that he was told were called Huayna Picchu. Seeking clarification a couple of days later he heard the contradictory view point that he was at Machu Picchu. Possibly the second statement was due to the ruins being on Machu Picchu mountain despite the local name of Picchu or Huayna Picchu being the accepted local name for over 500 years.
Hiram Bingham opted for the second name and all reports of his ‘discovery’ to the outside world used the name Machu Picchu. By the time National Geographic had published a full edition dedicated to the site of Machu Picchu the name had stuck. Machu Picchu was the name the world was to come to know the site by, but what do the historic records say?
Records from the 1500’s refer to a site known as Picchu or Huayna Picchu and none can be found using the name of Machu Picchu. Perhaps the most intriguing comes from 1588 recording the testimony of residents of the Incas last stronghold - Vilcabamba. The residents of Vilcabamba are recorded to have expressed the desire to return to Huayna Picchu the home of their spiritual worship. In terms of historical records the case is clear there is no mention of a Machu Picchu. Now let’s turn to our favorite source of information - maps.
Whilst all historical records point to the name of Huayna Picchu it is interesting to see what names are labeled on maps we have found. The earliest known map of the region was made by famed Italian adventurer Antonio Raimondi. Published in 1865 the regional map contains the peaks of both Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu on it. Clearly there was awareness of the two mountains long before Bingham and the names also appeared on later maps such as the one by Charles Wiener.
Highly respected researchers Donato Amado Gonzalez and Brian Bauer have come to the conclusion that the site should be in fact be called Huayna Picchu. They also recognize the fact that there is little chance of this happening. Our own opinion is that the name Huayna Picchu would have been the more historically accurate one to have been selected, however at least the main ruins themselves are on Machu Picchu mountain itself.
The name Machu Picchu is here to stay but remember you can always tell others that the mountain they are looking at is in fact Huayna Picchu