Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Magical Machu Picchu

At an altitude of about 8000 feet, Machu Picchu (Old Mountain), now one of the 7 wonders of the world, is a small city in the Andes, about 44 miles northwest of Cuzco and about 3000 feet above the Urubama Valley. Inca ruler Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui built Machu Picchu in the mid-15th century. It appears to have been a sacred, ceremonial city and astronomical observatory. The largest peak in Machu Picchu, called Huayna Picchu, is known as "hitching post of the sun." The setting high in the mountains is magical.

Most of the roughly 150 buildings in Machu Picchu were built of granite so their ruins look like part of the mountains. The Inca made regular blocks of granite fit so tightly together (without mortar) that there are areas where a knife cannot fit between the stones. Many of the stones used in the site construction weigh in excess of 50 tons. More than 100 stone stairways connect the upper and lower levels of the site.

Many buildings had trapezoidal doors and thatched roofs. They used irrigation to grow corn and potatoes. Smallpox devastated the Machu Picchu before the conqueror of the Inca, the Spaniard Francisco Pizarro, arrived.

The iconic Huayna Picchu Mountain rises up above Machu Picchu. Brave visitors can hike the narrow trail up to the peak which is higher than Macchu Picchu. When I visited, my husband went up and I stayed at our hotel Inkaterra to visit the fabulous gardens with many species of orchids.

Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham discovered the ruins of the city in 1911. It is pretty clear that the site was never really "lost." Bingham got a lot wrong in his book on Machu Picchu, but there is no doubt that his work in Peru brought the world's attention to the ancient culture of the Inca.

I created several works based on archival pigment prints of digital photos I took of the stones at the site. I then used traditional printmaking techniques to layer images on top of the stone photos. I also used silk organza transfers of traditional Incan motifs. The flowers refer to my visit to the gardens at Inkaterra, our wonderful hotel.

InkaTerra 4

Inka Terra 3

Inka Terra 2

Inka Terra 1

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