NOVA: Ghosts Of Machu Picchu
Airs Wed., July 17, 2013 at 9 p.m. & Sunday, July 21 at 3 p.m. on KPBS TV
Originally published February 1, 2010 at 4 p.m., updated July 16, 2013 at 11:41 a.m.
Perched atop a mountain crest, mysteriously abandoned more than four centuries ago, Machu Picchu is the most famous archeological ruin in the Western hemisphere and an iconic symbol of the power and engineering prowess of the Inca.
Inca Skull Surgery
The Inca were not only skilled engineers and warriors but also successful surgeons. Five hundred years ago, without the benefit of steel scalpels or antibiotics, the Inca performed a type of operation called trepanation—literally carving holes in patients' skulls. How did they do it, and why? In this audio slideshow, bioarcheologist Valerie Andrushko of Southern Connecticut State University explains.
In the years since Machu Picchu was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, there have been countless theories about this "Lost City of the Incas," yet it remains an enigma. Why did the Incas build it on such an inaccessible site, clinging to the steep face of a mountain? Who lived among its stone buildings, farmed its emerald green terraces, and drank from its sophisticated aqueduct system?
NOVA joins a new generation of archeologists as they probe areas of Machu Picchu that haven't been touched since the time of the Incas and unearth burials of the people who built the sacred site. "Ghosts Of Machu Picchu" explores the extraordinary trail of clues that began on that fateful day in 1911 and continues to the present.
Rise of the Inca
The growth of the Inca Empire can only be described as meteoric. Though precise dates for its beginnings remain elusive, the realm known to the Inca as Tahuantinsuyu, or "The Four Parts Together," arose sometime in the early 1400s and ended in 1532, when the Spaniard Pizarro captured and executed the final Inca ruler, Atahualpa, dealing a fatal blow to what had been the largest indigenous empire in the Americas. How did the Incas rise so quickly?
In this interview, Terence D'Altroy, a professor of anthropology at Columbia University and author of "The Incas," describes the diverse and innovative strategies that helped secure the Incas a domain almost as vast as the Roman Empire.