There are beautiful structures and there are absolute works of art. These aren’t the classic (or even the ancient) seven wonders of the world but as far as iconic architectural marvels go, these rank right amongst the most symbolic edifices of their times. Significantly these seven structures continue to draw visitors by droves, and their significance was formally recognized when they were officially voted as the ‘new 7 wonders of the world,’ a few years back.
1. Machu Picchu
The ruins of Machu Picchu, rediscovered in 1911 by Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham, are one of the most beautiful ancient sites in the world. While the Inca people utilized the Andean mountain top (9060 feet), erecting massive stone structures from the early 1400’s, legends and myths indicate that Machu Picchu (meaning ‘Old Peak’ in the Quechua language) was revered as a sacred place from a far earlier time. Whatever its origins, the Inca turned the site into a small but extraordinary city. Invisible from below and completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces sufficient to feed the population, and watered by natural springs, Machu Picchu seems to have been utilized by the Inca as a secret ceremonial city. The structures, carved from the gray granite of the mountain top are wonders of both architectural and aesthetic genius. Many of the building blocks weigh 50 tons or more yet they are sculpted so precisely and fitted together with such exactitude that the mortar-less joints will not permit the insertion of even a thin knife blade. One of Machu Picchu’s primary functions was as an astronomical observatory and several stone structures around the site have been shown to record the exact dates of key periods in both solar and lunar cycles. One particularly fascinating astronomical sighting device is called the Intihuatana Stone, the ‘Hitching Post of the Sun,’ and shamanic legends say that when sensitive persons touch their foreheads to this stone, the Intihuatana opens one’s vision to the spirit world. When an Intihuatana stone was broken at an Inca shrine, the Inca believed that the deities of the place died or departed. The Spanish conquistadors never found Machu Picchu therefore the Intihuatana stone and its resident spirits remain at the site. The mountain top sanctuary fell into disuse and was abandoned some forty years after the Spanish conquered Cuzco in 1533.