Researchers Find Evidence That Machu Picchu Is Older Than Once Believed

Researchers originally believed the Inca ruins were built after 1440.

Researchers are one step closer to understanding more about Machu Picchu, as a new study revealed the true age of these ancient Inca ruins. It turns out that they're actually several decades older than experts originally thought.

Using radiocarbon dating technology, a team of researchers determined that the emperor Pachacuti, who built Machu Picchu, came into power earlier than initial records indicated. This means that his earliest conquests, and eventually the construction of Machu Picchu, also happened earlier, CNN Travel reports.

Referring to historical documents written by Spanish conquistadors, experts originally believed that Machu Picchu was built after 1440, or perhaps even after 1450. Richard Burger, a professor of anthropology at Yale University, and his team of researchers used accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dating of human remains to reach the new conclusion that the site was built decades earlier.

"This is the first study based on scientific evidence to provide an estimate for the founding of Machu Picchu and the length of its occupation," Burger said in a news release announcing their findings.

Majestic mountain landscape, Machu Picchu, Peru
Bérenger Zyla/Getty Images

The study used the remains of 26 individuals found during a 1912 excavation of a Machu Picchu cemetery. AMS technology only needs a small amount of organic matter to complete a study, allowing Burger and his team to more accurately date these skeletons.

Though the study admits the "limitations" of radiocarbon dating, it also calls into question the reliability of using documents from Spanish conquistadors and other colonizers to accurately date ancient ruins in the Americas.

"Perhaps the time has come for the radiocarbon evidence to assume priority in reconstructions of the chronology of the Inca emperors and the dating of Inca monumental sites such as Machu Picchu," the study says.

Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but she's always on the lookout for her next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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