Posts Tagged ‘Machu Picchu’

Machu Picchu in the clouds

September 21st, 2012 No comments

There is a good interesting roundup of current theories about Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Times in which the author, Rick Vecchio, sensibly doesn’t commit himself too far in any particular direction…

…Unlike many of the guides at Machu Picchu who are still perfectly capable of telling you that this was where the Inca emperor hid his Virgins Of The Sun and that stone over there was where they sacrificed the black llamas.


For my own brief introduction to the interpretation of the ruins, take a look at the short film I did for CNN last year:  See Hugh’s cut-out-and-keep 5 minute guide to Machu Picchu for CNN.

Then you’ll understand why I prefer to use this picture of my own in which Machu Picchu is covered by cloud, rather than the usual sunlit panorama.  It’s a place we still don’t fully understand although we have recently gained some useful pointers.

The British Museum and a ‘forgotten continent’

September 14th, 2010 2 comments

The British Museum richly deserves the recent donation of 25 million from Lord Sainsbury.  Over the last few years it has been playing at the top of its game, with some breath-taking exhibitions and intelligent curatorship.  In Neil MacGregor it has a capable and charismatic Director, whose series A History of the World in 100 Objects, now just drawing to a close, has been one of the broadcasting successes of the decade.

But – and it is a very big but – there is one stain on an otherwise exemplary stewardship.  Look around the Museum and the visitor will quickly notice that an entire continent has been side-lined, excluded from what claims to be a ‘world museum’.  All the ancient civilisations have a gallery devoted to their achievements except one:  South America.

It is as if the achievements of the Incas and their extraordinary pre-Columbian forbears had never happened:  the wonders of Machu Picchu;  the gold tombs and masks of the Moche, often compared to Tutankhamen;  the Nasca culture who produced the famous lines;  or the many other intriguing pre-Columbian cultures of the Amazon and of Peru.

There are a few objects scattered around amidst other wider collections – but no permanent and focussed gallery;  nor has there been any exhibition about the Incas or South America for many decades; nor is the Museum planning to hold one, though it is perfectly possible– as Paris and New York do frequently – or to get long-term loans for a gallery. It is just that there is no particular will to do so. The Museum actually has plenty of holdings on South America shut up in the basement, left over from the old and now closed Museum of Mankind.

The centenary of the discovery of Machu Picchu falls next year, for instance, an event that the rest of the world is already celebrating – Paris has an exhibition right now – and which we are doing absolutely nothing about. 

The last time that the Museum was given money and Andeanists expected a long-standing wrong finally to be put right, the new gallery unveiled was… a Watch Gallery. Perhaps this time around the money should be used to represent a forgotten continent.

The real story behind the flooding at Machu Picchu

February 13th, 2010 1 comment



During the recent extreme flooding in Peru, media attention centred almost wholly and shamefully on the 1,300 tourists stranded at Machu Picchu. 

Now that they have been airlifted out from their luxury hotels – one told the television cameras that the helicopter ride ‘made his holiday’ – it is worth considering the real impact of the flooding on the people who actually live there.

For the episode is just a waymark in a far more important story.  The Andes is being ripped apart by a series of recent climatic disasters that threaten to destroy the fragile peace established since the terrible period of the Sendero Luminoso when Maoist revolutionaries held Peru to ransom in the 1990s.

Read more…