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Terraces, Rubbish Dump Found at Peru's Machu Picchu

Reuters, Friday 7 June 2002, 4:50 PM ET

LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - Archeologists doing maintenance at the famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu have found new stone terraces, water channels, a rubbish dump and a wall dividing the site's urban sector from its temples, an official said on Friday.

We were clearing away weeds when we were surprised to discover new stone structures, including a wall 6.8 meters (22 feet) high with fine masonry which separates the urban from the sacred zone, Fernando Astete, administrator of Machu Picchu and member of the National Institute of Culture, told Reuters.

He said archeologists had also found terraces and a large rubbish dumb from the citadel in a steep valley which separates the citadel and the Urubamba river.

The terraces and the rubbish dump—which is something archeologists always look for because there are ceramics and other ancient waste—are in a very low area of the valley, very deep. We had to go down with ropes. We also found a woman's silver brooch, Astete said.

Machu Picchu is near the southern Andean city of Cusco, some 684 miles southeast of Lima. Cusco was capital of the mighty Inca empire from the 13th to the 16th century. The Inca empire stretched from Colombia to Chile.

The gray stone citadel of Machu Picchu, perched at the top of a mountain near the edge of the jungle, is Peru's top tourist attraction and a U.N. World Heritage site, drawing 500,000 foreign visitors a year.

We hope to open up this zone (to visitors) very soon and then to continue investigating—we've got our sights on the zone between Machu Picchu and the nearby mountain of Huaina Picchu, which is covered by weeds. We think there are more Inca trails and new structures, Astete said.

Huaina Picchu is an imposing mountain which rises behind the citadel in the classic photographs of Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu, which was never discovered by the Spanish conquistadors whose arrival ended the Inca empire, was rediscovered by U.S. explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911.

The latest finds at Machu Picchu come hot on the heels of other important Inca discoveries in recent weeks.

Peruvian and British explorers in March announced what they said was the first major Inca find in four decades—a hidden city, perched on a hilltop, that may have sheltered Inca stalwarts as they made a last stand against the Spanish.

They said Corihuayrachina, a mysterious gathering of religious platforms, funeral towers and food storehouses, was located in the rugged, isolated Vilcabamba region.

British and American explorers announced on June 6 that they had discovered a large Inca town lost for more than 400 years. That town, at a site called Cota Coca, was completely overgrown at the bottom of a valley carved by the Yanama river.