|The sacred valley of the Inca empire, a great pre-Hispanic culture which flourished in the mid-15th century, is located between the Peruvian towns of P’isaq and Ollantaytambo and extends over an area of approximately sixty kilometers. The archaeological evidence of the capital of this empire, the city of Cuzco, is located near the Vilcanota river where one also finds a string of market towns that were linked by parts of the expansive Inca Trail which, over five hundred years ago, radiated throughout six different countries of the Andean sub-region. These towns were protected by fortifications and served by ingenious water supply and drainage systems achieved by the skilled Inca builders who modified mountains, built agricultural hill terraces that stabilized slopes and controlled erosion, and channeled rivers. In addition, the last of the great Inca emperors established splendid stone domiciles and sanctuaries, including the sacred sanctuary of Machu Picchu, as part of their royal estates where they rested, observed stars, meditated and rejoiced.
The astonishing Inca knowledge reflected in these sites encompasses traditional medicine, agriculture, astronomy, and textile production and is attracting increasing interest among local communities as well as among international scholars and visiting tourists. In 1983, the ancient monuments of Cuzco and Ollantaytambo, as well as the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu with its surrounding natural environs, were designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. The Inca Trail is also being presented for nomination to the World Heritage Commission.
However, these unique heritage sites have become exposed and vulnerable to a broadening array of damaging pressures such as the growth of urbanized settlements and commercialization, inadequate preservation management systems, and natural disasters including massive mud slides and intermittent significant seismic quakes.
To address these pressing issues, the Government of Peru requested the World Bank’s assistance towards the development of an initiative which has been designated the “Vilcanota Valley Rehabilitation and Management Project.” As a companion activity to this endeavor, Ephim Shluger of the World Bank has arranged and coordinated a program of several lectures relating to the development of these ancient heritage sites together with a photographic exhibition depicting the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu and views of the Vilcanota valley.
As part of this program Richard L. Burger, Professor of Anthropology at Yale University and Curator of Anthropology for the Peabody Museum of Natural History, accepted Mr. Shluger’s invitation to discuss the Peabody Museum’s exhibition, "Machu Picchu: Unveiling the Mystery of the Incas", which he has co-curated with Lucy Salazar, Curatorial Affiliate and Peruvian archaeologist.
In his lecture, Professor Burger extensively reviews the original 1911 Yale Peruvian Scientific Expedition led by Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham to this region and then goes on to discuss the role, as reflected in the ongoing archaeological discoveries presented in the exhibition, of the Machu Picchu site in the late 15th century when it was a vibrant focal point of important religious, political, civic and social expressions of the Inca culture’s sense of civilization and empire.
The lecture series "Perspectives of Inca Legacy on Andean Cultures at the Sacred Valley" and accompanying photographic exhibition has been jointly organized by the Office of Vice President, Latin America and Caribbean Region, of the World Bank, in collaboration with the National Geographic Society, Yale University’s Department of Anthropolgy-Peabody Museum, and Peru’s National Institute of Culture.