A new study of human remains recovered from Machu Picchu in 1912 suggests that the Inca citadel was built two decades earlier than previously thought, reported CNN.
On the basis of historical records written by Spanish conquistadors, scholars had believed that the emperor Pachacuti constructed the stone structures as an estate sometime after he rose to power in A.D. 1438.
A team led by Yale University archaeologist Richard Burger dated the remains of 26 individuals buried at the site’s three cemeteries using accelerator mass spectrometry, an advanced type of radiocarbon dating that allowed the researchers to date skeletons with only small amounts of remaining organic material. Their results show that Machu Picchu was in use as early as A.D. 1420 and was occupied until 1530, around the time of the Spanish invasion.
The study was published in the journal Antiquity. Revered as one of the world’s great archaeological sites, Machu Picchu perches between two mountains.
The site is made up of roughly 200 stone structures, whose granite walls remain in good shape although the thatched roofs are long gone.
These include a ceremonial bathhouse, temples, granaries, and aqueducts. One, known as the Hut of the Caretaker of the Funerary Rock, is thought to have been used for embalming dead aristocrats.