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Quest to locate last Inca capital

AAP logoAAP 24/07/2016

Since 1997, 16 expeditions have sought to locate Hatun Vilcabamba, the last capital of the Incas, a site in the southern Peruvian region of Cuzco that is to be excavated in earnest beginning next year.

Archaeologists have so far excavated just one per cent of the settlement, which is nestled amid rugged, jungle-clad slopes at a height of more than 3000 metres and located 80km west of Machu Picchu.

"It's a tremendously steep area, with waterfalls, very humid and abandoned for centuries. The city is covered by vegetation. We were walking over one building and you couldn't see what was underneath," Spanish historian and journalist Santiago del Valle told EFE.

He said the Incas fled to Vilcabamba from Ollantaytambo, just a few kilometres from their imperial capital in Cuzco, after the failure of Manco Inca's 1536 rebellion against the Spanish conquistadors.

The scale of Hatun Vilcabamba and the surrounding landscape are "just as fascinating" as Machu Picchu but the architecture pales in comparison, according to Del Valle, who said that whereas the famed Inca citadel was built at the height of the Inca empire "it's likely they couldn't dedicate such enormous effort" to the other site.

He said analysis of sawn timber in the area indicated Vilcabamba had been occupied by pre-Incan civilisations, "probably the Chankas."

To locate Hatun Vilcabamba, Del Valle used historical chronicles to reconstruct the four-day route that Spanish colonial troops used in 1572 in launching their final attack on that outpost and Tupac Amaru, the last Inca ruler.

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