Revealing the Enigmatic Origins of Machu Picchu’s Diverse Inhabitants

Discover the Genetic Tapestry of Workers and Retainers at the Inca Emperor's Royal Palace

Machu Picchu
Image: Flickr / Dan Merino

Unveiling the Diversity of Machu Picchu’s Inhabitants

A fascinating new study delves into the origins of the people who resided and worked at Machu Picchu, the esteemed royal palace of the Inca emperor. Ancient DNA analysis conducted on the site’s remains has shed light on the diverse backgrounds of its inhabitants.

Eclectic Origins from the Vast Inca Empire

Published in the journal Science Advances on July 26, the research revealed that individuals occupying Machu Picchu hailed from various corners of the Inca empire. The study even uncovered evidence of people coming from as far as the Amazonas region to work and serve in the estate.

Individuals, Not Familial Units

An intriguing finding emerged from the DNA testing of 34 individuals; most of them had unique DNA profiles, suggesting they were brought to Machu Picchu individually rather than as part of family or community groups. This points to a population of lower-status individuals—likely workers and retainers.

Genetic Insights Enhance Historical Understanding

The research team employed techniques akin to modern genetic ancestry kits, comparing the DNA of the Machu Picchu remains with that of other locations within the Inca Empire and contemporary South American populations. While genetics doesn’t directly equate to ethnicity, it showcased distinctive origins from different parts of the Inca Empire.

Machu Picchu
Image: Flickr / Matthew Paulson

A Convergence of Knowledge

The study’s outcomes bolster prior research conducted at Machu Picchu and other Inca sites. The genetic data complements archaeological findings and historical information, collectively shaping a clearer understanding of the retainers’ crucial role within the palace.

Machu Picchu’s Illustrious Legacy

The grandeur of Machu Picchu, established as Emperor Pachacuti’s palace around 1420 to 1532 CE, continues to captivate our imaginations. Through this study, the ancient city’s vibrant history comes to life, revealing a mosaic of diverse cultures and identities.

Unraveling the Enigma of Machu Picchu’s Past

Until recently, comprehending the daily lives and functions of Machu Picchu’s inhabitants remained elusive. Sparse mentions of the city in 16th and 17th-century Spanish accounts and the enigmatic knotted string records (quipus) used by the Incas for recording history had left many questions unanswered. However, with modern scientific endeavors, the mysteries of this ancient citadel are gradually being unveiled, illuminating the legacy of a once-great


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