Despite their frenzied search for gold, the Spanish conquistadors under Pizarro never discovered Machu Picchu, which remained hidden on the edge of the Peruvian desert until 1913. This once inaccessible city (now a train station is at the foot of the mountain) in Urubamba Valley near Cuzco, Peru is perhaps the first capital of the Incan Empire and one of the most important architectural sites of a civilization destroyed by the Europeans.
Martin Chambi (1891-1973) was the great chronicler of the Altiplano, and visited Machu Picchu in 1925, more than a decade after Hiram Bingham, the Yale professor who discovered the ruins in 1913. His iconic picture above became the defining image of Machu Picchu. Every tourist and photographer tried to replicate the image–an ironic twist since Chambi’s intent was not to document the ruins but to take pictures of Huayana Picchu, the mountains that surround the ruins. Below is another photo by Chambi of Machu Picchu taken in 1943.