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It was built around the year 1460, but was abandoned as an official site for the Inca rulers a hundred years later, at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Although known locally, it was said to have been forgotten for centuries when the site was brought to worldwide attention in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an American historian. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction. It has recently come to light that the site may have been discovered and plundered several years previously, in 1867 by a German businessman, Augusto Berns. In fact, there is substantial evidence that a British missionary, Thomas Payne, and a German engineer, J. M. von Hassel, arrived earlier than Hiram, and maps found by historians show references to Machu Picchu as early as 1874.
Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Since it was not plundered by the Spanish when they conquered the Incas, it is especially important as a cultural site and it is considered a sacred place.