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Unusual structure at Llactapata's Sector two Group

Inca Ruins Discovered near Machu Picchu


NOVEMBER 6, 2003 LONDON: It was announced today that an Anglo-American team, supported by The Royal Geographical Society, have found an important Inca ruin complex lost in the Peruvian cloud-forest 2 miles from Machu Picchu.

Flying over the Andes, the team experimented with infrared cameras to see through the thick jungle vegetation. Later, they used mules and machetes to cut their way through to a substantial site, which lies at 9,000 ft. in the Eastern Andes and is called Llactapata. The team was led by the British writer and explorer Hugh Thomson and the American archaeologist Gary Ziegler.

The expedition found a plaza with ceremonial doorways aligned to Machu Picchu, the great Inca centre which can be seen in the distance. They also located a two-storey temple, which faces the rising sun.

The only previous identification of the main part of the site had been by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1912, but he left such an inaccurate account of its position that no expedition has ever been able to find it since.

The Thomson-Ziegler expedition both re-located this sector and also identified as many as five sectors spread out over several square kilometres across a hillside, making the Inca settlement of Llactapata a site of some magnitude.

Gary Ziegler said: ‘This is an important discovery which may alter our view of Machu Picchu, as the Llactapata site is closely related to it.’

Added expedition co-leader Hugh Thomson, who has just returned after four months in Peru: ‘This must be one of the last places left on the planet where archaeological sites are still being located. We are extremely excited by this new find.’

The well-known anthropologist and explorer Johan Reinhard, who discovered the ‘ice-mummies’, commented: ‘Thomson and Zieglers’ important discovery reinforces the need to expand the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuaries borders to include and protect a wider area.’ At present the Llactapata ruins lie outside the protection of any Peruvian National Park and so are vulnerable to looters.


Hugh Thomson and Gary Ziegler are two of the most experienced explorers working in this area: Thomson, based in Bristol, has recently written a book on the subject, The White Rock (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, while Ziegler, a Peruvian trained archaeologist specialising in Inca research, also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club, has been leading expeditions to Peru since the 1960s.

Last year the same team made headlines around the world when they discovered another lost Inca site, called Cota Coca, at the bottom of a deep river ravine.

The Thomson – Ziegler Research Expedition included seventeen explorers, eight muleteers, twelve horses and twenty-five mules. The aeroplane they flew over the Andes in was a single engine Cessna 208. The infra-red camera used was a Raytheon IR 250.

The expedition was supported and approved by the Royal Geographical Society and by the Explorers Club of America.

The team included an expert on archaeoastronomy, Dr Kim Malville, the veteran British explorer Nicholas Asheshov, whose first expedition for National Geographic was in 1962, and the legendarily tough Australian explorer John Leivers, who was recently inducted into the Surf Lifeguard Hall of Fame and is thought to be the only man to have crossed the Darien Gap three times solo on foot.


Llactapata is approximately 50 miles north-west of Cuzco, the old Inca capital, and only two miles from Machu Picchu. One curiosity about the site is that it should be so close to Machu Picchu, which half a million visitors travel to each year, and yet have remained so unexplored.

The reason that Inca ruins are still being found in South-east Peru is that the physical geography is so wild, with deep canyons and dense vegetation, that in the words of veteran British explorer Nicholas Asheshov, ‘you can pass ten feet within a ruin and miss it.’

The sponsors for the expedition included Orient Express, Perurail, Travel Screening Services, Brunton and Rule Financial. Manu Expeditions/Adventure Specialists provided ground operation support, and the Peruvian INC gave assistance.

for the full report on the expedition see

Contact Gary Ziegler at:i


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