The above image was taken early in the history of Machu Picchu (I can’t remember the exact date). It used to be on display at the tourist office at Aguas Calientes, but I don’t believe it’s there anymore. You can see that the Machu Picchu from 80 years ago is markedly different than the one we see today. That’s because a lot of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed.
HOWEVER, let’s be clear on a few things. The MAJOR architecture of Machu Picchu (the temple of the sun, the serpent window, three windows) are original. These are the examples of the best stonework in the city and they, of course, stood the test of time. Some of the outlying buildings weren’t so meticulously crafted, and they crumbled into piles of ruin. Still, those piles where THERE when the city was discovered, so essentially all that’s been done is that the piles of rubble were restacked to some extent.
I guess there are a lot of lines that are drawn in the dirt and some people might object to various of them. For example, I suppose most people don’t consider that when they found Machu Picchu, they didn’t crest the ridge to see the beautiful city laid out before them…nope. Machu Picchu was completely grown over and the buildings would have been pretty hard to see unless you were actually standing in them. I have a question for the purists, is it unethical to remove all the vines and overgrowth that completely obstructed (and were actually quite destructive) to the ruins? I think most people wouldn’t have a problem with that.
Although the restoration of Machu Picchu is pretty extensive, I think it is largely necessary to preserve the ruins. Sure, there might have been some liberties taken with some of the lesser, outlying buildings (they were just piles of rubble as you can see in the above picture), but I think their reconstruction was done with the greatest possible effort to reproduce the original layout of the city. To walk through fifty piles of rubble in order to get to the temple of the sun wouldn’t have imparted upon the casual tourist the true magical sense of the city (that you get now) so I think those in charge of the decisions made to restore Machu Picchu should be congratulated.
You’ve got to admit, it’s like the world’s biggest playground (and most of the world wants to come and see it, so how can you argue)!