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We have been referring to Machu Picchu by the wrong name for years

(CNN) — There are errors that are difficult to get rid of and the name Machu Picchu is one of them.

For more than 100 years, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, Machu Picchu, has been known by a mistaken name, according to a report published in the academic journal Ñawpa Pacha: Journal of the Institute of Andean Studies.

The Incas who built the ancient city probably called it Huayna Picchu, according to the report.

Huayna translates to “new or young,” while Picchu means “mountain peak” in the Quechua language, said Emily Dean, a professor of anthropology at Southern Utah University in Cedar City. She was not involved in the report. Machu means “old,” so we’ve called it an old mountain peak, she added.

The Inca settlement is believed to have been built around 1420 as an estate for royal Incas who lived in Cuzco, the capital of the Inca empire, according to report author Brian Bauer, a professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

When the Spanish later conquered the Incas, Huayna Picchu was abandoned, according to the report. It was hidden for centuries deep in the Andes until the American explorer Hiram Bingham rediscovered it in 1911.

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In his field notes, Bingham decided to name the ancient city Machu Picchu, based on information provided by his guide Melchor Arteaga, a farmer who lived in the area, Bauer said.

During Bauer’s investigation of Machu Picchu, he found evidence that its original name had been something else. The author of the report, Donato Amado Gonzáles, a historian at the Peruvian Ministry of Culture, independently discovered the same pattern, so they decided to partner up and unearth the true name together.

The researchers began by consulting Bingham’s notes, where he stated that he was unsure of the name of the ruins when he first visited them. From there, Bauer and Amado Gonzáles reviewed printed maps and atlases before and after Bingham’s visit.

One of the most surprising documents was a report from 1588 that indigenous people from the Vilcabamba region were thinking of returning to Huayna Picchu, Bauer said.

The naming error is not surprising, Dean said, because many non-Peruvian archaeologists made no effort to research place names and did not fully understand Quechua.

“More generally, this find calls into question the popular account that Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu,” he said. The locals knew about the place long before Bingham arrived.

It is unlikely that the name will change

Despite the discovery of the area’s original name, it will likely continue to be called Machu Picchu, Bauer said.

“We would not suggest changing the name, as Machu Picchu is known throughout the world,” he added.

Additionally, Machu Picchu appears in thousands of books, articles, advertisements and legal documents, Dean said.

The Peruvian people and their government have adopted the new name, so while it is an interesting addition to the site’s history, it will not change the modern name, he noted.

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