A team of Peruvian archaeologists has found a new trail leading to the Machu Picchu complex in Cusco, Peru — even if much of the road is still heavily covered by thick vegetation.
The discovery was announced on Wednesday by the director of the Archaeological Park of Machu Picchu, Fernando Astete, and first reported by Peruvian newspaper El Comercio.
The new road, almost a mile long, leads to the Wayraqtambo area located in the rear section of the citadel.
A team of workers are still on site cleaning the path, whose width varies between 3.9 and 4.5 feet, to clean the road of brushes and trees.
At the moment, only intermittent retaining walls, up to 10 feet high, holding back Machu Picchu mountain can be seen.
“We don’t know yet exactly how long or how tall the tunnel is,” Astete told Fox News Latino, explaining that much excavation needs to be done. The tunnel was built after 20 feet of earth and rock collapsed over the road, he added. “[The Incas] had to break up all those rocks to construct the tunnel.”
The road includes a tunnel—around 15 feet long and as much as 12 feet high—built with the rocks typical of Inca architecture.
"It is one of the finest examples of Inca engineering,” Astete has said.
Asked if there were signs of the presence of a road in the area before it was found, Astete answered, “That’s how it always happens. We have found 164 archeological sites and 40 roads. We know there are more roads out there.”
Astete told FNL that the newly-discovered road probably predates Machu Picchu itself, which was built at the height of the Inca Empire, around 1450, and was unknown to the outside world before being discovered in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham.
While Machu Picchu's original purpose is still unknown, one of the most popular theories about the site is that it was the royal retreat of the 15th-century Inca Emperor Pachacuti.
According to a National Geographic report published in 2011, this idea maintains Machu Picchu was a place for Pachacuti and his royal court, or panaca, to relax, hunt, and entertain guests.
Machu Picchu, which covers 32,592 hectares of mountain slopes, peaks and valleys, was declared one of UNESCO’s (the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)s World Heritage Sites in 1983.
Bingham (1875-1956) was a lecturer at Yale University who later went on to become a U.S. senator. He returned to the ruins in two subsequent expeditions, in 1912 and 1915.
EFE contributed to this report.