No one is quite sure what the function of the mysterious Machu Picchu site is, but some researchers have reason to believe it was a “royal retreat,” and are planning to examine the DNA of skeletal remains buried there.
“There is a longstanding debate about what the function of Machu Picchu was because it is so unique and unusual as an Inca site,” Dr. Bradley said. “It is too big to be a local settlement. And it’s too small and not the right structure to have been an administrative center for the Inca Empire.”
Now, Dr. Bradley and a team of researchers will be the first to analyze the genomes of the skeletal remains from more than 170 individuals buried at the site. The team’s other members include Lars Fehren-Schmitz from the University of California, Santa Cruz and Yale University’s Richard Burger and Lucy Salazar.
By sequencing the skeletons’ ancient DNA, the researchers hope to better understand the functional role of Machu Picchu and its residents, as well as patterns of diversity, migration and labor diaspora in the Inca Empire–the largest in pre-Columbian America.