The past of Machu Picchu remains a mystery, but what we know is more fascinating than the mystery. Machu Picchu was once believed to have been a royal palace or religious site for its previous inhabitants, the Inca. The Inca were a primarily peaceful group of people who ruled much of Peru; until the Spanish invaded and drove them out. Machu Picchu remained hidden (except for the indigenous people) from even the Spanish until a man named Howard Bingham "discovered" the magnificent city in 1911. What historians do know about Machu Picchu is that a noble leader named Emperor Pachacuti ruled/founded the great city. Emperor Pachacuti is the man who led the Inca out of their traditional territories to conquer most of Western South America, and defeated the mighty Chanka (their biggest rival) in a ferocious battle when the original emperor and his heir fled the kingdom. The Inca bested the Chanka, but were eventually felled by the Spanish. Machu Picchu, on the other hand, is believed to have been wiped out by sickness, not war. What we know about Machu Picchu is incredible, making the mystery more unbearable.