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    Google Street View Is Coming to Machu Picchu, Other Incan Sites

    Google's cameras will presumably capture some alpacas and llamas while they're at it. Photo: Flickr/Theodore Scott

    Soon you'll be able to take a virtual tour through Machu Picchu, as Street View is likely to come to the ancient site. Google has asked for, and will likely receive, the Peruvian government's permission to map the Incans' most famous city.

    Street View itself is new in Peru: Images of some of the country's largest cities, including Lima, Trujillo, Arequipa, Chiclayo and Piura, went live less than a month ago. Google began taking images in late 2012 and is still here. But the company isn't going to limit itself to cities. It has also asked the Peruvian Ministry of Culture for permission to map Chan Chan and Machu Picchu, presumably as part of its "World Wonders Project," which it launched in May of last year. 

    Luis Jaime Castillo, Peru's new vice minister of culture, told me he recently met with officials from Google and that the country would likely approve its request.

    "Why not," he said. "It's good for the visibility of the country and it's good for education and tourism."

    According to a blog post by Melanie Blaschke, product marketing manager of the World Wonders Project, most of the initial 132 historic sites (from 18 countries) were mapped on specially-made trikes.

    "World Wonders uses Street View technology to take you on a virtual trip to each iconic site. Most could not be filmed by car, so we used camera-carrying trikes to pedal our way close enough," she wrote.

    That may not be good enough to map Machu Picchu, a site that is increasingly well-protected. In 2011, the Peruvian government limited the number of daily visitors to 2,500 amid concerns that the ancient city was slowly being destroyed. The ancient city also contains far more steps and hillsides than, say Stonehenge.

    Castillo told me that the company would likely have to figure out a way to map Machu Picchu on foot. Actual filming would likely happen sometime later this year.

    Maite Iturria, director of Google Street View Latin America, told El Comercio that, though Chan Chan and Machu Picchu are highest on the company's list, they are also interested in mapping other Incan sites.

    "We want to construct a perfect map, and Peru is one of the countries in the region with the richest culture," he said. 

    In case you're not familiar, Machu Picchu is believed to have been built in the 1400s and served as its emperor Pachacuti's home until his death. It's far and away Peru's most popular tourist site, with roughly 90 percent of tourists eventually making their way there. Chan-Chan is the largest discovered Pre-Colombian city in South America, covering 20 square kilometers near the modern day city of Trujillo. It was eventually conquered by the Incans. 

    Assuming the two sites are part of Google's World Wonders Project, Peru will become the second South American country to be represented. The historic centers of the Brazilian towns Diamantina and Ouro Preto are mapped, as is the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Congonhas, located about five hours north of Rio de Janeiro. 

    Besides catching up on your archaeological sites, Street View can be used to dive the Great Barrier Reef, chronicle poverty, or spy on the NSA.

    Topics: street view, google, peru, archaeology, inca, ruins

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