Archaeologists find ancient site older than Machu Picchu

The ancient mountaintop settlement in Peru is 1,500 metres higher than the Inca capital and has pre-Inca features

Early morning in wonderful Machu Picchu

Researchers and explorers in Peru have uncovered an ancient settlement that is older than Machu Picchu.

Archaeologists Thomas Hardy and Adan Choqque Arce alongside explorer Albert Linn used new drone technology to explore the ancient settlement high in the Peruvian Andes.

Located in an area called Wat'a and sitting at an altitude of almost 4,000 metres, 1,500 metres higher than the ancient capital of the Inca community, the region had previously only been explored using traditional archaeological methods.

Using Light Detection and Ranging technology (Lidar) the trio were able to identify signature Inca terracing and pre-Inca structures for the first time.

Lidar is a remote sensing method that can be used to examine the surface of the Earth. It used drones and laser light to see beyond the thick flora covering the Andes mountaintop. The data was then used to create a detailed 3D-map of the region. This revealed both Inca terraces and circular structures common to the pre-Inca civilisation.

The discovery was made during research for Lost Cities with Albert Linn, a weekly travel show airing on National Geographic. The show sees the engineer and National Geographic Explorer travel the world using cutting-edge tools to shed light on centuries-old cities.

Machu Picchu is Peru's primary tourist attraction with an average of more than 4,000 tourists tramping daily through the Citadel. Explorer Alex Lin said the new discovery could be viewed as a template for the World Heritage site which was constructed in the mid-15th century.