The discovery of Machu Picchu
The Andes in Peru. But the view of these mountains can catch your breath. But in 1911, the Hawaiian Hiram Bingham discovered something even more spectacular on one of its peaks than anything else he had ever seen: the ruins of Machu Picchu, known as the lost city of the Inca. To this day, this Inca site is surrounded by many mysteries; it is not yet fully developed historically and archaeologically. But like Machu Picchu 1911 by Hiram Bingham III. It was discovered, it was an even more mysterious finding. No one could have guessed that the ruins then covered with vegetation would become one of the most famous attractions in Peru and, finally, one of the new seven wonders of the world.
Read more about the adventurous discovery of Machu Picchu and the history of man, who found the discovery of his life and a hundred years ago
The city of Inka made known to the scientific world.
On the morning of July 24, 1911, three men dragged their hands and knees down a steep, slippery slope in the middle of Peru. The initiator of the walk was a 35-year-old Latin American history professor at the then well-known Yale University, named Hiram Bingham.
A few days before, the small squadron had left the expedition camp on the Urubamba River. Along with his two Peruvian companions, Bingham was in search of a mysterious city in ruins called Machu Picchu, “ancient mountain” in the language of the Incas.
It followed more than an instinct. As early as 1909 Bingham had been in the course of an expedition in the Peruvian city of Cuzco, especially in search of the last “capital” of the Incas, a hitherto impossible to trace myth.
In February of 1909, one of the rainiest months of Peru, Bingham visited the ruins of Choquequirao. According to the state of knowledge at the time, the Choquequirao archaeologists considered the legendary last refuge of the Inca. Bingham, however, could not agree to this evaluation after an in-depth visit; the design seemed too small and not extensive (a mistake of judgment, as it turned out). This conviction motivated the researcher to return to Peru shortly after to look for the legendary Inca city on his own.
In 1909 Bingham met with the director of the local university in Cuzco with the astonishingly German name Albert A. Giesecke. Giesecke’s parents were actually German immigrants, but in the United States. He had arrived in Peru as a young scientist from Philadelphia and, at the age of 27, had begun to turn the dusty University of Cuzco into a vibrant academic center. The academic not only opened the teaching of women, but became increasingly an intimate connoisseur of the area and also of traditional Quechua.
If Bingham and Giesecke met in 1909 in person, it is not entirely clear. What is certain, however, is that they maintained a lively correspondence about their mutual assumptions regarding other Inca sites in Peru.
At the beginning of 1911, Giesecke was invited by his friend Braulio Polo de la Borda to visit his Hacienca in Echarate to visit the cocoa, coca and coffee plantations. The trip lasted four days and took them through the tropical part of the Urubamba Valley with its many Inca ruins. It was the highlight of the rainy season. The environment was exuberant, but often impassable, and their migration was a physical challenge. However, Giesecke’s curiosity was more than excited.
During a break near a hut in Mandor Pampa, Braulio Polo questioned the Quechua-speaking resident Melchor Arteaga about the existence of other ruins in the area. Arteaga then described to him a large number of ruined stone buildings on the canyon on the other side of the river. He himself had cultivated land there and leased it to other farmers. Polo and Giesecke considered it for a long time, but then decided to face the humid weather against a walk up. Instead, they continued their trip to the hacienda; otherwise, it could have been the discoverers of Machu Picchu in a drier climate.
When Bingham returned to Cuzco a few months later, this time as head of an eight-man investigation team, Giesecke told him about Artega’s eyewitness account. Bingham immediately decided to visit the farmer in Mandor Pampa.
To be sure, this new trip was sponsored by two institutions, its own Yale University, in whose honor it was officially named the “Peruvian Yale Expedition”, and the National Geographic Society. Bingham had not only promised the ascent and mapping of Mount Coropuna, which was previously considered the highest mountain in South America to reach the Resegeld. He also left with the explicit objective of finding the “last capital of the Inca”: Vilcabamba, the desperate retreat where the Incas had entrenched themselves in the middle of the 15th century before the Spanish conquerors.
Bingham wanted to return with spectacular finds to satisfy his clients and justify his team of botanists, archaeologists and cartographers, since Bingham’s interdisciplinary approach, now academically obvious, was very modern and experimental at that time. In addition, the Kodak photographic company was on board as a sponsor; Bingham had the state-of-the-art photography equipment that gave us the first surviving images of Machu Picchu.
To be on the safe side, this new trip was sponsored by two institutions, its own Yale University – in whose honor it was officially named the “Yale Peruvian Expedition” – as well as the National Geographic Society. Not only had Bingham had to promise the ascent and mapping of Mount Coropuna, which was previously regarded as the highest mountain in South America, to come to the Resegeld. He also set out with the explicit goal of finding the “last capital of the Inca”: Vilcabamba, the desperate retreat where the Incas had entrenched themselves in the mid-15th century before the Spanish conquerors.
Bingham wanted to return with spectacular finds to satisfy his patrons and justify his team of botanists, archaeologists and cartographers – for Bingham’s interdisciplinary approach, now academically self-evident, was highly modern and experimental at the time. Also the photo company Kodak was on board as a sponsor; Bingham had the state-of-the-art photography equipment that gave us the first surviving images of Machu Picchu.
Once in Cuzco, Bingham spent days equipping mules, supplies and supplies with his equipment before embarking on the ancient Inca roads to the Urubamba Valley. For more than 6,000 kilometers, the road called “North-South – Link” crossed the Inca empire. It was the longest street in the world at that time.
Three days after leaving, the team arrives at Mandor Pampa.
From here, Bingham decided to cover the arduous road to the ruins at the top of the mountain at only 2,300 meters of altitude. He left his team in the camp, taking Arteaga alone, who had paid him a Peruvian sun, which he had told the previous day in detail about Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu. The government’s Quechua translator, Sgt. Carrasco, was also included.
The three of them slipped through the boardwalks that crossed the Urubamba River and set out on the muddy ascent. Shortly before reaching the summit, Arteaga left his place to a peasant, son of one of the two farmers who planted just below the ruins.
He was the boy of this farmer, who was never mentioned, and who guided Bingham safely to his destination. The first thing that caught Bingham’s attention were the terraces ingeniously built along the hillside: “A totally unexpected view, this sequence of beautifully constructed stone terraces, maybe hundreds.” She walked along one of the terrace steps. “Suddenly, I saw myself against the walls of the ruins of the house, examples of fine works of Inca stone, carefully cut and assembled exquisitely.”
Bingham was overwhelmed. Before him lay an Inca city grown but clearly recognizable: Machu Picchu.
Planned terraces led to a plateau with a variety of stone structures that were apparently arranged according to specific architectural principles. Bingham had encountered an Inca ghost town that had been cut off from the outside world for four hundred years (later, it turned out that not even the Spanish invaders had caught up with it). Bingham later wrote about this moment “It seemed like an incredible dream: what could this place be?” At first, the explorer really believes that he has encountered Vilcabamba, which will then be rediscovered elsewhere under the new name “Espiritu Pampa”, without realizing the importance of his second find.
Bingham began to climb the ruins and take his first images. For five hours he wandered through the ruined buildings and monuments of Machu Picchu while his two companions waited for him.
At the end of his first exploration he found in one of the stones a carved name and a date: “Lizarraga 1902”. The next day, Arteaga told him that it was the name of another farmer: Agustín Lizarrága, who lived near the Puente de San Miguel, not far away. Lizarrága had already discovered Machu Picchu ten years earlier and started using it mainly for growing potatoes.
The next day, Bingham and his team returned to Machu Picchu, clearing most of the bushes, making an initial map, amazingly detailed and precise, and photographing extensively the ruins of Machu Picchu.
In general, Bingham carried out two more expeditions to Machu Picchu in the following years, one in 1912, the third in 1915. These were also financed by Yale University and the National Geographic Society.
However, this monotonous dependence also resulted in Bingham sending thousands of artifacts from Machu Picchu to Yale, to the Peabody Museum of Natural History, among others, to please its sponsors. In the eyes of many Peruvians, this was like looting.
Bingham had initially been dissatisfied with his performance of found objects. For years, Bingham wondered if he had really found the lost Inca capital in Peru with Machu Picchu. But what surprised him most were the relatively few tombs and, above all, virtually empty in Machu Picchu.
“A careful recount of the skeletons and bones found in caves and tombs yielded 175 individuals.” The document. “150 of them belong to women, an exceptionally high percentage that suggests Machu Picchu as a sanctuary for the ‘Vírgenes Escogidas del Sol'”.
However, in a recent laboratory analysis of the obtained cooking, in recent years it turned out that the skeletal remains were in no way female skeletons. The Incas were simply small and sinewy; and Bingham’s bone specialist had used the much heavier bones of Europeans as a point of reference.
Equally disconcerting for Bingham was that they did not find silver or gold objects in the ruins of Machu Picchu; only objects made of bronze and other metals, as well as wood, stone and clay. For Bingham, the only logical explanation at that time was that an orderly withdrawal from the city could have taken place, taking with him all the valuable assets. In total, the researcher registered 521 ceramics and 220 metal objects.
The official government report, prepared in 1916, records the withdrawal of 74 boxes from Machu Picchu by the Bingham team. Bones, mummies, ceramics, fabrics, metal and wood objects are mentioned, but not gold or silver articles. Bingham sent them to Yale for investigation and subsequent exhibition.
In itself, this removal was legal, approved by the then Peruvian president Augusto Leguía. As early as 1917, however, Peru began to claim ownership of Yale, because Bingham claimed to want to send it back after the analysis. There was a preserved and animated correspondence in which Yale first made excuses. Later, the rejection became fundamental. Relying on the Civil Code of 1852, Yale simply denied having been forced to surrender.
The newer government in Peru also considers that this consent was illegal in itself or linked to conditions that were hidden and not respected. David Ugarte, the director of the National Institute of Culture in Peru, states that it was simply a loan. After Richard Levin, the president of Yale, was confronted with a lawsuit by Peru in early 2000, the university finally agrees to return the objects of Machu Picchu. However, she also claims to have returned artifacts as early as 1922 and had never had mummies or gold objects. The university also pointed out that a large part of the annual tourists were inspired to visit the Machu Picchu objects exhibited throughout the United States.
A total of 46,635 objects returned to Peru in 2011 and 2012, although only 360 of them were classified by the university as “museum quality”.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Machu Picchu and therefore Peru became a tourist cult destination. The articles and books appeared en masse, dealing with the “lost city”. Myths and legends emerged; The films were filmed.
The most successful was Bingham’s own book “The Lost City of the Incas”, which he wrote only in 1948 and which is still available today and very worth reading.
In 1948, Hiram Bingham travels to Machu Picchu for the last time and inaugurates the road named after him, which should bring tourists to the ancient Inca city in the future. Also the daily between Cusco and Machu Picchu circulating luxury train of the company “Tour Operators Orient Express” was named after Hiram Bingham. Truly immortal, the discoverer, who died in 1956, has once again become cinematic detours: in the 1980s, he and his adventures serve the producers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg as inspiration for their movie hero Indian Jones.
So the Hawaiian definitely left his mark on Machu Picchu – as did the Incas who fascinated him so much during his life.
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