What is Machu Picchu? An ancient Incan city 2,430 m above sea level dating to the 15th century containing palaces, baths, temples, and houses It was one of the greatest Incan structural achievements Made from stone placed so exactly that no mortar was used to keep it together Believed to be used for spiritual and astronomical purposes Probably due to its elevation and difficulty in traveling there, this site was not destroyed during the Spanish conquest
Hiram Bingham and 1911 Bingham was a historian in search of the lost Incan city “Vitcos” (or “Vilcabamba”) which was said to have contained Incan treasures On July 24, 1911 he was lead by a group of locals (the Quechuans) to Machu Picchu (which translates to “Old Peak”) Upon seeing Machu Picchu, Bingham claimed to have discovered the lost city He documented what he found and even took about 5000 artifacts with him back to Yale in the United States Today, he is still the one often credited with “Discovering” Machu Picchu
Bingham‟s Conclusions Bingham was convinced that he had indeed discovered Vitcos He also originally concluded that the skeletal remains found where 10 female to every 1 male, which would support the theory of finding the lost city because he believed the remains were those of the Incan leader and the Virgins of the Sun (the selected Incan women who were chosen for their beauty to serve the Emperor) Later studies based on the analysis of skeletons of various races (and not just European) eventually concluded that the actual female to male ratio was more equal and that the city was not Vitcos In the end, however, the „discovery‟ of Machu Picchu was an even greater source of fame for Bingham
Bingham vs. Columbus Several of the articles pointed out similarities between these two historical figures, an argument that I also support with reasons of my own One author pointed out that they both considered the lands that they „discovered‟ to be empty before their arrival, even though Amerindian populations were living there (some Peruvians were still living in Machu Picchu when Bingham arrived in 1911) They both „discovered‟ a land they did not intend to (and insisted that they had actually discovered somewhere else), even though their actual „discoveries‟ proved much greater They are both singly credited with „discovering‟ land that was not only previously inhabited, but previously discovered by other travelers
And Before Bingham? While Bingham is often credited as being the sole discoverer of Machu Picchu (besides the indigenous people who lived there), there are several disputes with varying degrees of evidence The names Enrique Palma, GabinoSánchez, and AgustínLizárraga were carved into a rock at Machu Picchu on July 14, 1901 (Bingham was not there until 1911) Some speculate that the people who brought Bingham to the site could have easily brought previous explorers who just never brought attention to the city Peruvian anthropologist Jorge Flores Ochoa says that German, British, and other American explorers had already drawn maps of the region An article published in the Times in 1916 stated that a German mining engineer (Carl Haenel) claimed to have been in Machu Picchu with the explorer J.M. Von Hassel in 1910 But, according to Richard L. Burger (an anthropology professor Yale ), Bingham was the “Scientific Discoverer of Machu Picchu.”
The Role of Technology One of the main contributing factors to Bingham being credited as the “discoverer” of Machu Picchu is the fact that he brought along a camera and visually documented what he saw on his various expeditions to the site from 1911 to 1915 He followed up his expedition with articles and even a book called “The Lost City of the Incans” His articles and finding spread to the public through publications in periodicals like Harper‟s Monthly, The New York Times, and National Geographic (which designated an entire issue to Machu Picchu in 1913)
The Site‟s Significance Today, Machu Picchu is considered one of the greatest archeological sites in South America It was recognized as an UNESCO site in 1983 Even a hundred years later, there is still believed to be some areas of the site yet to be excavated It has allowed historians and archeologists to gain a better understanding of the Incans (although there are still many artifacts and structures yet to be fully understood) It also provides an example of native countries wanting to gain back artifacts taken during European explorations. Peru sued Yale University for its artifacts back in 2005. Although Yale agreed to give back some, Peru pressed for the entire collection in 2007.
Works Cited “The Discovery of Machu Picchu.” Rediscover Machu Picchu. n.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. Eede, Joanna. “The „Discovery‟ of Machu Picchu 100 Years Ago.” National Geographic Daily News. National Geographic, 8 Aug. 2011. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. Eisner, Peter. “Who Discovered Machu Picchu?” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Media, Mar. 2009. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. “Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.” UNESCO The List. UNESCO, n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. “Machu Picchu.” Sacred Sites: Places of Peace and Power. Magic Planet Productions, n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. All photographs and illustrations are from Wikipedia.org