Peru: The day Machu Picchu was made known to the outside world

Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

18:59 | Cusco (Cusco region), Jul. 24.

The Inca citadel of Machu Picchu was unknown to the outside world until July 24, 1911, when U.S. explorer Hiram Bingham "discovered" the ruins at the top of the mountain of the same name 108 years ago.

Hiram Bingham was a history professor who was interested in finding the last remains in Vilcabamba area which he had heard about.

Bingham reached Machu Picchu accompanied by a sergeant from the Peruvian Civil Guard surnamed Carrasco. 

Once there, they found two families of farmers living in the area: the Recharte and the Alvarez, who had been using the agricultural terraces on the south side of the archaeological complex to harvest their crops and drinking the water of an Inca channel that was still functional. 

Pablo Recharte, one of the children living in the area, led Bingham to the "urban zone" of the Inca citadel covered by heavy vegetation.

Bingham was impressed by what he saw and managed to get sponsored by Yale University, the National Geographic Society and the Peruvian Government to immediately initiate the scientific study of the site. 

Supported by experts and local workers, Bingham directed archaeological works in Machu Picchu between 1912 and 1915, period in which they cleared the vegetation and excavated Inca tombs.

Machu Picchu was made known to the world in 1913 with the publication of a report about the finding in an article by the National Geographic magazine.

First discoverers

However, Bingham was not Machu Picchu's discoverer, as verified later. History suggests that the first direct references to the discovery of Machu Picchu date back to 1902.

It was reported that Agustin Lizarraga, a Cusco-born tenant, reached the site on July 14, 1902, guided by his fellow inhabitants of Cusco Gabino Sanchez, Enrique Palma, and Justo Ochoa.

The visitors left a graffiti with their names on one of the Incan walls of the "Temple of the Sun," which was later verified by several people and then erased by order of Bingham.

There is information indicating that Lizarraga had already visited Machu Picchu, along with Luis Bejar, a few years earlier, in 1894.

Hiram Bingham's contribution is that he was the first person to acknowledge the importance of the archaeological site, by conducting research in the place with a multidisciplinary team and disclosing his findings, even when these works were carried out using inadequate methods.


Published: 7/24/2019
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