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Who Really Discovered Machu Picchu?

The Wonder of Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

The Discovery of the Inca Machu Picchu

Hiram Bingham was born in 1875 Hawaii, son of Hiram Bingham, a missionary to the Kingdom of Hawaii. Hiram was not a trained archaeologist. During his time as a lecturer and professor of South American history was when his quest for exploring was all he thought of. In 1908 he served as a delegate to the First Pan American Scientific Congress at Santiago, Chile.

On his way home via Peru, he met a local who convinced him to visit the city of Choquequirao. Of course, Hiram was thrilled and determined to explore Inca cities.

In 1911, Hiram organized an expedition, named the Yale Peruvian Expedition and was to search for the last capital of the Incas. He returned to Machu Picchu in 1912, 1914, and 1915 for Yale and the National Geographic Society.

In 1911 he shipped over 74 crates of artifacts from the site. These would be cataloged and on display at Yale University for the next one hundred years.

Hiram Bingham III on Expedition to Peru

Hiram Bingham III

Hiram Bingham III

Who Else Claimed to Have Discovered Machu Picchu

Hiram Bingham III would be given credit for discovering Machu Picchu for the reason that it was he who cleared the site, photographed, and brought the discovery to the world. And with this discovery, Hiram Bingham would become world-famous.

Several others claim they were the first to find Machu Picchu. One of them being Augusto R. Berns. Augusto was a German entrepreneur who conned the Peruvian government into allowing him to "raid" the archaeological site. He had even purchased property across from Machu Picchu and set up a limber mill. It is believed in reality he was trying to get investors to fund his retrieving gold and artifacts. It is not known what happened to and objects he took. But he is known to have looted the site for years before Bingham discovered it.

And then we have Thomas Payne, a missionary who had lived and worked in Peru from 1903 to 1952. Payne claims that he had already climbed Machu Picchu and was the one who told Bingham where it was and even was with him on his 1911 expedition.

And there are others who claim to have been there first. The Inca city of Machu Picchu was built sometime in the fifteenth century but abandoned about 100 years later when the Spanish conquered the Incas. Historians are discovering documents and maps verifying other claims for discovery. But, Hiram will always be associated with the discovery he showed the world.

Peru Sues Yale University

For years the discoveries of antiquities from Manchu Picchu were housed at Yale University. The Peruvian government said there were over 4000 antiquities consisting of mummies, bones, ceramics, and jewelry. In 2008, the Peruvian government brought suit against Yale University for the return of their property. Yale answered, indicating they would not return them. The Peruvian government said they were supposed to be "on loan" and not meant for Yale. To keep. In 2010, Yale University and the Peruvian government agreed to settle the lawsuit. In it, Yale would furnish the museum, hold studies and classes, and the two of them would be co-Stewarts of the antiquities together.

The Inca and Machu Picchu artifacts are housed at University in Cuzco, Peru. Located at 320 Santa Catalina Ancha, Cuzco.

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Museum Cuzco, Peru

Museum Cuzco, Peru

Museum Cuzco, Peru

Artifact of Machu Picchu

Inca Vase

Inca Vase

Hiram Bingham After Machu Picchu

After Hiram's world-famous discovery, he returned several times to visit the site. He went on to write his book, Lost City of the Incas, which became a best-seller in 1948. Several books have been published on Machu Picchu and the history of the Incas.

He entered politics for the State of Connecticut and was governor for one day in 1925. He then won the election for Senate, serving 1925-1933.

It has been said that the character for the movie Indiana Jones was perhaps based on Bingham.

Bingham is buried in Arlington Cemetery, Sec. 1, # 357.

Some of the famous personalities that have visited Machu Picchu are Mick Jagger, Cole Porter, Bill Gates, Charlton Heston, Jim Carrey, Richard Gere, Leonardi di Caprio, and Cameron Diaz.

In 2007 Machu Picchu was voted one of the newer "Seven Wonders of the World.


fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on April 14, 2020:

Thank you for reading. Wish I could visit it mtself!

Rosina S Khan on April 13, 2020:

Machu Picchu has been rightly voted to be one of the newer "seven wonders of the world". It is interesting to note how many people have claimed to have discovered it first. Thank you, Fran, for such a wonderful hub.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 13, 2020:

This was an amazing discovery. I had no idea that there were rival claims to it.

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