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On This Day… The American Explorer Who Re-discovered Machu Picchu

Written by: George Chittenden : 22 May 2019

It was on this day, 24th July back in 1911 when a 35-year-old American explorer named Hiram Bingham re-discovered the lost city of the Incas, Machu Picchu. Bingham’s fascination with Latin American history had begun at a young age and he studied for his PhD in that very subject at Harvard. He was fortunate enough to marry an heiress to the Tiffany jewellery fortune, which allowed him to travel in South America. In 1911 he led a small expedition to Peru in search of the ‘lost city’ of Vilcabamba, the last refuge of the Inca Manco Capac II, who fought against the Spanish conquerors in the 1530s. As an explorer he had fortune on his side and was lucky enough to stumble across a local farmer named Melchor Arteaga at a small settlement called Mandor Pampa, near Aguas Calientes.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Via an interpreter, the farmer told Bingham that there were extensive ruins high in the mountains nearby at what Arteaga in his native Quechua called Machu Picchu, meaning ‘old mountain’. The next morning, they climbed up to the ruins, which back then were completely overgrown by trees, bamboo thickets and tangles of vines. As you can imagine they were all blown away by the incredible sight. before departing from the mountain and the ruins that would make him famous, Bingham spent four hours documenting Machu Picchu with a special Kodak camera. Interestingly Bingham went into politics after the First World War and was US senator for Connecticut.

American explorer Hiram Bingham

American explorer Hiram Bingham

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