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The Discovery of what had been discovered (Machu Picchu)

Posted on : 16 August 2021

Old Machu Picchu

The story of the discovery of Machu Picchu by the American Explorer Hiram Bingham has many details, how they arrived and found the place already know by locals, and the government, Machu Picchu was plundered by the German business man Berns, the arrival to Machu Picchu was in an expedition with the Peruvian Government, Local University and many others endorsing the expedition.

An ambitious project with the name “The Yale Peruvian Expedition” begins in USA, sponsored by the University of Yale and the National geographic magazine, with an inversion of 11,825 US dollars one of its purposes was to recognize the 73 to 72 meridians in the Peruvian Andes that runs through the Coropuna mountain and the Parinacochas lake to be able to register the topography and the ruins of the Urubamba valley and Cusco.

Hiram BinghamHiram Bingham took advantage of his stay in Lima and had an interview with the Peruvian president Augusto B. Leguia that became totally impressed with Bingham and assigned him a military escort during his explorations in the Coropuna mountain.

He also received information about the places to visit, one that provided information was Dr. Max Uhle, German, and Director of the Peruvian Natural History Museum and is considered as one of the first to use scientific methods in the Peruvian archaeology.

One of the most famous experts that Bingham visited was Don Carlos A. Romero, linked to the National Library, which was the person who knew most linked to the legendary site of Vilcabamba where the Incas had their last retreat during the Inca Empire and finding that city was one of the main goals for Bingham.

The adventure begins when Dr. Alberto A. Giesecke, dean of the National University of Cusco, and his compatriot verified the information about a citadel that he heard about while traveling in the area to visit the Echarati farm. During the seven days that the journey lasted Dr. Giesecke continually asked about the Incan ruins, the locals said that they were hidden behind the woods but in one place a man called Braulio Polo showed a mountain called Machu Picchu indicating that there were Inca ruins there, the rain got them to Mandor where the guardian Arteaga confirmed what they’ve heard as he had land close to the mountains.

Old Machu PicchuGiesecke told Bingham that there was a path that the muleteers used and gave him the names of many villages in the Sacred Valley of the Incas along with places where you can camp, names of local authorities, haciendas to visit, where to find guides, muleteers and porters as well as places to buy horses and mules that can be used to get down to the Vilcabamba River and them on to the area called San Miguel where a local had a lot close to the ruins. Maybe for this reason some considered that Dr. Giesecke was the scientific co-discoverer of Machu Picchu as he provided the valuable information so that Bingham could reach the citadel of Machu Picchu.

The expedition starts towards Urubamba on the first days of July 1911. The armed guards were led by Sargent Carrasco who spoke and translated quechua, the language of the Incas and their descendants, and a soldier named Farfan. Bingham was sure that the big discoveries, principally in the Vilcabamba Valley where the last capital of the Incas “Viteos” was situated, would give a bigger success to his expedition.

Old Machu PicchuThey bought the mules in Yucay and from there they continued through the Sacred Valley, Bingham asked for information and help from the sub-prefect of Urubamba who confirms the location of the city to Bingham. The sub-prefect tells him that it’s a 10-hour journey on a mule until reaching Huaynapicchu where the climb starts, the sub-prefect also mentions that these ruins are better than Choquequirao (the last city of Manco Inca, discovered years before) indicating that he already knew about Machupicchu. The journey was easy as there were broad muleteer paths: these paths lead to the rich jungle valleys of La Convencion province.

On July 20th they reached Ollantaytambo, a famous Incan village that maintained intact many years after the conquest, they examined and took photos of the “ruins” that had been described by many travelers like E. G. Squier; further more they found their main campsite and storage place. During a quick exploration of the caves that are located on the steep hillsides they found many craniums and bones for their studies.

On July 22nd Bingham, Foote, Erving and Carrasco along their mules and muleteers began the descend while taking photos and making descriptions, some places had already been written about by the French explorer Charles Wiener who visited this area in 1876 to 1877 and heard about the “ruins” in Huayna Picchu or Machupicchu and tried to locate them without success due to the fact that there was no path from the canyon formed by the Vilcanota river and he had to make a big detour passing though the Panticalla mountain pass and going to the Choquechaca bridge which is situated about 50 kilometers from Machupicchu.

Bingham stayed a bit down to explore the “ruins” of Salapunko that have a strategic placement as it’s easy to defend the valley from here. The form of Salapunko is similar to the strongholds of Sacsayhuaman in Cusco (Salapunko is close to the train station of Piscacucho – Kilometer 82 on the railway), from here the river becomes torrential from November to February.

They visited Torontoy, a villa of Inca heritage, which had a dozen stone houses carefully constructed and with large cultivating zones, afterwards they visited a small hacienda where an unfortunate accident occurred: a young porter fell into the Vilcanota river and was swept away, the equipment that he carried was found in between a couple of rocks but his body was never found. This incident was noted in the diary of Foote but not in the one of Bingham.

On the morning of the 23rd of July, accompanied by his team, Bingham quickly descended to the place called Mandorpampa where he got to know Melchor Arteaga a farmer who had a small tavern for travelers. Melchor informed Bingham that he had to cross the river to get to the “ruins” that were situated at the top of the mountain and he offered to take Bingham there if he promised to give him a silver penny (one penny was equal to the pay of three days’ worth of work in the area), that made Melchor the first “staff member” that charged an entrance fee to the enclosure.

The big day came

It was a really cold morning, the description of this day was published in “Harper’s Magazine” on April 1913, this was also included in Binghams first book “Inka land”, written in 1922, about his Peruvian expeditions and it was also extended in the book “The lost city of the Incas” that came in 1948, 37 years after the expeditions, the book has omissions and exaggerations but that doesn’t make it less of a classic among literature over explorations and discoveries.

Huayna PicchuThe encounter with Arteaga wasn’t accidental, the information that Alberto Giesecke and Alberto Duque gave proved to be correct and also confirmed by the sub-prefect of Urubamba that identified the Huayna Picchu mountain as the place of the “ruins”. Bingham’s two partners, Harry Foote and William Erwing, were busy; the first stated that he would dedicate himself to capturing many different kinds of butterflies and animals close to the river and the surgeon Erwing had to wash his clothes and couldn’t accompany him either, for this reason Bingham had to climb accompanied by Sargent Carrasco and the guide.

The climb began on foot as it wasn’t possible to use mules due to the lack of a bridge and the steepness of the slopes of Huaynapicchu. After a bit of adventure tourism using hands and feet to cross the fragile bridge over the cold rushing river a couple of centimeters at a time.

Bingham says that the climb wasn’t only tiring and tedious but also dangerous as there were many snakes in the jungle. After one and a half hour they reached a summit, Bingham calculates that they’ve climbed 2000 foot over the river, and the expedition get surprised by having a city in the middle of the woods partially uncovered with cultivating areas in front of them. At this point they couldn’t identify many architectonic elements due to the dense vegetation of the jungle (today we can take the same path in bus in just half an hour).

It was a hungry and thirsty Bingham that found the residents of the city, three families; Recharte, Alvarez and one more, which were pleasantly surprised by the visit and offered him water, delicious boiled potatoes and a soft poncho to cover him. Bingham that hadn’t brought any food was really thankful for the attention and took some photos of the villagers at the door of their homes, located where today is a touristic hotel.

It was only possible to unveil the city by roaming it in company with Pablito Recharte, an eight-year-old kid, then Sargent Carrasco and the group began to walk through the city that was formed by streets, squares, houses, palaces and watering canals, all made of carefully carved white granite lost between gardens, cornfields and cultivating areas some of them barely visible through the thick jungle weed.

The hundreds of terraces located at the top of this mountain that the locals called Machu Picchu caught his eye, many of them were used for cultivating corn, potatoes, sugar cane, sweet potatoes and other products.

The kid that guides them through the bamboo bush finds a cave with carved stones and Bingham makes a note “This can only be a royal mausoleum” the same that can be found under the temple with the half circular wall that Bingham related with “Qoricancha”, the Sun temple, that can be found in Cusco, as they have the same characteristics. “Marvelous temples of the old world”, he noted.

After that Pablito guides them through a long staircase paved with white granite towards a cultivating terrace, here Bingham notes down: “I found the remains of two of the most fine and interesting buildings in America, made of white granite with blocks the size of a cyclops, taller than a man and weighing more than twenty tons each” (he referred to the building that he later on called the main temple), here he also sees the temple of the three windows and identifies it as a ceremonial temple linked to the legend of the three Ayar brothers, the founders of the Incan Empire, that came from a mountain with three windows.

Peru Private Tours, prepared for you itineraries that brings you through the places which Hiram Bingham the explorer found and made it known to the world, we will see ways that are unique and full of stories, come with Peru Private Tours to enjoy a trip like no other.

The expedition started in the USA with the help of the Yale University and the National Geographic Magazine who financed the expedition to explore the 73 and 72 meridians in the south of Peru, German Dr. Max Uhle director of the Natural History Museum gave information about the places to visit, information also provided by Don Carlos A. Romero linked to the National Library about the site of Vilcabamba the place of retreat of the Incas,

Dr. Alberto A. Giesecke dean of the National University of Cusco is considered Co-discoverer of Machu Picchu because he helped in the expedition and provided vital information to find Machu Picchu, the trip departed from Cusco city, then went to the Sacred Valley, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, with mules they kept the way towards La convencion, following the Vilcanota River, the place was described by a French explorer Charles Wiener  (1876) heard about the place and wrote about it, finally locals pointed about the Inca ruins behind the woods,  was in the 23th of July of 1911 Bingham met to Melchor Arteaga a farmer who gave the information about Machu Picchu and help them to cross the river to the place where the citadel was all covered with wood, when they arrived, they found a farming family, that they fed them (the Recharte, Alvarez), is Pablito Recharte an 8 year kid who became the guide leading through the city, in this way Bingham was impress by the architecture of this Inca city that was covered in the woods, and made the excavations and put in value this wonder of the world.

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