In previous issues of the Newsletter we have discussed Hiram Bingham's discovery of Machu Picchu and the return of the Inca artifacts taken from the site to the Peruvian government by Yale University. We wanted to take a look back at the history and feature some of National Geographic's photos. We urge you to visit the National Geographic site for their extraordinary efforts to take us all to distant parts of the planet.
After nearly 100 years, a collection of antiquities from the Inca site of Machu Picchu is going home. The artifacts have been at the center of a long and bitter custody battle between the government of Peru and Yale University.
Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress
It started back in 1911, when Yale explorer Hiram Bingham III set up his base camp in Ollantaytambo, a town high in Peru's Andes mountains. From there, he set out to explore the ancient stone ruins of Machu Picchu. Bingham introduced the site to the world through his articles for National Geographic magazine. He returned twice and excavated thousands of artifacts: ceramics, tools, jewelry and human bones — all with the consent of the Peruvian government.
"Nearly a century ago, Peru set out to establish a new way of studying its artifacts and a new way of letting its artifacts move through the world," explains Christopher Heaney, author of Cradle of Gold, a book about the life of Hiram Bingham. Heaney says that as early as 1911, Peruvians were anxious to protect their cultural patrimony from looting. They passed a law forbidding artifacts from leaving the country.
Rediscovering Machu Picchu
In the Wonderland of Peru Published 1913
The Work Accomplished by the Peruvian Expedition of 1912, under the Auspices of Yale University and the National Geographic Society.
Prof. Hiram Bingham's explorations in South America, 1906-1911, and particularly his discoveries in 1911, were so important that when he was seeking funds for another Peruvian expedition in 1912, the Research Committee of the National Geographic Society made him a grant of $10,000, Yale University contributing an equal amount. His preliminary report to the National Geographic Society and Yale University of the work done in 1912 is printed herewith, and forms one of the most remarkable stories of exploration in South America in the past 50 years. The members of the Society are extremely gratified at the splendid record which Dr. Bingham and all the members of the expedition have made, and as we study the 250 marvelous pictures which are printed with this report, we also are thrilled by the wonders and mystery of Machu Picchu. What an extraordinary people the builders of Machu Picchu must have been to have constructed, without steel implements, and using only stone hammers and wedges, the wonderful city of refuge on the mountain top. —Gilbert H. Grosvener, Editor
The City of Machu Picchu, the Cradle of the Inca Empire
In 1911, while engaged in a search for Vitcos, the last Inca capital, I went down the Urubamba Valley asking for reports as to the whereabouts of ruins.
The first day out from Cuzco saw us in Urubamba, the capital of a province, a modern town charmingly located a few miles below Yucay, which was famous for being the most highly prized winter resort of the Cuzco Incas. The next day brought us to Ollantaytambo, vividly described by Squier in his interesting book on Peru. Its ancient fortress, perched on a rocky eminence that commands a magnificent view up and down the valley, is still one of the most attractive ancient monuments in America.
Continuing on down the valley over a newly constructed government trail, we found ourselves in a wonderful cañon. So lofty are the peaks on either side that although the trail was frequently shadowed by dense tropical jungle, many of the mountains were capped with snow, and some of them had glaciers. There is no valley in South America that has such varied beauties and so many charms.
Not only has it snow-capped peaks, great granite precipices, some of them 2,000 feet sheer, and a dense tropical jungle; it has also many reminders of the architectural achievements of a bygone race. The roaring rapids of the Urubamba are frequently narrowed by skillfully constructed ancient retaining walls. Wherever the encroaching precipices permitted it, the land between them and the river was terraced. With painstaking care the ancient inhabitants rescued every available strip of arable land from the river. On one sightly bend in the river, where there is a particularly good view, and near a foaming waterfall, some ancient chief built a temple whose walls, still standing, only serve to tantalize the traveler, for there is no bridge within two days' journey and the intervening rapids are impassable. On a precipitous and well-nigh impregnable cliff, walls made of stones carefully fitted together had been placed in the weak spots, so that the defenders of the valley, standing on the top of the cliff, might shower rocks on an attacking force without any danger of their enemies being able to scale the cliff.
The road, following in large part an ancient footpath, is sometimes .......
Read More at http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/1913/04/machu-picchu/bingham-text/1
The text and photos have all come from National Geographics website.
|Urubamba River below Machu Picchu|
|Machu Picchu at sunrise|