Hiram Bingham, the American explorer who reached Machu Picchu with the help of locals, shined an international light on the ancient Inca citadel. Learn more about him here.
Hiram Bingham did not discover Machu Picchu, nor did he bring to life the story of the Incas. Both the citadel and the legacies and traditions of the Inca were known before the American archaeologist arrived to Peru.
What Bingham did, with the help of locals in Cusco, was shine a light on the ancient citadel– just bright enough to grab the world’s attention.
Who was Hiram Bingham?
Born in Hawaii in 1875, the explorer Hiram Bingham III was the grandson of a missionary. With degrees from Yale and Harvard, Bingham was not actually a trained archaeologist. However, having lectured on South American history at Yale, Bingham found his way to Peru and would become deeply invested in the country’s history. He also became a delegate at the first Pan American Scientific Congress hosted by Chile in 1908.
With the support of Yale University and the National Geographic Society, Bingham would return to Peru numerous times between 1908 (his first trip) and 1915. He would later relate his experience in his novel, The Lost City of the Incas (1948).
His legacy continues. The road leading from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu is referred to as the Hiram Bingham road. The hospitality and leisure company Belmond also named a train in his honor. Hiram Bingham passed on June 6, 1956 in Washington, D.C.
Cover photo: Kolby/Flickr
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