Machu Picchu, The Other Side of the Story

A widely known story amongst Peruvian tourists and archeology interested souls is the story of how a United States citizen named Hiram Bingham III was the first person to discover Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas, high up in the breathtaking scenery of the Peruvian mountains in 1911. A less known part of this story is that Hiram Bingham exported the relics he found on site to The United States where he donated them to Yale University for research purposes.


Even though this perspective on Machu Picchu’s discovery is the best known there are always 2 sides to every story and in this case the old saying turns out to be very true.

The first aspect in which the old saying is accurate is regarding Hiram Bingham’s discovery of the lost city of Machu Picchu in 1911 because as it turns out recent research has shown that the citadel was indeed not truly forgotten and lost before he discovered it. In fact most of the local people in and around the old Inca capital of Cusco, which is located near Machu Picchu, knew of its existence which in sense refutes the fact of Machu Picchu being a forgotten city and further indicate that Hiram Bingham was undeniably not the first person to discover its existence. As a matter of fact it was one of the before mentioned local indigenous people who led Bingham to the citadel where he upon his arrival found several other locals living amongst the ruins using the Inca constructed terraces for agricultural purposes. However it is true that Bingham was the first person to investigate this beautiful place in a scientific manner as well as the first person to have the means to bring this magnificent master piece example of pre-colonial culture and building techniques to the world’s attention, which today is appreciated by thousands of tourists every year.


 A part of Hiram Bingham’s scientific exploration of Machu Picchu included the excavation and exportation of thousands of artifacts to the United States of America for additional investigation. There the excavated artifacts were donated to The Peabody Museum of Yale where they for over a hundred years have been the subjects of thorough investigation, which has contributed significantly to our knowledge of the Inca civilization. Never the less there is another side to the story. Within the last 20 years or more an ownership dispute over the excavated Inca artifacts has aroused and intensified between Yale and Peru. The Peruvian government has worked hard on having the artifacts returned to their possession, issuing decrees and resulting to legal action in 2008 but then in 2012 they finally had their wish granted. This happened after Peru and Yale reached and signed an agreement in 2010 stating that all the archeological findings had to be returned to Peru by the end of 2012 and furthering that Yale and the university in Cuzco, San Antionio Abad had to establish a partnership sharing the administration of the artifacts while collaborating on research.

Machu Picchu Artifact Delivery - Newsroom

In November 2012 the last shipment of the estimated 40.000-43.000 artifacts touched down in Cuzco hence completing the agreement between Yale and Peru. The pieces will be displayed in a Museum in Cuzco where tourists and locals now for the first time through pictures and relics will be able to learn from the research and relive Hiram Bingham’s scientific excavation and exploration of the tranquil site of Machu Picchu. But more importantly this completion of the shipments finally equals out the terms between the Yale and the Peruvian professors signifying a communion of earlier clashing interests and perspectives leaving only further joint research and history to blossom.

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