Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: Lost City of the Incas, Hiram Bingham, Centenary Edition (originally published 1952 and this edition is 2011)

I think the most enjoyable part of this book was the introduction.  The individual who is credited with the discovery of Machu Picchu was an explorer, not and archeologist, Hiram Bingham.  He first discovered Machu Picchu in 1911. The introduction to the book points out that originally when Bingham came upon the place there were farmers living there.  There was also signs of Western visitors, so he did not think of it as a discovery at first.  However, by the time he wrote this book, some 40 years later, the story was embellished in such a manner to tell what people wanted to hear rather than what actually happened.  At any rate, this discovery was significant, and Machu Picchu is one of the wonders of the world. 
Initially Bingham scarcely told the people traveling with him about the find, however they did return and do more extensive research and study.  Bingham did take visits of the first visit which were published in National Geographic.  However when he returned he had better camera equipment and funding.  It seem Bingham thought the area was the ancient capital of the Incas.  However, I think this has been found elsewhere.  (Bingham also discovered a place he called Espiritu Pampa, which has been accepted as this lost city Vilcapampa.)  The preservation of Machu Pichu is marvelous.  Machu Picchu was never discovered by the Spaniards, and such has been preserved.  However other sites, including Vilcapampa were destroy by the Spanish when the killed the last Incan rulers. 
Bingham offers a fairly good history of the Incas, talking about the last Four Incas, who were rulers and how they resisted and were eventually all killed.  The last four rulers were a father and then his three sons who ruled in succession after his death.  Because of the terrain and the Incan defenses, some of the rulers put up a stiff resistance.  At one time the efforts to tame the rulers was through religious persuasion.  However in the end, even though one of the rulers was baptized, they all went back to their Inca roots. 
This book was enjoyable but I did find some parts of it tedious and slow to read. 

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