From the postcards bearing his swashbuckling, fedora-topped image to the luxury train emblazoned with his name that runs to the foot of the mountain redoubt of Machu Picchu, reminders are ubiquitous here of Hiram Bingham, the Yale explorer long credited with revealing the so-called Lost City of the Incas to the outside world almost a century ago.But in recent months, a confluence of contrary events has threatened toupend the legacy of Mr.
Bingham, the ostensible model for the fictional Indiana Jones. Peru has threatened legal action against Yale to recover thousands of artifacts Mr. Bingham removed. Evidence has emerged suggesting that a German adventurer may have arrived there first. And a dispute has been grinding on over who owned the site when Mr. Bingham supposedly discovered it.Scholarly circles in Peru have been abuzz with revisionist debate. Not only may Mr. Bingham not be quite the heroic pioneer that he has been portrayed as, but it may well be that the Lost City of the Incas was never really lost after all.
over who discovered or rediscovered the sacred site have become so
contentious they have been living up to the phrase “the fights of Machu
Picchu,” coined by the American writer Daniel Buck in anallusion to a
Pablo Neruda ode, “Heights of Machu Picchu.”
No one in the field of
Machu Picchu studies seriously challenges the fact that Mr. Bingham
arrived at the jungle-shrouded ruins in 1911, excavated and
photographed them, and largely introduced them to the world.
But his claims have been challenged over time.
“Hiram Bingham never thought someone would doggedly investigate his path,” said Mariana Mould de Pease, a Peruvian historian.
Soon after Mr. Bingham led
his expeditions to Machu Picchu, claims surfaced that a British
missionary, Thomas Payne, and a German engineer, J. M. von Hassel, had
beaten him there. And maps found by historians show references to Machu
Picchu as early as 1874.
The latest challenge comes
from recently publicized claims raising thepossibility t......
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