Hiram Bingham and his expeditions

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Machu Picchu owes a lot to Hiram Bingham, without his effort Machu Picchu might not still exist to us.



Incas developed a system of accounting, where from a series of chords and with knots of different color a various thickness they kept exact records of different transactions.

Origin of Inca

Still nobodies know where the Incas had come from, or how long they had been around. There were many legends on which to base rough guesses.


Many people know that Hiram Bingham was a Yale History professor who rediscovered Machu Picchu, Lost city of Inca Civilization. But very few people know that he was a Governor and senator of united States. He was even a Lt. Colonel of US army too.

  • Early days of Bingham

Bingham was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1875.He attended Punahou School and O'ahu College in Hawaii from 1882 to 1892. He returned to the United States in his teens in order to complete his education, entering Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, from which he graduated in 1894. He obtained a degree from Yale University in 1898, a degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1900, and a degree from Harvard University in 1905. After getting his degree he taught history and politics there some time. Then he joined Princeton University as preceptor under Woodrow Wilson. Finally he joined Yale University as a lecturer In 1907. In Yale he was teaching South American history.


  • Expeditions by Hiram Bingham

Bingham was member of four expedition to Peru. In 1906, he traveled through Venezuela and Colombia to follow the route by Simon Bolivar. On his return he wrote a report on this tour. This report changed his whole carrier. The then Secretary of State, Mr. Elihu Root was so impressed with this report, Bingham was appointed as delegate to the First Pan American Scientific Congress at Santiago, Chile on 1908. After finishing his conference he visited Peru. When he was planning to come back, he met the chief official, Mr. Nunez of one of the province of Peru, who insisted him to move to Choqquequirau, to search for Inca ruins. though it was the month of February, which was rainiest month of one of the rainiest season, he had to agree with the constant request of Mr. Nunez. Finally he discovered the ruins in Choqquequirau, but it was only the beginning.

  • First Expeditions on 1911

When he was writing a book on the Choqquequirau one of colleague talked about one more tour to Peru. Initially he ignored the idea but moments afterward he started to  think about it. He got permission and also help from Yale and left for Peru again on 1911. His planning was to reach the peak of Mountain Coropuna, and to find out the lost Inca capitals- which were Vitcos and Vilcabamba.

  • Discovery of Machu Picchu and Vitcos

At his first expedition Bingham was looking for the lost Inca capitals. While moving from one areas to another he kept asking people about those cities. One day he came across a prospector who provided some valuable information. That prospector said  there were many ruins on the regions around Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu. Just recently a new road was constructed, which road passes near to Huayna Picchu, so they moved though that road. When they reached Mandor Pampa they camped there one night. That night they met a person who happened to be the owner of the area. His name was Melchor Arteaga. He said that their were ruins across the river, on top of the mountain Huayna Picchu. Bingham requested him to take them to the spots, which he agreed. Bingham had to pay for this service though which was fifty cents a day. Next morning, on July 24th, 1911  they followed him and finally they reached the massive ruins at the top of Machu Picchu. Which later Bingham named as Machu Picchu. This is how Hiram discovered well known Machu Picchu. When he found this ruins, he did not know anything about this city, actually nobody knew existence of this city at that time. Because there were no mention of this ruins in those Spanish chronicles and journals. So he remained confused what city it was. Other members of his party suggested that it might be Vitcos or Vilcabamba the Old. But he was not sure. So he continued to search for Vilcabamba and Vitcos.

Next month, on August first week, he started his journey to lower Urubamba and Vilcabamba river. Whenever he reached a plantation he declared cash prizes for Indians for any information on Inca ruins. In some cases some Indians mentioned about ruins, and he took all the trouble to reach the place mentioned, but  nothing significant was found. Finally he met Evaristo Mogrovejo. This person was a governor of a small village. He invited him to his village when he heard of Bingham's intentions. Bingham visited his place. Mogrovejo organized all his visitors to be present on his courtyard. People gave him different information. He asked them about a big white rock near to a river He read about it on chronicles, where it was mentioned that in Vitcos there was an enormous stone near a river. One person said he saw it few years back. Hiram Bingham and his group moved to that site only to find that it was not that big stone he was looking for. Beside that rock there was an  small stream, he started to follow that stream and final reached a place where he found that big white rock. That is how he discovered Vitcos.

  • Discovery of Vilcabamba the old

He found Machu Picchu and Vitcos in a span of two weeks only. Still he was not satisfied. He was eagerly waiting for the discovery of  Vilcabamba the old. But this time it was not easy. He continued his journey through jungles, and difficult Indians regions. But did not found anything. One Indian told him that it may be found in a region, which is very difficult to reach. He would have to go through an ferocious Indian region. He was informed that this Indian group disliked strangers and they liked to use bow and arrows with poison at the tip. Still he continued and went through those Indian group, which turned out to be very helpful. But after all this trouble when he reached to a far corner, he found a very small ruin in a place named Espiritu Pampa. So he thought he failed to reach Vilcabamba the old. He did not spend much time on that ruin, as all the members of his team was tired. Afterwards he decided that Machu Picchu is Vilcabamba. When Hiram Bingham died, he did not know that Machu Picchu was the Vilcabamba he had searched for. But afterwards it was found that Espiritu Pampa, which was discovered by him too, is the actual Vilcabamba the old. Not many ruins were found at Espiritu Pampa because Spaniards destroyed everything, after they conquered that place. Which led Hiram to misunderstand the importance of the place. First expedition of Bingham was really a very great success.

  • Other Expeditions

He was so successful on his first one that Yale University allotted 10,000 US $ for his next expedition on 1912. Same amount was sanctioned by National Geographic Society. On his second expedition to Peru, he spent lot of time to find more ruins. Naturally he thought that there were more ruins, which may still remain undiscovered. But he could not find out anymore ruin. They spent their time on the ruins the discovers on the first discovery, especially on Machu Picchu. He went for another two expeditions on 1914 and 1915.

  • Bingham as aviator and politician

Bingham was not only a historian. Afterward when the first world war began, he left Yale university and started to spent time on flying. He joined US army. He served the Aviation Section of the US army and attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. Very soon he became a popular politician. In 1922, Bingham was elected Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut. Afterwards he became Governor too. He was elected as a Senator on 1924. He remained as Senator until 1933. On 1956 Bingham died in Washington D.C.


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