The “Lost City” of Machu Picchu

On July 24th, 1911, American archaeologist Hiram Bingham and the Yale Peruvian Expedition team followed an eleven year old boy to the ruins of Machu Picchu. The expedition sensationalized the area and opened the floodgates of tourism in Peru. Today, tourists, adventurers, and academic enthusiasts from all over the world still flock to Machu Picchu. In honor of this wonder, sample several articles from two journals, Ethnohistory and Hispanic American History Review.

Ddeh_59_2In “Collecting a ‘Lost City’ for Science: Huaquero Vision and the Yale Peruvian Expedition to Machu Picchu, 1911, 1912, and 1914–15,” Amy Cox Hall delves deeper into the rediscovery of Machu Picchu. She examines the practices and collecting technologies of the expedition to suggest that the objects accumulated as well as the practices used in accumulating helped fashion Machu Picchu into a “lost city” that was “scientifically discovered” by Bingham. Read an excerpt:

Although popular myth associates Hiram Bingham and his global unveiling of Machu Picchu in 1911 with archaeology, Bingham was trained as a historian and “had little interest in stratigraphy” or other methodologies associated with modern archaeological research. Instead, what was practiced on the three forays of the Yale Peruvian Expedition (YPE) to Machu Picchu is better characterized as a late antiquarianism-inspired collecting spree—or, less generously, strategic “grave robbing."

In this article I suggest that the expedition’s practices and technologies helped mythologize Machu Picchu into a “lost city.” ̈ It was initially imagined by Bingham as the lost Inca city of Vilcapampa, and the expedition team’s collecting practices and the frame of science, as well as the types of artifacts collected, helped materialize Machu Picchu as both a vestige of the Inca race and a “scientific discovery.” The collecting practices combined prospecting with the notion that science had a sovereign claim on those objects that might contribute to the accumulation of its knowledge. Rather than representing a nation’s or empire’s sovereign claim over a territory and its history, the expedition relied on the universal virtue and sovereignty of science to make its objects collectible.

Read more of “Collecting a ‘Lost City’ for Science” here.

Ddhahr_92_1In “Tourism, Environment, and Development on the Inca Trail,” Keely Maxwell explores how tourism has shaped Latin America by constructing touristic landscapes and impacting environmental problem solving. He utilizes written records and interviews to document the environmental history of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Read an excerpt:

Thousands of kilometers of former Inca roads span the Andes. One 40-kilometer section has become a new type of Andean pathway, a tourist trail hiked by 54,000 foreign visitors in 2008 alone. Tourism has emerged as a potent political economic force in twentieth-century Latin America, with concomitant environmental impacts. Yet despite the importance of tourism in the region, there are few scholarly investigations of its history, particularly its environmental history. Research has centered on how tourism developed as a leisure activity linked to modernity and capitalist industrialization, on the social construction of tourism destinations, and on social relations of hosts to guests. In Latin America, tourism histories have focused geographically on the Caribbean and Mexico and thematically on “sun and sand” or on cultural heritage tourism. The Inca Trail is part of the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary, created in 1981 and designated a World Heritage Site for natural and cultural heritage in 1983. It is a premiere tourist destination and the center of controversy over environmental impacts, and so it provides a critical case for examining the environmental history of Latin American tourism.

Read more of “Tourism, Environment, and Development on the Inca Trail” here.

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