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July 24, 1911: the day the world met Machu Picchu

On a day like today, 107 years ago, on July 24, 1911, American explorer Hiram Bingham “discovered” the inca city of Machu Picchu, on the mountain heights of the same name, in the province of Urubamba, Cusco region.

Hiram Bingham was a history teacher interested in finding the last Inca strongholds of Vilcabamba and heard stories about Machu Picchu. Accompanied by a Civil Guard sergeant named Carrasco, the explorer arrived in Machu Picchu where he found two families of peasants living in the area: Los Recharte and Los Álvarez. They used the platforms of the south of the archaeological complex to cultivate and drink the water of a channel of inca origin that still worked and that brought water from a spring. (See photo gallery)

Pablo Recharte, one of the children living in Machu Picchu, led Bingham to the “urban area” of the inca citadel which was covered by the weeds.

Bingham was impressed by what he saw and managed the auspices of Yale University, the National Geographic Society and the Peruvian government to immediately initiate the scientific study of the site. With the help of specialists and local workers, he directed archaeological work in Machu Picchu from 1912 to 1915, during which the weeds were cleared and Inca tombs were excavated outside the city walls.

Machu Picchu made himself known to the world in 1913 with the publication of the find in an article published in the National Geographic magazine.

However, Bingham was not Machu Picchu’s” discoverer”, as was later verified. The story tells that the first direct references to the presence of Machu Picchu date back to 1902. The precise information that Agustin Lizarraga, a tenant of the lands of cusco, arrived at the site on July 14, 1902 guiding also cusco, Gabino Sánchez, Enrique Palma and Justo Ochoa.

The visitors left a graffiti with their names on one of the walls of the Temple Of The Sun, which was later verified by several people and then erased by Bingham’s order.

There are reports that Lizárraga had already visited Machu Picchu in the company of Luis Béjar a few years earlier, in 1894.

Hiram Bingham’s contribution is that he was the first person to recognize the importance of the archaeological site, investigating the site with a multidisciplinary team and disclosing his findings, even though these works were done without the proper methods.

July 24, 1911: the day the world met Machu Picchu
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