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Lost City of the Incas (Phoenix Press) Paperback – October 1, 2003


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Hiram Bingham was born in Hawaii in 1875 and educated at Yale. His early expeditions to South America and his discovery of Machu Picchu were just the start of a long and colourful career: he went on to command air force troops in France during the First World War and to become a Senator. He died in 1956. Hugh Thomson, the editor of this edition, is an explorer, travel writer and documentary filmmaker living in Bristol. Hugh Thomson, the editor of this edition, is a travel writer and documentary film maker living in Bristol. His first book, The White Rock, is published by W&N in July 2001. Hugh Thomson's previous books include The White Rock: An Exploration of the Inca Heartland and Nanda Devi, a journey to a usually inaccessible part of the Himalayas. He has led many research expeditions to Peru. He is also a film-maker and has won many awards for his documentaries, which include Indian Journeys with William Dalrymple, and Dancing in the Street: A Rock and Roll History. He lives in Oxfordshire. More details can be seen at www.thewhiterock.co.uk
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Product Details

  • Series: Phoenix Press
  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (October 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842125850
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842125854
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By kaioatey on December 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is valuable for many reasons. First and foremost, it presents us with the views and attitudes of one of the world's foremost anthropologist-explorers from the beginning of the 20th century. This means lots and lots of passion and enthusiasm, a willingness to risk one's life in pursuit of an elusive goal and an ability to follow one's gut instincts. All traits which, sadly, have practically dissapeared from modern anthropology. In addition, of course, the book is permeated with the spirit of the times (1910-40ies) - which means patronizing attitudes toward the natives (the "savages", who for the most part clearly resented the tasks of having to clear the jungle, build bridges across impassable rapids and climb hills infested with snakes) and an eurocentric view of the world which now seems a bit naive.
All this being said, I must emphasize that this book is a treasure and a must read for anyone about to visit Macchu Picchu - if only to contrast the conditions encountered by Bingham and his Indians to those that exist today, when busloads of clueless tourists are delivered straight to the Temple of the Sun. The first third of the book consists of a superb Introduction including a recapitulation of the16th century records of the Incas and their empire (including the awesome Pachakuti Inca), very competent review of Inca technology (many of their and an excellent recapitulation of the life stories of the last 4 Incas. The last part describes the actual "discovery" of Macchu Picchu which occured by procuring, for a silver coin, the services of Anacleto Alvarez, a local Qechua who had been living among the ruins all along. Macchu Pichu therefore had never been truly "lost" and "discovery" has in this context many interesting connotations.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 20, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This book tells the gripping story of the discovery of Machu Piccu. Although Bingham is an academic archaeologist he appears to be belong to the Indiana Jones school. As a travel book it is a gem - Bingham travels through uncharted teritory in the outback of Peru at teh beginning of the century. He risks his life climbing the steep hillsides to Machu Piccu after getting a tip from a local farmer. But the book is also full of detail on the finds he made at the site. It is an insight into the ways of the Inca, and the archaeologist. Although it can be a bit dry in places - the lists of finds at Machu Piccu - Bingham makes up for this with his absorbing adventure story in the earlier chapters. END
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60 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M Quigg VINE VOICE on March 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
Bingham's book was written back in the 1940s. This details his adventures in finding the city of Machi Picchu. The city was never really lost, the Indians knew about it all along. Bingham just brought it to the world's attention. Some of Bingham's theories about the Incas have later been proven false. So if you want the definitive explanation of why Machu Picchu exists, this is not the book. Generally this is a good adventure book and details the last years of the Inca Empire before Francisco Pizarro destroyed it. This is located in the first part of the book, which is interesting. The second half of the book details his theories, some of which have been proven false. For those of you planning on visiting Peru and Machu Picchu, read this book.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By C. Ebeling on August 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In 1908, on a diplomatic mission he attained in the interest of increasing his understanding of South America and thus qualify as a professor of South American studies at Yale, Hiram Bingham casually accepted an invitation to visit the site of Incan ruins in Peru. His readings of the original Spanish conquistadores and explorers suggested there were more never found by the Europeans and he returned with an adventurous expedition. In 1911, on his own with a couple of local Indian farmers who were quietly using the land, he found the ruins of Machu Picchu high in the Andes under jungle overgrowth. Thus he ushered in the new era in Incan scholarship, 20th century adventurous exploration, archeology and, what he did not imagine at the time, tourism.

Bingham wrote THE LOST CITY OF THE INCAS with verve nearly 30 years after his achievement. To its credit, it is not riddled with hindsight but offers an immediacy of perspective. He begins with a very lucid, unbiased reading of the end of the Incan empire by the Europeans who leveled it. Bingham then recounts his own adventures in the discovery and subsequent archeological efforts, after which he provides a gloss on Incan culture as understood in those first digs. Bingham's narrative never bogs, even among the dryer material. The book stirs with wonder. Bingham may have been an ambitious man but his ambitions in this context are all about furthering knowledge for all.

The only reason to nick a star in the rating: datedness. Thanks to Bingham's inspiration, Incan studies perpetuate and some of his conclusions are no longer current. Though in one section he refers to native Indians as "savages," the book is largely and refreshingly free of elitism. He struck a deal with Peru to remove artifacts for study at Yale, with the stipulation that Peru could have them back when it wanted them. That's a drama that's unfolding now.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jill Clardy TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 7, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had started this book before leaving for our Machu Picchu trip, but got distracted reading other things about the trip and did not finish it beforehand. I did finish the book a couple of weeks after returning, which in hindsight, is the best way to absorb the material. After having travelled through the Sacred Valley, through Ollantaytambo and along the Urubamba River and witnessing firsthand the marvelous scenery and geography of Peru, it was so much more meaningful to read about Bingham's adventures in locating the Lost City of the Incas. The steep cliffs and valleys, thick jungle vegetation and narrow passes are still foreboding today, let alone over 100 years ago without the benefit of highways and GPS !

Additionally, it was useful to read the book after having heard from our professional Peruvian guides how they feel about Bingham's adventures. The Peruvians seem to have a love/hate relationship with Bingham. They acknowledge him as the "scientific discoverer" of the ruins, but they also state that the Indians were living and farming at the ruins and knew about them all along. Many of the gravesites had already been plundered over the centuries. They also acknowledge that Bingham's determination and commitment essentially created the modern tourism industry in Peru. They also believe that Bingham and his crew took away valuable artifacts (perhaps gold and silver) which were never accurately catalogued and disclosed.

It was interesting to read about the excavation and process of discovery of landmarks in the ruins that we had had a chance to see firsthand.
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Lost City of the Incas (Phoenix Press)
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