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

4.2 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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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.

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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
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I recently came back from Machu Picchu and had an interest in learning about its discovery directly from Hiram Bingham. I thought it was overall an interesting read. A majority of the book gives you a history of the Incas and how they fell from power. Hiram also speaks about his desire to locate what he knew to be Vilcabamba, the last Inca holdout before the Spanish Conquistadors ended the Inca rule for good. It's important to note that although it's mentioned in Hiram's book, some of his theories about the purpose of Machu Picchu were later disputed. The most important one was the fact that Machu Picchu was NOT the last stronghold of Tupac Amaru.

I know some people disagree over whether it's better to read the book before or after visiting Machu Picchu, but I'm honestly glad I read it after my trip. It was interesting to go through the last chapter on his excavations and think to yourself: "I know EXACTLY where he's talking about!" I can picture his route there because the trip was still fresh in my mind and I had a great understanding of the altitude and appreciation for climbing through the jungle for more than an hour to get to the top of Machu Picchu. The most interesting read to me was about his companion who attempted to climb Huayna Picchu. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to climb it during my trip and that was honestly the most challenging thing I've ever done. Huayna Picchu is a vertical hike and it took tremendous effort to climb all the way to the top. That makes me appreciate the time it took Bingham's companion, Mr. Heald, to get there even more. Apparently Mr. Heald had to cut his way through lots of jungle and fell at one point, badly hurting his arm.
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