Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham, the Real Indiana Jones, and the Search of Machu Picchu Hardcover – April 13, 2010
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
"An unforgettable journey into the heart of Peru's past that takes the reader on a hunt for the lost cities of the Incas, the famous Machu Picchu among them. It's also a sensitively written portrait of Hiram Bingham, one of the last great explorers of our time--a man set on fulfilling his destiny--and a judicious historical account of the disenfranchisement of the Peruvian people, who had their heritage stolen by those claiming to protect it."--Peter Nichols, author of Final Voyage and A Voyage for Madmen
About the Author
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
Yale, and its various sponsored expeditions, are central to the story. In fact, I'd say the author gives us too much here. Throughout the book the reader may forget that we're supposed to be learning about the rediscovery of Machu Picchu because we're reading about the history of Yale University. Perhaps that's what the author intended.
That minor complaint aside, the reader is treated to a beautifully told story in the history of American anthropology. It really DOES read like a real-life Indiana Jones story, and Bingham was a huge figure, much like his fictional counterpart.
Still, this is ultimately a book about institutions and politics, and those looking for a detailed biography or a detailed history of the end of the Inca empire will be disappointed.
Two hours into the hike, the explorer and his two escorts came across a grass-covered hut. A pair of Indian farmers walked them a short way before handing them over to a small Indian boy. With the boy leading the way, Hiram Bingham stumbled upon one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century; and what was named in 2007 as one of the new seven wonders of the world: Machu Picchu.
Christopher Heaney's "Cradle of Gold" recounts the discovery of Machu Picchu , but also dives deeply into the expeditions leading up to this seminal archaeological discovery, as well as later expeditions and the political intrigues that still exist today.
To be clear, Bingham didn't truly 'discover' Machu Picchu. There were two Indian families living on the mountain who were even using the broad Machu Picchu plaza as a garden. It's common in modern times to reference Bingham as the "scientific" discoverer of the mountain top Inca citadel. According to Heaney, it was common during his day as well. Within the last two years, research has emerged that indicates that not only did locals know of the ruins perched above the Urubamba River, but foreign interests were both aware of Machu Picchu, and had sought out (and possibly found), treasure among the ruins. Heaney points out that the debate of who 'discovered' Machu Picchu began the moment Bingham reached the ruins and saw a name clearly scratched in charcoal on an ancient Inca wall.
Heaney spent years researching the story in Peru, the UK and across the United States to compile fresh and historic perspectives on Bingham the man, and Bingham the explorer. Heaney covers Bingham's childhood where he group up in Hawai'i with a deeply religious father and grandfather, both of whom were, and are, renown for their work in spreading and reinforcing Christianity across the Pacific.
According to Heaney, Bingham found himself caught between the very conservative world of his religious upbringing, and a strong desire to explore. Additionally, he had to live up to a well-known name and reputation that was generations-old. He ended up marrying an heiress to the Tiffany fortune which provided the early funding of his first trips to South America. He had a knack for history, writing, and leadership. The combination of the three landed him in Peru in 1911.
A second ruin-hunting expedition, with primary funding from Yale University, where Hiram graduated and lectured, and the National Geographic Society, returned him to Peru to flesh out his previous discoveries and the historical theories he proposed. Bingham explored, excavated and publicized on his own behalf. Ultimately the world embraced his Lost City which he thought was the first and last cities of the Incas. It is, in fact, the strongest of Bingham's legacies.
But there's more to the story than discovery. There's a political side that adds a rather distasteful bit of reality to the dream-like elements of the Inca city in the clouds. Within the last three years, Peru has been pushing Yale, in the press and in the courts, to return the artifacts that Bingham purportedly took with him from Peru during his series of expeditions. This dark cloud hangs over Machu Picchu which is set to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Bingham's revelation to the world. This political battle is not new. It emerged essentially as Bingham was making his round of celebrity lectures in the U.S. lauding his discoveries. And the battle didn't simply occur around Bingham, he was often right in the middle of the fray. Heaney also makes it clear that Bingham was not a mere innocent bystander, but he helped create a problem that has lasted almost a century.
Heaney's story is very detailed and extremely well researched as evidenced by 20+ pages of references and footnotes. He got his hands on several archives rich in journals and personal correspondence related to Machu Picchu and Hiram Bingham. Heaney provides a thrilling account of Bingham's journeys, through the multifaceted lenses of those related to his Peruvian expeditions, as well as his own well-known accounts.
The story of Bingham's discoveries evoke the youthful passions to take on incredible challenges in far-off lands. The realities of Bingham's jungle and mountain adventures are mere fantasies of young boys across suburban America...fantasies that are reinforced through pop culture icons like Indiana Jones. Heaney suggests (even in his title) that Indiana Jones was modeled on Hiram Bingham. He, in fact, references an old Charlton Heston film,"Secret of the Incas", upon which the costumers of Raiders of the Lost Ark based Indy's outfit. Heston's character in "Secret of the Incas" is, of course, a dead ringer for Bingham.
Like Indy, Bingham's story has good guys and bad guys. Unlike the movies the good guys don't necessarily wear the white hats and the bad guys don't necessarily wear the black ones.
"Cradle of Gold" presents the history of Machu Picchu in a straightforward, yet highly readable manner. Both the history of Machu Picchu as a civilization and the story of its "discovery" by Hiram Bingham are fascinating, and Heaney does a wonderful job of telling these stories. He also very fairly presents the controversy surrounding the ownership of the artifacts taken by Bingham, making what could be a dry legal case into an interesting sociopolitical debate.
We found that we got much more out of our trip to Peru, and particularly to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, than we would have had we not read "Cradle of Gold." We were able to spend our time with our guide of Machu Picchu skipping over the basic stuff and asking about what interested us most. "Cradle of Gold" provided us with context and a much deeper understanding of what we were seeing, and allowed us to have a much more enjoyable and educational trip than we would have without the book.
"Cradle of Gold" is a quick and enjoyable read, and one that I highly recommend for anyone traveling to Peru.