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

4.2 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


A rich, lively book ... it is the classic adventure―IRISH TIMES

This is the stuff of dreams, a story as romantic as any in the annals of exploration―SUNDAY TIMES

Bingham catalogues his finds with admirable concision, and indulges his wide interests, revealing little-known facts about the Incas... He captures the majesty of the architecture in its dramatic and wild surroundings―LITERARY REVIEW

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; New Ed edition (October 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842125850
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842125854
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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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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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