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Lost City of the Incas

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  998 ratings  ·  99 reviews
First published in the 1950s, this is a classic account of the discovery in 1911 of the lost city of Machu Picchu.

In 1911 Hiram Bingham, a pre-historian with a love of exotic destinations, set out to Peru in search of the legendary city of Vilcabamba, capital city of the last Inca ruler, Manco Inca. With a combination of doggedness and good fortune he stumbled on the perfe
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 3rd 2003 by Phoenix (first published 1948)
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May 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
If there ever was a real Indiana Jones, it was Hiram Bingham -- more specifically Hiram Bingham III. His grandfather was Hiram Bingham I, who was the Protestant missionary Abner Hale in James Michener's Hawaii. Hiram I's son, Hiram II, followed in his footsteps in Hawaii. But the third generation Hiram was characterized by wanderlust. He became an explorer in Peru, then an aviator, ending up as a U.S. Senator representing his home state of Connecticut.

Lost City of the Incas, although copyrighted
Dec 16, 2014 rated it liked it
This autobiographical book was written in 1948, and was a best-seller at the time. Interesting to read a first hand account by a legendary figure of archaeology. Bingham's writing style is easy to read and surprisingly literary. He paints a colourful picture of the rugged mountain countryside in which he travelled, with its tangled vegetation and sparse population making the visibility of ruins almost impossible.
I believe his reputation had been damaged a bit by the time of this book - firstly f
wow. this book is completely insane. such an interesting window into the attitudes of educated white people towards other civilizations and indigenous people. bingham writes well and is a great storyteller. and he makes me incredibly embarrassed. highly recommended reading for anyone interested in archaeology, race studies, indigenous studies, class studies...
Dec 30, 2015 added it
This is white male privilege at its best/worst. He comes from an influential family of missionaries, with a sense of destiny/greatness. He marries rich. He "decides" to pursue graduate studies and gets a job at Yale. He uses his connections at Yale and elsewhere to fund expeditions. The introduction helps situate him in this realm, but it comes through pretty clearly in his own writing as well.

You don't read this book because it's good writing. You read it for the travelogue, the discovery of Ma
Feb 15, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great introduction to Machu Picchu. However, Bingham was a bit wrong on some things. The city was never for women only. Although he found 3/4 of the graves were female, that was corrected later. He called it Vilcabamba, which was the last place of Manco Inca after he fled Cuzco. That was incorrect; the real old retreat is miles further into the jungle.

But it is still an excellent way to understand the importance of Machu Picchu. Bingham originally from Hawaii, gives an idealistic and vivid pict
Glen  Gilpin
Aug 29, 2019 rated it liked it
First 1/3 of the book was fascinating learning about the Incas but his journey couldn't keep my attention. ...more
Jul 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great book. It was actually written back in the 50's, so not only is it a fascinating look at the discovery of Macchu Picchu, but it's also a look back at the way the discoverer (Bingham) thought and worked during the early 1900's. There's a modern introduction in this edition that lets you know Bingham didn't quite get all his facts straight, but that doesn't detract from the rest of the book in any way. It made me want to go and explore the wild of the Andes.

May 21, 2014 added it
An interesting read to know more about Machu Picchu. I bought the book in Peru just a few days before visiting the site. It starts with a nice introduction about the Incas and then does a nice job in describing the moments of the discovery.
As of today it's known that many facts are wrong, the book is a great read and it's worth it.
Feb 09, 2015 marked it as unfinished
Shelves: 2015
The first part of this book, where Bingham describes the culture and customs of the Incas is really interesting. The second part, where he details his explorations is a bit dry. I didn't feel the need to finish this book. ...more
Aug 26, 2018 rated it liked it
A decent book, written by the American who put Machu Picchu - which I recommend reading AFTER a visit to the citadel (and to Cusco, Ollanta etc.) ... I can see why many readers might have difficulty following this read; there are many geographical references throughout its text, and many names (of places and people) that one might get better acquainted with - only by taking a trip to the Land of the Incas.

Having read this account immediately after visiting the Inca places was the best thing for
Pablo Flores
May 28, 2017 rated it liked it
A classic, of course, though I only found out about it after visiting Machu Picchu, which is a pity since you can't appreciate the contrast between the city before your eyes and that described in painstaking detail and with lavish praise by Bingham a posteriori.

The pace of the book is not fast; only in the third and last part does the storyteller come to the central point, and then sometimes the detail is a bit excessive, unless you have a map by your side. The preliminaries are necessary, thoug
Ted Hunt
Jul 29, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is the original study written by Hiram Bingham after his "discovery" of Machu Picchu in 1911. The relatively short (270 pages) book is divided into three sections: 1. A history of the Incas; 2. The background of his search in the Andes; 3. The story of the discovery on Machu Picchu. I was hoping to like this book more that I did, but I found it really dry and clinical. The first section was based primarily on the reporting of others, including the 16th century Spanish who were occupyin ...more
A well written book about one of the major archeological discoveries of the 20th century. The book reads like a Victorian travelogue when an adventurer would dress like a native and get into the heart of it all. Hiram Bingham does not go to those lengths but he was not a man who frightened easily or was adverse following through on native tales. He wrote this book some 30 years after the events described but captures the beauty of the Andes and the trek through the forest with an energy and eye ...more
Oct 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is an amazingly gripping account of the discovery of Machu Picchu by Bingham in 1911 as well as the discovery of a few other Incan locations that lead him to it. Despite being written in the late 1940s, this is a really readable account and brings the expedition to life with vivid descriptions of all aspects of life, from the day to day challenges of getting supplies deep in the jungle and to the top of mountains to the sense of awe as the scale of their discoveries hit home. The book start ...more
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
D. Lyons
May 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
For modern readers, you have to think back to a time when things were much more paternalistic and politically incorrect (as far as "exploration" is concerned.). It's funny that the guy who "discovered" Macchu Picchu basically asked a local kid in a bar to lead him to it. Still, this is a story of the grit, determination, and adventure (in the Classic "Englishman" have porters and people who've been there before you, but you get credit for it all). Nevertheless, this was how it was do ...more
James Murphy
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
We live now in a universe stripped of mystery; perhaps the depths of the ocean retain some secrets. With satellites and telescopes, we have peeked into every crevice or at the most distant stars. It is intoxicating, then, to be transported back to a time where hidden cities of gold may be hiding just over yonder mountain. Bingham's excitement is contagious and his prose is both precise and engaging. At times the level of detail is frustrating for the casual reader and lovers of guinea pigs may r ...more
Ann Otto
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent presentation of Bingham's journals and work regarding his 1909-1912 expeditions and the 1913 publication of his findings. Beware, you'll need to read more current information as new research contradicts some of his findings about the inhabitants of Machu Picchu and his misidentification of that site as the "Lost City of the Incas." This does not, however, lessen the importance of his work and findings. It's often said that he is the inspiration for the Indiana Jones film character. ...more
Jul 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Despite all the vices of the occidental explorer's vision from the early XXth century, Hiram Bingham transmits to the reader all his contagious amazement and admiration for the Incas wonders. Enough merit to accompany him in this adventure.
I particularly recommend the Centenary Edition, which includes Hugh Thomson's brief introduction to "Bingham's Photographs of Machu Picchu".
Oct 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I hope to visit Machu Picchu some day, so was interested in reading the chronicles of the discoverer of the ancient ruins. This book goes into much detail of how he found the ruins, what he found there, discoveries of ancient roads leading to the site, and his interpretation of what was found. I would be interested in reading a current book on the site. (This one was published in 1948.)
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Bingham tells of his trips in the early 1900's which revealed Machu Picchu to the world's eyes. This reads like an adventure novel. The section on finding the road was just as involved. Includes the history of the Incas, abridged from the translations of the Spanish priests who recorded it and then were killed. ...more
Catherine Buhler
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
I read this book during and after our trip to Peru. I think it helped me understand the Inca people and what Matchu Picchu really was and the background behind the site and the discovery and our understanding of the mystery and importance of it. I don’t know if I’d recommend it to everyone, but definitely someone who is planning on visiting.
Paige Jackson
Dec 13, 2017 rated it liked it
It's interesting to hear from the explorer himself as he describes the Peruvian Andes and his time exploring. Got a bit receptive and you can tell some of the incidents are a bit dramatized. But still a good pre-Peru read. ...more
May 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Hard work but ultimately the book to read before visiting one of the 7 wonders. it would be good to have footnotes to explain the locations and their use that HB details but which we now know or believe to have other functions
Bruno Laschet
Sep 06, 2019 rated it liked it
The story of the discovery of Machu Picchu. The city was found by Hiram Bingham in 1911. The book was written by himself.
In the beginning he writes about the last years of the Incas and later in the book how he found the hidden city.
Jess Monnier
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Entertaining adventure story. Hiram Bingham gets a bad (not saying it's not deserved) rap. While some of his history premises were off and his archaeology methods left much to be desired, this was an enjoyable read. His descriptions were vivid and colorful. ...more
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great history

Having just gone to Peru this was a great insight into the real in a story this is highly recommended
Justin Reeder
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Some extraneous information here but if anyone is interested in the Inca's, their history, culture and importance to civilization Bingham is where to start! ...more
Eliel Lopez
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An interesting account by the author and explorer who discovered the ancient site of Machu Picchu.
Stephen Callan
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it
I found it a bit tough to get through. It probably didn’t help that I just re-watched the Indiana series of movies before reading.
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Hiram Bingham, formally Hiram Bingham III, was an academic, explorer, treasure hunter and politician from the United States. He made public the existence of the Quechua citadel of Machu Picchu in 1911 with the guidance of local indigenous farmers. Later, Bingham served as a member of the United States Senate.


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