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Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham, a Real-Life Indiana Jones, and the Search for Machu Picchu

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  271 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
In 1911, a young Peruvian boy led an American explorer and Yale historian named Hiram Bingham into the ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu. Hidden amidst the breathtaking heights of the Andes, this settlement of temples, tombs and palaces was the Incas' greatest achievement. Tall, handsome, and sure of his destiny, Bingham believed that Machu Picchu was the Incas' final ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 13th 2010 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2010)
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Feb 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, peru-history
The discovery of Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham

This book narrates the adventure (and misadventures) of Yale University professor Hiram Bingham in the 1911 discovery of Machu Picchu, currently one of the most popular tourist spots in the Americas. With the help of Peruvian scholars like Carlos Romero and local informants like Juan Quispicusi, Bigham found Vitcos and Espiritu Pampa, scenes of the final moments of Manco Inca, Titu Cusi, and Tupac Arnaru, three of the important and tragic figures in
Jason Golomb
On the morning of July 24, 1911, a tall lecturer-cum-explorer from Yale University set off in a cold drizzle to investigate rumors of ancient Inca ruins in Peru. The explorer chopped his way through thick jungle, crawled across a "bridge" of slender logs bound together with vines, and crept through underbrush hiding venomous fer-de-lance pit vipers.

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 ha
Oct 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
In his book, Heaney utilizes an easy, conversational style to tell an interesting and surprising tale of the life and adventures of Hiram Bingham. The reader is treated to Indiana Jones-like stories of the explorer’s travels throughout Peru and of the wonderful discoveries he made. Heaney’s use of original sources is at times inspired and always appropriate. The little tidbits about Bingham and his family are often poignant and truly create a feeling in the reader that one knows the man himself. ...more
Emily Richards
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
One of my dreams is to go to Peru. It is a land of beauty, enriched with culture and a history that both fascinates and haunts me. Most travellers lucky enough to venture to Peru endeavour to visit Machu Picchu and walk the Inca Trail. The magnetism to this spot could be neatly described as a “historical cosmos in miniature”. Machu Picchu, or “Old Peak”, is a symbolic reminder of the great Inca Empire that stretched the breadth of the west coast of South America, climbing to the highest mountain ...more
Adam Jones
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For starters, I feel I must admit that my interest in archaeology, exploration and ancient civilisations was the result of playing the original Tomb Raider on the Playstation back in 1996.
It made me think about how people in the past lived, the secrets and artefacts left behind and what we could find out from these. I guess I loved the mystery of it all and the sense of adventure in rediscovering something that had been lost for such a long time.
It also inspired my life-long desire to visit Per
Jan 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
I must say at the outset that I wanted to be able to rate this book higher than I ultimately did. I found the quality of the writing to be choppy, and it wasn't until the last third of the book that it was really able to hold my interest (proof of this is that I finished and reviewed at least half a dozen other books in the same timeframe as I started this one -- including two that were *significantly* longer).

It's really a pity, because Hiram Bingham's story should be presented in the interesti
Jul 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, favorites
Someone should have talked the author out of the silly name for this book because it's quite good and I almost didn't read it because of the sensational title. It's not about gold or treasure other than the rediscovery of Incan history, and Bingham's life had little in common with Indiana Jones except that both were professors for a part of their careers.

Reading this on the heels of "Lost City of Z" gave me a good chance to compare the life trajectories of two gentleman explorers, Brit Percy Fa
2.5 stars. It's not that I didn't think this book was interesting--it was--especially the first half. But the print was itty bitty, and that in itself limited my enjoyment of the book. My eyes hurt after time spent reading this work. No fun.

Once the story began talking about the political and legal battles that went on between Peru, Yale, and Hiram Bingham, somehow things got a little jumbled and hard to follow, and I did feel my interest falling off a bit. I was a little disappointed in this. I
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Ok, first of all Goodreads deleted my original review but I would just like to say that this book was fantastic and explained Hiram Bingham's discovery of Machu Picchu down to how he struggled or didn't struggle with getting artifacts back to Yale's Peabody Museum.

I like how he brings up the debate about whether or not museums in the US should have as many artifacts from other countries as it does. Heaney accredits his being able to see things in museums as one of the reasons he was inspired to
Lisa Munro
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
Indiana Jones never had to deal with national cultural patrimony laws, but Christopher Heaney's book demonstrates the tangled webs created through evolving concepts of archaeology, science, cultural patrimony, and foreign exploration. Based on primary source documentary research and the author's own descriptions of Incan ruins, this book follows Hiram Bingham's unlikely career as a jungle explorer and amateur archaeologist during his multiple expeditions to Peru and his descent into increasingly ...more
Alexparody Parody
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Heaney wrote a fascinating narrative of Hiram Bingham; it was entertaining, easy to read, and an quick-paced examination of the history of Bingham's "discovery" of Machu Picchu. It is also an interesting look into the cultural imperialist critique shared by most authors of Native American history today. There are aspects of the book, however, that make it truly feel like a novel. Bingham tried desperately to romanticize the history of the Incas, and Heaney, in a way, shared that characteristic w ...more
Jul 29, 2011 added it
I'm reading up on Machu Picchu, and this was a surprisingly quick read. Interesting to think about Hiram Bingham III whose grandfather "a sa rue" in Honolulu near the university campus. I'm not a fan of Spielberg films, but it's interesting to see how "Hi" became "Indy" via Charlton Heston's "Harry" in the fifties. Hi had at least three lives (but only two wives), as a missionary without vocation, a professor at yale, an adventure archeologist first in Colombia following the traces of Bolívar th ...more
Mar 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I love when great history books read like a great story, with twists, character issues, plot arcs and all that. This one has it all. Its fascinating to follow, and while I knew a little about Mr. Bingham, I knew very little about the history of the Spanish conquest of the Incas. Heaney does a great job with introducing the important aspects of this story, too, so that the historical signifigance of these places and things are not lost. It also says something about colonialism, and foreign influe ...more
Sep 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Werner Herzog
Shelves: freebox
Hiram Bingham forms a third to the cadre of proto-archaelogists, joining Heinrich Schliemann and Sir Arthur Evans, as men who started with a theory and would do anything possible to cram any artifacts they unearthed into their theories. I'm much happier calling Bingham and explorer than an archaeologist: there is something of the grandiose in his unrelenting efforts to find the Lost Cities of the Incas, and he certainly did bone up on all the extant literature of the Spanish Conquest, whereas hi ...more
Mar 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book chronicles the life & exploits of Hiram Bingham, the man who re-discovered the Machu Picchu and brought it to the attention of the world. It also covers basic Inca history, their assault from the Spanish conquistadors & missionaries as well as Yale's snobbery in refusing to returning the Incan treasures that Hiram stole/exported from the ruins. It's a great book, dry in a few areas but I think a pretty necessary read if you're a fan of history, Latin America, or are visiting Pe ...more
May 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I loved this book. Christopher Heaney is an old friend, in the interest of full disclosure, but that doesn't change the fundamental fact -- this book is a thoughtful, exciting, fascinating look at the end of the Incan Empire, the expedition that revealed Machu Picchu to the world, the complicated relationship between America and Latin America, the moral, legal, and practical dilemmas of archaeology, and the role of Yale in all of these issues (OK, except for the end of the Incan Empire -- Yale d ...more
Apr 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting, informative, but suffered a bit from the layout. Heaney flips between historical context of 17th century Incan rule in face of the Spanish conquest, and early 20th century Hiram Bingham and his "discovery" of their ruins. The historical sections were nonlinear, which was confusing as a reader coming into the book with no knowledge.

The book excels at pointing out the failures of early Western archaeology, particularly in some practioners' aims to prove white superiority. It also succ
May 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great look at Hiram Bingham as a man. It delves into the background that made him the man he was when he found Machu Picchu. It goes into some of the illegal things he did in bringing artifacts out of Peru and the lasting effects that have lingered on into our age a hundred years later. In many ways, Yale University paid a heavy price for Bingham's actions. The reader should be aware this is not a romantic look at a larger than life person. Bingham was larger than life, but he was all ...more
Brendan Steinhauser
Nov 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a great book about Hiram Bingham, the first explorer to discover Machu Picchu in Peru. The book covers his life, his work, and the controversies surrounding his discovery of Machu Picchu and the collection of artifacts that he sent back to Yale.

"Cradle of Gold" is well written, interesting, and a good primer about how Bingham made Machu Picchu world famous. He would later enter politics and became a Governor and U.S. Senator from Connecticut.
Feb 23, 2011 rated it liked it
It is evident that this is a very well researched book, and that it attempts to provide a historically accurate account of Hiram Bingham. So it can be a tedious read at times. But I felt like I really learned a lot about the Inca history and the significance of many of the Inca sites. I have to laugh at the title, and the way that the author wants to make you think that this will be like reading about Indiana Jones. It's not.
May 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Although it provides a good view of Hiram Bingham's life, Heaney writes with an extreme bias, and tends to make assumptions with no factual evidence to back up his claims. He also has the unfortunate habit of speaking for Bingham and other characters, with no factual basis for how he portrays their opinions of events/places.
Inga Aksamit
Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly researched book about a nearly mythical historical figure, I was completely engrossed in learning about Hiram Bingham. Even his early years and ancestors were quite interesting. History is always complicated and this book seems to handle the explorer's controversies and accomplishments fairly. Great read.
Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What an incredible description of the history of such a famous site. Most people who visit Machu Picchu probably do not have a good grasp on its history. Luckily, I read this in preparation for our trip and felt like I had a better appreciation for everything I saw in Peru (not just at Machu Picchu) as a result.
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
Not bad, the first part of the book (the part that actually fit the title) was good but then the author digressed. The story got bogged down in the political struggle over the artifacts and the author started rambling on about scattering a former friends ashes. First 1/3 of the book was good, second 1/3 was ok but the last 1/3 was a total snooze and I almost didn't make it through.
Aug 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I think more journalists (REAL journalists, not so-called "e-journalists") need to write history. I have not read a bad one yet; the last five were exceptional.

This was also excellent. Full of excitement, wonder, passion, gold, rocks, indigenous and otherwise, curses, all the things history needs!
Jul 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Part history, part adventure, part social commentary - the book is an expansion of an undergraduate senior thesis, that was itself an extension of a life-long curiosity and interest in museum artifacts. The commentary of who owns artifacts and proposals for collaboration are well worth the read. (spoiler - Yale does not come off looking good.)
Rich Pliskin
Mar 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
In preparation for Spring Break trip to Machu Pikachu. And that ain't Peru, Indiana. Talk about pluck. This guy Bingham really got out there. Book was useful for information on something I had absolutely no knowledge of, and provided good background for the trip. Not the most fun or interesting of reads, though, and I wouldn't recommend it for pleasure reading.
Oct 19, 2010 rated it liked it
perhaps a 4. Not a fast read...but very interesting. I'd like to have known more about the author who did the research. (beliefs, etc)

I really enjoyed learning more about the background behind the "discovery" of Machu Picchu, as well as the politics that still go on with the items that were unearthed. Hiram Bingham was an interesting person.

This is a biography/history story.
Sep 13, 2011 rated it liked it
I mostly enjoyed the portions of the book that recounted the stories and legends of the Incas. I realize it was about Hiram Bingham, but I found the parts about him and his 'discovery' less interesting, though I appreciate and commend Heaney's efforts to get out information about the find and the Yale-Peru controversy. I also inspired me to do some follow up reading on the Incas.
Jan 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
Unflattering account of the first modern "discoverer" of Machu Picchu. Enough surprising details to keep the book interesting for a non-history-lover like myself, but just barely.

Wow, no wonder the Peruvians were so angry at Bingham and Yale's Peabody Museum for nearly 100 years.
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