Hiram Bingham, formally Hiram Bingham III, (November 19, 1875 – June 6, 1956) 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.
Bingham was not a trained archaeologist. Yet, it was during Bingham's time as a lecturer – later professor – at Yale that he discovered the largely forgotten Inca city of Machu Picchu. In 1908, he had served as delegate to the First Pan American Scientific Congress at Santiago, Chile. On his way home via Peru, a local prefect convinced him to visit the pre-Columbian city of Choquequirao. Bingham published an account of this trip in Across South America; an account of a journey from Buenos Aires to Lima by way of Potosí, with notes on Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru (1911).
Bingham was thrilled by the prospect of unexplored Inca cities, and in 1911 returned to the Andes with the Yale Peruvian Expedition of 1911. On July 24, 1911, Melchor Arteaga led Bingham to Machu Picchu, which had been largely forgotten by everybody except the small number of people living in the immediate valley (possibly including two local missionaries named Thomas Payne and Stuart McNairn whose descendants claim that they had already climbed to the ruins in 1906). Also the Cusco explorers Enrique Palma, Gabino Sanchez and Agustín Lizarraga are said to have arrived at the site in 1901.
Bingham returned to Peru in 1912 and 1915 with the support of Yale and the National Geographic Society.
Machu Picchu has become one of the major tourist attractions in South America, and Bingham is recognized as the man who brought the site to world attention, although many others helped to bring this site into the public eye. The switchback-filled road that carries tourist buses to the site from the Urubamba River is called the Hiram Bingham Highway.
Bingham has been cited as one possible basis for the "Indiana Jones" character. His book Lost City of the Incas became a bestseller upon its publication in 1948.
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