Adventure Remembers Hiram Bingham

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On July 24th, 1911, explorer Hirm Bingham stumbled (and I mean stumbled!) onto one of the greatest archeological finds of the 20th century in the form of Machu Picchu, a lost Inca city in the Andes. It wasn’t exactly the “lost city” he was looking for, and there are some that say he only re-discovered it, but with his find, Bingham cemented his place in history, and inspired other explorers that followed.

A new book entitled Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham, a Real-Life Indiana Jones, and the Search for Machu Picchu by historian Christopher Heaney takes a look at Bingham’s life and his influence on the iconic, whip-cracking, fictional archaeologist of the popular film series. Heaney sat down with National Geographic Adventure’s Mark Adams recently for an interview and to discuss the real life adventurer.

Heaney says that Bingham was actually searching for Vitcos and Vilcabamba, the last capitals of the Inca empire, when he came across Machu Picchu instead. He would find those two lost cities eventually as well, but that would come a few months later, making 1911 a very busy and memorable year for the explorer. In the interview, Heaney talks about these important finds and their historical significance.

It has been nearly 100 years since Bingham’s jungle adventure, and Machu Picchu has gone on to become the number one tourist attraction in Peru. But back in 1911, the area was a remote, mostly unexplored jungle, that was still waiting to give up its secrets. It must have been an exciting time to be an archaeologist.

Has anyone read the book? Any thoughts? Sounds really interesting.

Kraig Becker

5 thoughts on “<i>Adventure</i> Remembers Hiram Bingham”

  1. Haven't read this one, but I just added it to my NY Public Library list. Seems like a good complementary read to The Lost City of Z.

    Speaking of Indiana Jones, check out Charlton Heston's old movie Secret of the Incas. I understand it's been shown on Turner Classics, and it's also available as a bootleg copy, and looks like it's on Youtube as well. The conspiracy theory is that Steven Speilberg has prevented this movie from being released, since he doesn't want us to know where he stole Indiana Jones from! It's a fun movie though, nothing that deep, but interesting if you've been to Peru.

    Someone in Spielberg's "camp" definitely watched this movie, they stole Heston's brown bomber jacket and fedora!

  2. I thought about Lost City of Z while reading the interview as well. Enjoyed that book a lot. And I'll have to look for the Charlton Heston movie. Seems like something I'd enjoy as well.

    And to the first commenter in this article, Chad Kellogg turned around due to high winds, he's making another summit bid, but not for the record. Please move along to a more appropriate story.

  3. I actually have the book. I would consider it required reading for anyone who is going there. Personally, I loved it. The first part is Incan history and the second part is the story of his "discovery." (Local indigenous people actually knew about it for ages, but we'll give him this one). Perfect for history or adventure buffs….and yours for only 19.99 plus shipping in this limited time commercial offer.

  4. I am halfway through CRADLE OF GOLD and its a cracker. Anyone going to Machu Picchu next year to celebrate the centenary of Hiram Bingham's discovery must read this book before going on the trip. Its a real story of adventure and greed. I like the way Chris Heaney also acknowledges the great Charlton Heston movie SECRET OF THE INCAS as well.

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