On this day in 1911, one of the world's most popular tourist destinations -- and a designated World Heritage site -- was first visited by famed Yale archeologist, Hiram Bingham, in Peru. As such, modern western historians consider today, July 24, to be the official "rediscovery date" of the ancient Inca archeological site, Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu can be found in the Andes Mountains of Cuzco, Peru. While theories vary as to what purpose the rocky citadel served, many archeologists believe that it was a summer retreat used by Inca kings and high-ranking Inca leaders.
Historians Say Machu Picchu Was a Royal Mountain Retreat
The Inca civilization came to an abrupt and unfortunate end in the 1500s, when Spanish conquistadors brutally invaded their lands and killed their kings in the name of conquest, riches and gold. For a period of hundreds of years following the Inca conquest, the memory and knowledge of magnificent Machu Picchu was only known by Peruvian people who lived in the high jungle regions that surround the site.
However, in 1911, archeologist, adventurer and Yale graduate, Hiram Bingham went to Peru to explore the lost cities formerly inhabited by the Incas. While Bingham was exploring the Cuzco region by mule, a local farmer tipped him off about a dilapidated set of stone ruins on top of a mountain. The farmer said that the mountain was called Machu Picchu in the indigenous language of the area called Quechua, which was formerly spoken by the Incas themselves.
Bingham Owes His Famous Discovery to an 11-Year-Old
After hearing about the site from the farmer, on July 24, Bingham set off to find the ruins. Eventually, an 11-year-old boy helped Bingham to the exact site at the end of a laborious trek. Later, Hiram Bingham would write a best-selling archeology book about the beautiful archeological discoveries he made in the Cuzco region of Peru, which would bring a great deal of public attention and excitement to the area. Now, thanks to Hiram Bingham and his adventures, Machu Picchu is considered one of the biggest tourist attractions of the world and a dream destination for outdoor photographers, archeology fans and adventurous travelers alike.
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