A story told to some of the early Spanish chroniclers noted a mythical place from which the Incas had come when they started out and to make the beginnings of that great empire which was to embrace a large part of South America.
Thousands of years ago there lived in the highlands of Peru a megalithic folk who developed a remarkable civilization, and who left, as architectural records, such cyclopean structures as the fortresses of Sacsahuaman and Ollantaytambo. These people were attacked by barbarian hordes coming from the south – possibly from the Argentine pampas.
They were defeated, and fled into one of the most inaccessible Andine cañons. Here, in a region strongly defended by nature, they established themselves; here their descendants lived for several centuries. The chief place was called Tampu Tocco.
Eventually regaining their military strength and becoming crowded in this mountainous valley, they left Tampu Tocco, and, under the leadership of three brothers, went out of three windows (or caves) and started for Cuzco.
The migration was slow and deliberate. They eventually reached Cuzco, and there established the Inca kingdom, which through several centuries spread by conquest over the entire plateau, and even as far south as Chile and as far north as Ecuador.
This Inca empire had reached its height when the Spaniards came. The Spaniards were told that Tampu Tocco was at a place called Pacaritampu, a small village a day’s journey southwest of Cuzco and in the Apurimac Valley.
The chroniclers duly noted this location, and it has been taken for granted ever since that Tampu Tocco was at Pacaritampu. (National Geographic, 1913)
Tampu means “tavern,” or “a place of temporary abode.” Tocco means “window.” The legend is distinctly connected with a place of windows, preferably of three windows, from which the three brothers, the heads of three tribes or clans, started out on the campaign that founded the Inca empire.
“So far as I could discover, few travelers have ever taken the trouble to visit Pacaritampu, and no one knew whether there were any buildings with windows, or caves, there.” (Bingham)
Hiram Bingham III was born in Honolulu, on November 19, 1875, the son of missionaries to Micronesia and grandson of Hiram and Sybil Bingham, leader of the Pioneer Company of Missionaries to Hawaii. He completed his studies at Yale, earning a doctorate in Latin American history.
In 1905, Bingham made his first trip to South America, following the route of Simón Bolivar, from Caracas, Venezuela to Bogotá, Colombia. He returned in 1908 and retraced the Spanish trade route from Buenos Aires to Lima.
While in Peru, in February, 1909, he visited Choqquequirau, a recently discovered Inca site that had once been thought to be the last refuge of the Inca rulers after they were defeated by the Spanish explorer, Francisco Pizarro. This visit inspired him with the desire to find the legendary “lost city of the Incas.”
In 1911, Bingham went back to Peru with two goals: to climb Mount Coropuna to see whether it was higher than Mount Aconcagua and to seek out the last capital of the Incas, the almost mystical city of Vilcabamba.
Arriving in Arequipa, in June 1911, he decided that it would not be wise to try to make the climb in winter and instead decided to look for ruins in the valley of the Rio Urubamba. (Encyclopedia)
“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 refuge, where they fled the Spanish Conquistadors.”
“Bingham made Machu Picchu famous, and his dispatches from the jungle cast him as the swashbuckling hero romanticized today as a true Indiana Jones-like character.” (History)
“Some experts believe that parts of the city, which Bingham named Machu Picchu (Old Peak), are 60 centuries old, which would make it 1,000 years older than ancient Babylon. More recently, if its ruins are interpreted correctly, it was at once an impregnable fortress and a majestic royal capital of an exiled civilization.”
“Built on a saddle between two peaks, Machu Picchu is surrounded by a granite wall, can be entered only by one main gate. Inside is a maze of a thousand ruined houses, temples, palaces, and staircases, all hewn from white granite and dominated by a great granite sundial.”
“In Quechua, language of the sun-worshipping Incas and their present-day descendants, the dial was known as Intihuatana—hitching post of the sun.” (Time)
Four different plaques commemorate the ‘find.’ Two plaques attached to a rock face near the entrance to Machu Picchu pay tribute to Hiram Bingham and his “discovery” of Machu Picchu.
The first plaque was erected in October, 1948, by the Rotary Club of Cusco. It reads (in Spanish): “Cusco is grateful to Hiram Bingham, scientific discoverer of Machu Picchu in 1911.” The second was put in place in 1961. It reads (also in Spanish): “Tribute to Hiram Bingham on the 50th anniversary of the discovery of Machu Picchu.”
The second was put in place in 1961. It reads (also in Spanish): “Tribute to Hiram Bingham on the 50th anniversary of the discovery of Machu Picchu.”
A third bronze plaque marks the 75th anniversary of the “scientific discovery” of Machu Picchu. It doesn’t mention Hiram Bingham, nor does it mention anyone else, apart from a reference to the “sons of Inti” who built Machu Picchu (Inti being the Inca sun god).
In 1993, Peru’s National Institute of Culture decided it was time to pay tribute to the locals who helped Hiram Bingham find his way to Machu Picchu. The sign reads: “The National Institute of Culture Cusco pays homage to Melchor Arteaga, Richarte and Álvarez who lived in Machu Picchu before Hiran [sic] Bingham.” (Atlas Obscura)
Melchor Arteaga was instrumental in Bingham’s expedition to Machu Picchu. A local farmer living at Mandor Pampa near Aguas Calientes, Arteaga knew the location of Machu Picchu and showed Bingham the way.
The other two names, Richarte and Álvarez, refer to two men and their families who lived up near Machu Picchu and still farmed on its lower terraces when Bingham arrived.
Bingham and Arteaga met Toribio Richarte and Anacleto Álvarez on their tough trek up the steep, jungle covered mountain. It was Anacleto’s son, Pablo, who on July 24, 1911 guided Bingham along the last leg of the trek, into the heart of Machu Picchu. (Atlas Obscura)