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100 facts for 100 years of Machu Picchu: Fact 91

July 14, 2011|By Catharine Hamm | Los Angeles Times Travel Editor
(Catharine Hamm / Los Angeles…)

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the rediscovery of Machu Picchu in Peru. On July 24, 1911, Hiram Bingham III, a Yale professor, came upon the vine-covered ruins of the ancient Inca city, which the Spanish had overlooked for three centuries. For the 100 days leading to the anniversary, we've been publishing a fact a day. Here's a look at the site's country, history and players. Read from the bottom up.

91. The layout of Machu Picchu is highly organized. Its agricultural areas (upper and lower) are separated from the urban areas (divided into east and west) by walls.

90. Actress Susan Sarandon was on hand for the re-opening of the railroad line to Aguas Calientes.

89. The rainy season can cause some problems. Machu Picchu was closed in early 2010 for two months because heavy rains washed out the railroad line to Aguas Calientes.

88. Hiram Bingham said of the weather, "The climate seems to be excellent. We noticed growing sweet and white potatoes, maize, sugarcane, beans, peppers, tomatoes and a kind of gooseberry."

87. The crowds are smaller at Machu Picchu, however, during the rainy season.

86. The rainy season in Peru is October through April.

85. Remember, Machu Picchu is below the Equator, so our summer is their winter. But it's not exactly arctic  in winter in this subtropical climate.

84. Many of Machu Picchu's structures had religious significance or agricultural importance.

83. As many as 1,000 people lived at the royal complex of Machu Picchu, which was abandoned perhaps as late as 1572.

82. The Urubamba River surrounds the Machu Picchu complex on three sides, about 1,500 feet below.

81. Machu Picchu was built at the behest of Pachacuti ("He Who Shakes the Earth"), the ruler of the Incan Empire, between two peaks -- Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu.

80. Hiram Bingham's missionary grandparents, the Rev. Hiram and Sybil Bingham, were among the first group of missionaries to arrive in Hawaii in 1820. Rev. Bingham was a member of the committee that founded Punahou School, which was founded in 1841 and opened in 1842. They were not there to see it: Sybil Bingham's health declined, so they returned to the States the year before the school opened.

79. What do Hiram Bingham, President Obama and actors Buster Crabbe and Joan Blondell have in common? They are alumni of Punahou School on Oahu, a private, co-educational prep school in Honolulu.

78. Hiram Bingham's father and grandfather were missionaries.

77. Hiram Bingham's love of adventure may have been preordained. He was born in Honolulu in 1875, more than 20 years before Hawaii became a territory.

76. Some say Hiram Bingham was the model for Indiana Jones, the swashbuckling adventurer of movie fame.  (Yes, but did Bingham hate snakes?)

75. Hiram Bingham was rich in many senses of the word. (He was married to an heir to the Tiffany fortune, whom he later divorced.) He had seven sons.

74. Hiram Bingham died June 6, 1956, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

73. President Harry Truman established the Civil Service Loyalty Review Board to show that he was not soft on communism. Hiram Bingham was a board member from 1951-53.

72. Hiram Bingham served on the Civil Service Loyalty Review Board. The board was established in 1947 by President Harry Truman. From the order establishing the body: "There shall be a loyalty investigation of every person entering the civilian employment of any department or agency of the executive branch of the federal government."

71. Hiram Bingham lost his 1932 reelection for the U.S. Senate.

70. According to the Biographical Dictionary of the U.S. Congress, Hiram Bingham was "censured by the Senate in 1929 on charges of placing of a lobbyist on his payroll."

69. Hiram Bingham took the Senate seat, made vacant by the suicide of Sen. Frank B. Brandegee, and won reelection in 1926.

68. Hiram Bingham was offered a U.S. Senate seat, made vacant by the suicide of Sen. Frank B. Brandegee, soon after Bingham assumed the governor's mantle.

67. In 1924, Hiram Bingham became governor of Connecticut. But even that wasn't enough.

66. A decade after Hiram Bingham's expedition to Peru, he was elected lieutenant governor of Connecticut. But he had more in mind.

65. Hiram Bingham's reputation apparently didn't suffer in the United States, which was helpful because he had political ambitions.

64. Hiram Bingham's reputation is said to have suffered -- at least among those who criticized his methods of gathering  the treasures.

63. Hiram Bingham's collection of Peruvian artifacts, however, was criticized as haphazard.

62. Hiram Bingham III brought back more than 5,000 artifacts from Peru on an expedition funded by National Geographic and Yale University.

61. Critics say, somewhat disdainfully, that Hiram Bingham, who was a history professor, lacked the proper training to excavate Machu Picchu.

60. Some say that, like the Spanish, Hiram Bingham took what wasn't his on his trips to Peru.

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