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100 facts for 100 years of Machu Picchu: Fact 100

July 23, 2011|By Catharine Hamm | Los Angeles Times Travel Editor
(Christopher Reynolds /…)

This is the last installment of "100 Facts for 100 Years of Machu Picchu." 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.

To commemorate the anniversary, look for staff writer Christopher Reynolds' story on his recent trip to Machu Picchu,  T. Craig Ligibel's story on his father-daughter trek  through the Vilcabamba Mountains and Sarah Karnasiewicz's article on the solitary wonders of Colca Canyon. You can also view Reynolds' photo gallery and videos.

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. And thanks to all who have been reading these factoids.

100. But how do you sneak a crane into this place? Yet another mystery of Machu Picchu.

99. The damage to the sundial at Machu Picchu apparently was inflicted by a crane, for which officials said the company did not have permission.

98. Unfortunately, the sundial at Machu Picchu was chipped during the filming of a beer commercial some years ago.

97. With one notable and outrageous exception: the sundial at the Intihuatana stone, called the "Hitching Post of the Sun." At the spring and autumn equinoxes, the sun shines overhead and casts no shadow, another of the wonders of Machu Picchu.

96. The stones at Machu Picchu are in remarkably good shape.

95. Most of the buildings at Machu Picchu had thatched roofs once, but time and weather ate those away.

94. It's unclear how these heavy stones were moved to Machu Picchu nor is it known how the stone cutters worked with such precision. That is part of the wonder.

93. Notice how the architectural features of the buildings at Machu Picchu (there are about 200 on the 5 square miles) seem to mimic the geography around them.

 92. While you are looking around Machu Picchu (we recommend hiring a guide), llamas sometimes appear as if out of nowhere.

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 inPeru 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.

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