- Framing a Lost City: Science, Photography, and the Making of Machu Picchu by Amy Cox Hall
Geographers' first encounter with Hiram Bingham perhaps occurs during a history of geography course in which they learn of Isaiah Bowman. In All Possible Worlds (1981), James and Martin place Bowman in the lineage of William Morris Davis. At the turn of the twentieth century at Harvard, Davis worked to establish geography as a general science of cause-and-effect processes rather than mere memorization of myriad facts. Bowman studied geography with Davis's student Mark Jefferson in Michigan and then completed his undergraduate education in 1905 with Davis. His training was reflective of Davis's tutelage, which included a thorough background in geology, field observation and mapping, and a focus on how the physical environment determined human development.
Bowman continued his geographic study at Yale. Hiram Bingham, a professor of Latin American history, recruited Bowman to join his Yale Peruvian Expedition of 1911, and two ensuing expeditions, as its geologist-geographer. Among Bowman's activities was the contour mapping of a 200-mile transect along the 73rd meridian that led from the Amazon basin's western extent, over the Andes and south to the Pacific coast. This effort led Bowman through varied physical environments that allowed him to investigate what he perceived as environmental controls on the various cultures that inhabited the Andes. Bowman also developed a system of cartographic representation through which he generalized details of his field observations into regional diagrams. Bowman's observation of environmental controls and his regional diagrams demonstrated to geographers that theirs was a systematic science, which, at that time, was critical for the discipline. Geographers sought to validate their vocation by promoting its scientific foundations. Amy Cox Hall's exhaustive investigation of Hiram Bingham's Peruvian expeditions demonstrates how Bingham similarly exploited science to garner financial support for his expeditions and legitimize his "discoveries."
Hall's book is a welcome addition to recent scholarship that pokes at imperfect understandings that have become orthodoxy. A recent example is Matthew Restall's book, When Montezuma Met Cortés (2018), which [End Page 180] traces the creation of the Spanish Conquest myth and complicates it with information from overlooked sources and unexplored perspectives. Similarly, Hall traces Bingham's discovery of Machu Picchu, the "birthplace of the Incan Empire" (p. 15), and complicates it by exploring unused sources and perspectives. Hall also demonstrates how ancillary institutions such as the National Geographic Society, the Eastman-Kodak Company and the United States and Peruvian governments were critical to Bingham's project.
Hall's primary archive was Yale University Sterling Library's Manuscripts and Archives and the archives of the National Geographic Society. There she mined Yale's Peruvian expeditions' notes, maps, and photographs and Bingham's personal papers for information about how Bingham conceived of and brought the project to fruition. Hall also explored the archives of the National Geographic Society to understand how that essential sponsor was critical to funding, shaping, and publicizing the work of Bingham and his team. Hall's methodical archival work allows her to clearly place the expeditions in temporal context.
Bingham launched his expeditions three decades after the beginning of Latin America's Liberal Era, during which Latin American countries sought to integrate their economies into the capitalist world market by developing their export industries. Between 1870 and 1930 Latin American countries recruited foreign investors to aid in this project. Hall describes how Bingham's work benefitted from the presence of US and other foreign industrialists. For example, transportation to Peru was sponsored by the United Fruit Company, which shipped Bingham, his equipment, and his crew at half price from New York to Panama. In Peru, the British-owned Peruvian Corporation and the United Fruit Company provided free rail transport and access to trails that eased Bingham's arrival to Machu Picchu.
Bingham also benefitted from two critical recent developments in media. He began...