Remnants of Lost City located in Peru?

"Finding the Lost City"

“Finding the Lost City” (1898)
Attribution: Illustration by L.J. Bridgman
Source: The Lost City by Joseph E. Badger, Jr. (Digitized by Google Books)

Peru, like much of Central and South America, is a veritable treasure trove of lost history. This latest discovery is a lost temple located within the ruins at El Paraiso. However, it’s estimated to be 5,000 years old, making it 1,000 years older than the rest of the ruins. So, it appears to be from a lost city. Here’s more from BBC News:

Archaeologists in Peru say they have discovered a temple at the ancient site of El Paraiso, near the capital, Lima. Entry to the rectangular structure, estimated to be up to 5,000 years old, was via a narrow passageway, they say. At its centre, the archaeologists from Peru’s Ministry of Culture found a hearth which they believe was used to burn ceremonial offerings.

With 10 ruins, El Paraiso is one of the biggest archaeological sites in central Peru. The archaeologists found the structure, measuring 6.82m by 8.04m (22ft by 26ft), in the right wing of the main pyramid…

(See the rest at BBC News)

The Lost Treasure of Machu Picchu?

A secret treasure trove of gold, silver, and ancient knowledge buried beneath the ancient city of Machu Picchu? Yes, please. Here’s more from Heritage Daily:

Is there a Secret Treasure Trove buried beneath Machu Picchu? Description: Hiram Bingham III standing on ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru Attribution: Harry Ward Foote (1911-1923) Source: Wikimedia Commons

Is there a Secret Treasure Trove buried beneath Machu Picchu?
Description: Hiram Bingham III standing on ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru
Attribution: Harry Ward Foote (1911-1923)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Thierry Jamin and his team think they have realized an extraordinary archaeological discovery in the Inca city discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. This discovery was made possible thanks to the testimony of a French engineer who lives in Barcelona-Spain, David Crespy. In 2010, while he was visiting the lost city, David Crespy noticed the presence of a strange “shelter” located in the heart of the city, at the bottom of one of the main buildings…

In order to confirm the existence of cavities in the basement of the building, in December 2011 Thierry and his team submit an official request to the Ministry of Culture in Lima, to perform a geophysical survey with the help of electromagnetic (EM) conductivity instruments. This license was granted a few months later.

Realized between April 9th and April 12th 2012, the electromagnetic survey not only confirmed the presence of an underground room but several! Just Behind the famous entrance, a staircase was also discovered. The two main paths seem to lead to specific chambers, including to the main squared one. The different techniques used by the French researcher(s), (Molecular Frequencies Discriminator) allowed them to highlight the presence of important archaeological material, including deposits of metal and a large quantity of gold and silver!

Thierry Jamin is now preparing the next step: the opening of the entrance sealed by the Incas more than five centuries ago. On May 22nd 2012, he officially submitted a request for authorization to the Peruvian authorities which would allow his team to proceed with the opening of the burial chambers.

Ancient Roman Shipwrecks?

A few weeks ago, surveyors were examining the Mediterranean Sea in preparation for a new gas pipeline. In the process, they discovered two ancient shipwrecks in deep waters. Did ancient sailors risk the open seas?

Do shipwrecks indicate ancient Roman sailors risked the open seas?

Do shipwrecks indicate ancient Roman sailors risked the open seas?
Description: Fresco of a Roman Ship (2nd/3rd Century AD)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ancient Roman Shipwrecks?

We talk a lot about pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact here at Guerrilla Explorer. Over the years, scholars have speculated that various civilizations traveled to America long before Christopher Columbus and even the Vikings. Other scholars have argued for travel going the other way, most notably Topa Inca Yupanqui’s legendary expedition in 1480.

So, these ancient shipwrecks take on additional interest in our eyes. If ancient Roman merchants were willing to travel outside of coastal routes, then it’s certainly possible a few of them might’ve decided to test the ocean itself.

The shipwrecks in question date back to the third century. They were found between Corfu and Italy under 0.7 to 0.9 miles of seawater. This is rather unusual as most shipwrecks from that era are discovered under just 100 to 130 feet of water.

“There are many Roman shipwrecks, but these are in deep waters. They were not sailing close to the coast. The conventional theory was that, as these were small vessels up to 25 meters (80 feet) long, they did not have the capacity to navigate far from the coast, so that if there was a wreck they would be close enough to the coast to save the crew.” ~ Angeliki Simossi, Head of Greece’s Underwater Antiquities Department

Now, its possible these ships were pushed off-shore in a storm. Plus, undersea currents might’ve caused the wreckage to shift over time. Also, these ships could’ve been helmed by unusually brave (or foolhardy) captains who were more prone to test limits. However, other ancient wrecks have been found far from land over the last decade or two, leading some scholars to question “the coast hugging theory.”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Unfortunately, Greece has yet to release the exact location of the shipwrecks. Thus, it’s impossible to draw too many conclusions. According to Simossi, the ships had not been “sailing close to the coast.” But it remains to be seen how far away they actually got from coastal routes.

“In antiquity, ships didn’t sail around with depth finders and keep track of how deep they were. It was more how far they were on the surface in relation to land. After 30 meters of depth the boat’s safe, so if it’s 30 meters (100 feet) or 3,000 meters it’s a little irrelevant.” ~ Jeffrey Royal, Director of RPM Nautical Foundation

So, for now, we’ll wait for more information. But if these ships were found far off-shore, it’ll add a little bit of hope to the theory that ancient mariners ventured further into the seas than we once believed. Maybe, just maybe, a few of them set sail many centuries ago and headed into the ocean, hoping to discover a New World.

Did the Incas visit the Old World?

Around 1480, Topa Inca Yupanqui embarked on a mysterious voyage. Did the Incas travel clear across the Pacific Ocean…prior to the Europeans?

Pre-Columbian Mystery: Did the Incas visit the Old World?

Pre-Columbian Mystery: Did the Incas visit the Old World?
Description: Drawing of Topa Inca Yupanqui
Attribution: Guaman Poma (1615)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Pre-Columbian Mystery: Did the Incas visit the Old World?

In 1572, Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa wrote a famous book entitled, The History of the Incas. He wrote it while in Cuzco, the capital of the Inca Empire, a mere 40 years after Spanish conquistadors arrived in the city. He took great pains to record the history and mythology of the Incas, even going so far as to solicit feedback from them during public readings.

In his tome, he described a nine to twelve-month voyage conducted by the tenth Sapa Inca (or king), Topa Inca Yupanqui. Supposedly, this pre-Columbian voyage took the Incas to two islands known as Avachumbi (or Outer Island) and Ninachumbi (Fire Island). Here are some excerpts from the original text:

“Tupac Inca was a man of lofty and ambitious ideas, and was not satisfied with the regions he had already conquered. So he determined to challenge a happy fortune, and see if it would favour him by sea…

The Inca, having this certainty, determined to go there. He caused an immense number of balsas to be constructed, in which he embarked more than 20,000 chosen men…

Tupac Inca navigated and sailed on until he discovered the islands of Avachumbi and Ninachumbi, and returned, bringing back with him black people, gold, a chair of brass, and a skin and jaw bone of a horse. These trophies were preserved in the fortress of Cuzco until the Spaniards came…

An Inca now living had charge of this skin and jaw bone of a horse. He gave this account, and the rest who were present corroborated it. His name is Urco Huaranca. I am particular about this because to those who know anything of the Indies it will appear a strange thing and difficult to believe. The duration of this expedition undertaken by Tupac Inca was nine months, others say a year, and, as he was so long absent, every one believed he was dead…” ~ Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, The History of the Incas

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Some scholars believe the veracity of this account of a pre-Columbian voyage. They point to the Galápagos Islands as well as Easter Island as possible locations for Avachumbi and Ninachumbi. Others believe the account is mythological and indeed, the text backs this up to a certain point. Prior to embarking on his pre-Columbian expedition, Topa Inca supposedly consulted a strange man named Antarqui. Antarqui, who was able to talk to the dead as well as fly, used his magic to determine the islands were real. Only then did Topa Inca set sail.

A pre-Columbian journey by the Incas certainly seems feasible. Unfortunately, no physical evidence of it remains. However, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Someday soon, archaeologists might uncover a huaraca or a tokapu while investigating an island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean…and in the process, rewrite history.

How did the Incas Build their Empire?

The Inca Empire was the mightiest of its kind in the history of Pre-Columbian America. But how did it get so large? Was it through peaceful trade and political alliances? Or did the Incas expand via bloody conquest?

Expansion of the Inca EMpire

Expansion of the Inca Empire
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Rise of the Inca Empire?

The Inca Empire originated in the Andes Mountains during the early 13th century. Beginning in 1438, it spread across the western half of South America, eventually covering a vast territory which encompassed over 2,000 miles and some 6 million people.

While military force was undoubtedly a factor in this expansion, recent scholarship suggests it wasn’t as prevalent as you might think. In a recent paper published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, anthropologists Valerie Andrushko and Elva Torres state their opinion that the Incas depended on a variety of nonviolent tactics to spread their influence across the region. As reported by Bruce Bower at Science News, they based this on skeletal remains dating to 600-1532 AD, which were recovered from areas close to the heart of the former Incan Empire. More specifically, only a small percentage of 454 adult skeletons show the sort of head trauma one might expect from battle wounds.

“It appears that the Inca relied less on warfare to conquer other groups and more on political alliances, bloodless takeovers and ideological control tactics.” ~ Professor Valerie Andrushko, Southern Connecticut State University

That’s not to say that the threat of violence wasn’t a factor. According to ancient Spanish accounts, the Incas established a protection racket of sorts. They offered military protection to other groups in exchange for complete submission. Woe to any group that refused the offer. Such defiance was met by swift retribution from the nearby Inca army.

How Violent was the Inca Empire?

For many years, scholars considered the Incas to be “great civilizers responsible for ending several centuries of regional warfare by conquering all groups engaged in hostilities.” These original perceptions were shaped by members of the Inca Empire itself, which relayed the history of its people to the Spanish conquerors.

Since that time, scholars have unearthed circumstantial evidence calling that theory into question. And Valerie’s and Elva’s research would seem to add credence to the idea that the Incas relied less on war to expand their empire than is commonly believed. But that doesn’t mean the Incas eschewed warfare. In fact, the rise of the Inca Empire corresponded with an increased level of warfare.

“Before the Inca came to power, from 600 to 1000, only one of 36 individuals in the sample suffered war-related head injuries. As the Inca empire grew from 1000 to 1400, five of 199 individuals, or 2.5 percent, living near Cuzco incurred likely battle wounds. During the Inca heyday, from 1400 to 1532, war injuries affected 17 of 219 individuals — 7.8 percent of the total.” ~ Bruce Bower, Science News

It appears that Valerie and Elva consider the rise in war-like fatalities after 1400 to be relatively small, especially for a rapidly expanding empire. They might be right and there is certainly some evidence that the Incas preferred to use the threat of violence rather than violence itself to get what they wanted. Unfortunately, due to the extremely small sample size as well as its geographic isolation, it’s difficult to make a firm statement with much certainty. The Incas conquered a large area and skeletal data from other regions needs to be gathered and evaluated – especially those places that were supposedly conquered by force.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Even if future skeletal data bears out Valerie’s and Elva’s conclusions, it doesn’t tell us much about the Incas themselves. The Inca Empire appeared to depend heavily on the threat of war and appeared ready and willing to back it up if their demands weren’t met. Thus, the only thing the skeletal data can truly tell us is how defiant the other groups remained in the face of Inca Empire aggression…and how far they were willing to go to maintain their sovereignty.

Who Discovered Machu Picchu?

Although constructed around 1450, the spectacular city of Machu Picchu remained unknown to the outside world until it was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. But did he really discover Machu Picchu? Or did someone else beat him to it?

Hiram Bingham III standing on ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru
Photographed by Harry Ward Foote (1911-1923)
Source: Wikimedia Commons via Yale Peruvian Expedition papers, 1908-1948 (inclusive): Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University

Hiram Bingham’s Expedition to Machu Picchu

Situated almost 8,000 feet above sea level, Machu Picchu towers over Peru’s Urubamba Valley. Its exact purpose remains unknown although modern researchers believe it was a royal estate for Pachacuti, the ninth Sapa Inca, or king, of the Kingdom of Cusco.

In 1911, historian/treasure hunter Hiram Bingham led the Yale Peruvian Expedition into the Andes. A few days later, on July 24, he “discovered” Machu Picchu thanks to a young local boy named Pablito Alvarez. At the time, other locals resided in the ruins. Bingham is rightly recognized as the explorer that brought world attention to Machu Picchu. But was he the first outsider to lay eyes on the ruins?

Other Claims to Machu Picchu’s “Discovery”?

As soon as Bingham’s discovery went public, other people came forward to dispute his claim. A missionary named Thomas Payne claimed to have found the ruins in 1906 with the help of Stuart McNairn. He even said that he told Bingham about Machu Picchu in the first place. Another early claimant was a German engineer named J.M. von Hassel.

More recently, Peruvian historians have gathered evidence pointing to a German adventurer named Augusto Berns. In the 1860′s, Berns purchased land near Machu Picchu and secured permission from Peru’s government to prospect it for gold and silver. In the process, he supposedly plundered a series of old Incan sites.

The question of who reached the site first is not just an academic one. The stakes are high and future revelations may impact the destination of 40,000 artifacts that currently reside at Yale University.

Who owns Yale’s Machu Picchu Artifacts?

An 1887 prospecting authorization given to Berns indicates that Peru held national sovereignty over the area prior to Bingham’s arrival. They are using this to help lay claim to Yale’s artifacts. Yale’s lawyers counter that if Berns reached the site first, it stands to reason that he removed the most important artifacts. Thus, they don’t feel that the artifacts in their possession are unique or important enough to require their return to Peru. Adding to the drama, property records show that local families owned Machu Picchu before Bingham arrived. Their descendants are seeking compensation for loss of property.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

I’d be surprised if Bingham was the first outsider to ever set eyes upon Machu Picchu. But as far as I can tell, there is no solid evidence to support any of the other claims. New evidence will continue to emerge however, so anything is possible. But regardless, Hiram Bingham will always be remembered as the man who shone public light on the fabulous ruins known as Machu Picchu.

“In the variety of its charms and the power of its spell, I know of no place in the world which can compare with it. Not only has it great snow peaks looming above the clouds more than two miles overhead, gigantic precipices of many-colored granite rising sheer for thousands of feet above the foaming, glistening, roaring rapids; it has also, in striking contrast, orchids and tree ferns, the delectable beauty of luxurious vegetation, and the mysterious witchery of the jungle.” ~ Hiram Bingham, 1922