The search for Vitcos
Hiram Bingham, a descendant of missionaries, was the person who discovered Machu Picchu for the modern
world and science. He was an American historian born in Honolulu,
Hawaii.. He studied South American History and Geography
at the University of Yale. Once exercising his profession, he was
chosen as one of his country's delegates to the First Pan-American
Scientific Congress in Chile, in 1908.
Years previously, Bingham had been interested in the Indian legends about the Llacta of Vitcos or Viticos, the rebel Incas' last refuge from the Spaniards in the jungle of Vilcabamba, epically narrated by the chroniclers of that time.
Arriving in Chile, his interest in the legendary Inca city of Vitcos and the Vilcabamba valley was renewed.
His first mountain exploration trip in 1906 was also his first attempt
at finding Vitcos, the last imperial capital and the refuge of Incas
rebelling against the Spaniards. That year, he traveled along the
Buenos Aires - Cusco route, the old colonial trade route. After
his long trip to Cusco, he was informed of the existence of lost
cities in the tangled jungle and jagged ranges of the Urubamba mountains.
However, he already knew of some references by chroniclers to Vitcos,
the presumed capital of Manco II, and of others from the book by
the English traveler Charles Wienner, who was in the region around
1876, collecting references from locals on the areas of Machu
Picchu and Huayna Picchu in order to include them within
the Santa Ana valley map.
He started off for the city of Abancay, the natural gateway to that part of the jungle where Vitcos was supposed to be. Around that period, there were many myths circulating about the likelihood of finding Inca treasure, which according to tradition had been taken by Manco Inca on his retreat to Willkapampa, so treasure hunters abounded. Local guides took him to some imposing local ruins we now know as Choquequirao, the seat of the Tawantisuyo in modern Abancay, an eight-hour trip from Cusco.
Bingham remained unimpressed. Vitcos, or the city of Viticos, that he dreamed about, must be yet more impressive, he thought. This very obsession drove him to further study of the chroniclers, and even of the Spanish archives.
Nevertheless, his appetite whetted by this first discovery, Bingham returned to the U.S. to collect funds for further exploration, obtaining support from the National Geographic Society and the University of Yale, as well as some funds contributed by family and friends. Finding Vitcos was no longer of mere academic interest, but had become a well-planned venture.
In 1911 he returned to Peru to carry out geological and botanical studies, with the conviction he would find Willkapampa.