Machu Picchu – A Cautionary Tale

Machu Picchu – The Lost City of the Incas
Last Sunday archaeologist David Drew gave a lecture about the so-called lost city of Machu Picchu. Of course, the Andean citadel was never truly lost and was well known to the locals even to the extent that some farmed amongst the ruins. As it happened, there was a lot we didn’t know about Andean culture before it was disrupted and destroyed so effectively until well into the 20th century.

The western encounter with Machu Picchu only goes back 100 years when American archaeologist and adventurer, Hiram Bingham persuaded the National Geographic Magazine to sponsor him on a series of expeditions to Peru. An account was published in the magazine and so the myth of lost cities was born. Indeed, Bingham’s account was very evocative whilst at the same time exaggerating his claim in all sorts of ways. Not only was the myth of lost cities founded but also that of the action adventurer. It doesn’t take to much thought to realise why Indiana Jones had such resonance with the public decades later.

Today Machu Picchu is an iconic site in South American tourism and there are real dangers that the advent of mass tourism will destroy the very thing people want to see. Controls are now in place to limit access to the site but the weight of numbers more generally is threatening local culture in the surrounding area. A new airport near Cuzco is about to be built and this is bound to have a massive impact which will not be for the benefit of everyone. In a sense, I hope our talk last Sunday will act as a scholarly substitute to the need to visit. Excellent as it is to learn about world cultures, we need to remind ourselves that we don’t need to consume them in ways which has the result of destroying the very thing we love and admire otherwise things will become truly lost forever.

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About Dillington Blog

My name is Wayne Bennett and I am the Director of Dillington House in Somerset. Dillington House is Somerset's residential centre for adult education as well as being one of south west England's premier locations for conferences and meetings. Dillington has an incredible reputation not just in Somerset but across the country. It has been in operation since 1950 and a focus of many cultural and artistic events across the decades. The place is an oasis for learning, thinking and debating ideas. In a world in which we seem to be so atomised the opportunity for coming together as human beings in a safe and inspirational setting has enormous value to individuals as well as communities. My job is enormously rewarding because of the creative possibilities and the challenges of making the place work without financial subsidy. I hope you will enjoy reading this blog and following the work of an extraordinary institution committed to excellence in everything it does.
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