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Bingham's Belloq

An 1874 map of the Urubamba Valley near Machu Picchu, which researchers claim identifies the archaeological site.

I never believed that Hiram Bingham actually "discovered" Machu Picchu. He was simply the first non-native to bring the ruins to the world's attention. And he may still hold that honor. However, according to an article by the Telegraph, he wasn't the first gringo to visit the site.

According to an article in the Telegraph, a German adventurer named Augusto R. Berns not only "discovered" the site but looted it with the permission of the Peruvian government in 1867 -- some four decades before Bingham. This explains the paucity of artifacts Bingham found after clearing the site.

So, what did he find? Any of the legendary lost treasure of the Incas? (The Incas supposedly hid many treasures in order to keep them out of the hands of the Spaniards.) Well, if he did, there's no record of it. So, the researchers who broke the Berns story are hoping to find the whereabouts of the loot by tracking down descendants of Berns and his associates.

Personally, I wonder if some pieces -- maybe even the mummy of the Inca emperor Pachacuti himself -- haven't been sitting secretly in private collections in Europe for all this time. It's a treasure hunt worthy of Indiana Jones himself.

Read: Machu Picchu 'ransacked 40 years before its discovery'



Dem's fightin' words

Solanum Tuberosum, uploaded by FoodCultura

Ok, Chile. You can sack Lima, burn down the national library and even attempt to abscond with the bragging rights for Pisco. But don't even try to lay claim to the potato.

According to Marigen Hornkohl, Chile’s agriculture minister: “Few people know that 99 percent of the world’s potatoes have some type of genetic link to potatoes from Chile.”

Of course what's left out is the fact that those potatoes from Chile came from north of the border.

The last war between Chile and Peru was over guano. The next one might be over verbal guano. I propose spud guns at 50 paces to settle this whole matter. And then wash it all down with Peruvian Pisco and Chilean Carmenere.

Read Chile and Peru Vie in Spat Over Spud, in the NYTimes.

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