Jul 24 2010

On This Day in History: July 24

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour a cup of your favorite morning beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

On July 24, 1911, American archeologist Hiram Bingham gets his first look at Machu Picchu, an ancient Inca settlement in Peru that is now one of the world’s top tourist destinations.

Tucked away in the rocky countryside northwest of Cuzco, Machu Picchu is believed to have been a summer retreat for Inca leaders, whose civilization was virtually wiped out by Spanish invaders in the 16th century. For hundreds of years afterwards, its existence was a secret known only to the peasants living in the region. That all changed in the summer of 1911, when Bingham arrived with a small team of explorers to search for the famous “lost” cities of the Incas.

Machu Picchu  (Quechua: Machu Pikchu) – “Old Mountain”, is a pre-Columbian Inca site located 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level.  It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, which is 80 kilometres (50 mi) northwest of Cuzco and through which the Urubamba River flows. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438-1472). Often referred to as “The Lost City of the Incas”, it is perhaps the most familiar icon of the Inca World.

The Incas started building the estate around AD 1400 but it was abandoned as an official site for the Inca rulers a century later at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction and, since it was not found and plundered by the Spanish after they conquered the Incas, it is important as a cultural site.

Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.

Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its primary buildings are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. These are located in what is known by archaeologists as the Sacred District of Machu Picchu. In September 2007, Peru and Yale University reached an agreement regarding the return of artifacts which Hiram Bingham had removed from Machu Picchu in the early twentieth century.

 1148 – Louis VII of France lays siege to Damascus during the Second Crusade.

1411 – Battle of Harlaw, one of the bloodiest battles in Scotland, takes place.

1487 – Citizens of Leeuwarden, Netherlands strike against ban on foreign beer.

1534 – French explorer Jacques Cartier plants a cross on the Gaspe Peninsula and takes possession of the territory in the name of Francis I of France.

1567 – Mary, Queen of Scots, is forced to abdicate and replaced by her 1-year-old son James VI.

1701 – Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founds the trading post at Fort Pontchartrain, which later becomes the city of Detroit, Michigan.

1715 – A Spanish treasure fleet of 10 ships under Admiral Ubilla leaves Havana, Cuba for Spain. Seven days later, 9 of them sink in a storm off the coast of Florida. A few centuries later, treasure is salvaged from these wrecks.

1814 – War of 1812: General Phineas Riall advances toward the Niagara River to halt Jacob Brown’s American invaders.

1823 – Slavery is abolished in Chile.

1832 – Benjamin Bonneville leads the first wagon train across the Rocky Mountains by using Wyoming’s South Pass.

1847 – After 17 months of travel, Brigham Young leads 148 Mormon pioneers into Salt Lake Valley, resulting in the establishment of Salt Lake City. Celebrations of this event include the Pioneer Day Utah state holiday and the Days of ’47 Parade.

1864 – American Civil War: Battle of Kernstown – Confederate General Jubal Anderson Early defeats Union troops led by General George Crook in an effort to keep them out of the Shenandoah Valley.

1866 – Reconstruction: Tennessee becomes the first U.S. State to be readmitted to the Union following the American Civil War.

1901 – O. Henry is released from prison in Austin, Texas after serving three years for embezzlement from a bank.

1911 – Hiram Bingham III re-discovers Machu Picchu, “the Lost City of the Incas”.

1915 – The passenger ship S.S. Eastland capsizes in central Chicago, with the loss of 845 lives.

1923 – The Treaty of Lausanne, settling the boundaries of modern Turkey, is signed in Switzerland by Greece, Bulgaria and other countries that fought in World War I.

1927 – The Menin Gate war memorial is unveiled at Ypres.

1929 – The Kellogg-Briand Pact, renouncing war as an instrument of foreign policy, goes into effect (it is first signed in Paris on August 27, 1928 by most leading world powers).

1935 – The world’s first children’s railway opens in Tbilisi, USSR.

1935 – The dust bowl heat wave reaches its peak, sending temperatures to 109 F (44 C) in Chicago and 104 F (40 C) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

1937 – Alabama drops rape charges against the so-called “Scottsboro Boys”.

1938 – First ascent of the Eiger north face.

1943 – World War II: Operation Gomorrah begins: British and Canadian aeroplanes bomb Hamburg by night, those of the Americans by day. By the end of the operation in November, 9,000 tons of explosives will have killed more than 30,000 people and destroyed 280,000 buildings.

1950 – Cape Canaveral Air Force Station begins operations with the launch of a Bumper rocket.

1959 – At the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow, U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev have a “Kitchen Debate”.

1966 – Michael Pelkey makes the first BASE jump from El Capitan along with Brian Schubert. Both came out with broken bones. BASE jumping has now been banned from El Cap.

1967 – During an official state visit to Canada, French President Charles de Gaulle declares to a crowd of over 100,000 in Montreal: Vive le Quebec libre! (“Long live free Quebec!”). The statement, interpreted as support for Quebec independence, delighted many Quebecers but angered the Canadian government and many English Canadians.

1969 – Apollo program: Apollo 11 splashes down safely in the Pacific Ocean.

1972 – Bugojno group is caught by Yugoslav security forces.

1974 – Watergate scandal: the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that President Richard Nixon did not have the authority to withhold subpoenaed White House tapes and they order him to surrender the tapes to the Watergate special prosecutor.

1974 – After the Turkish invasion of Cyprus the Greek military junta collapses and democracy is restored.

1977 – End of a four day long Libyan-Egyptian War.

1982 – Heavy rain causes a mudslide that destroys a bridge at Nagasaki, Japan, killing 299.

1983 – George Brett batting for the Kansas City Royals against the New York Yankees, has a game-winning home run nullified in the “Pine Tar Incident”.

1990 – Iraqi forces start massing on the Kuwait-Iraq border.

1998 – Russell Eugene Weston Jr. bursts into the United States Capitol and opens fire killing two police officers. He is later ruled to be incompetent to stand trial.

2001 – Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the last Tsar of Bulgaria when he was a child, is sworn in as Prime Minister of Bulgaria, becoming the first monarch in history to regain political power through democratic election to a different office.

2002 – Democrat James Traficant is expelled from the United States House of Representatives on a vote of 420 to 1.

2005 – Lance Armstrong wins his seventh consecutive Tour de France.

2007 – Libya frees all six of the Medics in the HIV trial in Libya.


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  1. davidseth

    Thanks for this.  I’ve been there a couple of times.  Always find it remarkable, surprising.  What you can’t really see in the photo is how high the peak of Wayna Picchu is over Machu Picchu and how very, very far below the Urubamba River is.  Amazing place.

  2. davidseth

    this article from 10 years ago.  

  3. ek hornbeck

    It’s someplace I’ve wanted to see.

  4. TMC

    that I was thinking of using but this one gave the best view of the overall site. It is on my list of “want to see”

  5. TMC

    and stranded numerous tourists and Peruvians. The site was closed down after that. Rail service only just resumed in early July which is the main access for most tourists.

    Rail route to Peru’s Machu Picchu reopens

  6. davidseth

    Ms. ds was there last week.  Reports that the train is working and that the tourist places in the Sacred Valley and Aguascalientes, at the foot of Machu Picchu, had taken a beating because of lack of tourists.  Now it’s winter in Peru, so in Spring it should all come back with a vengeance.  

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