Cradle of Gold

Heaney, Christopher. Cradle of Gold: the Story of Hiram Bingham, a Real-Life Indiana Jones, and the Search for Machu Picchu. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2010.

In 2008 Peru sued Yale University for the return of artifacts and human remains taken by Hiram Bingham. They claimed he stole over 46,000 articles. Yale claimed they had only a little over 5,000. Was that an admission of guilt? Heaney was fascinated with the case and decided to dig up the truth for himself. Here’s the thing, he knows how to grab the reader’s attention with the opening description of Indiana Jones. I like the idea of Hiram Bingham being the devil-may-care Indiana Jones of his time. It lends an air of intrigue to the story. He had the looks and the devil-may-care attitude!

Here are some things about Hiram Bingham: Hiram is an old family name. Our Hiram was the third. He sired a fourth. Hiram was also very prejudice. He thought he had “competition” when exploring the ancient Inca ruins until he realized the ones who went before him weren’t European white so they didn’t count. He was also a master thief. He was able to smuggle out additional crates of human remains and artifacts with the help of Peruvians he was able to bribe. His smuggling cracked open an age-old question, just who do these treasures belong to? The ancestors of the land or are the finders the keepers, as they saying goes?

Heaney’s story is rich with history and lore. The ghosts of past conquests walk among Bingham’s Machu Picchu ruins and beg to be remembered.

Quotes I liked, “Christianity no longer had a monopoly on the truth” (p 14), “Yet a pith helmet, compass, and a slap-leather spirit did not an explorer make” (p 29),
Reason read: Hiram Bingham was born in the month of November – read in his honor.

Author fact: Heaney has his own website.

Book trivia: While Cradle of Gold has some photographs, they aren’t very exciting. There aren’t that many of Hiram, despite the fact he was a good looking man.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Peru(sing) Peru)” (p 177).

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