The German who plundered Machu Picchu

The official consensus points to Hiram Bingham as the discoverer of Machu Picchu in 1911. However, it is known that Agustín Lizárraga arrived nine years earlier. And there was someone else who arrived even earlier. It was the German who plundered Machu Picchu, in collusion with the authorities of that time. His name was Augusto Berns.

He was a German businessman. Apparently, he came to the citadel in 1867. He had bought 47 kilometers of land in the region to plant a timber mill. It was thus that he discovered the ruins by accident.

The German who plundered Machu Picchu, Augusto Berns, went unnoticed for a long time.
The German who sacked Machu Picchu, Augusto Berns, went unnoticed for a long time.

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Lost pieces

Peruvian historian Carlos Carcelén points out that the German reached a shameful agreement with the authorities. “He had to give the government 10% of the proceeds from the sale of the relics”.

Carcelén denounced in 2008 that “important collections of Inca pieces are in Europe, especially in Germany”. These would have arrived in the Old Continent at the end of the 19th century. In 2010, Yale University agreed to return to the Peruvian government around 46,000 pieces from Machu Picchu. Hiram Bingham had taken them there. It is a pity that there is no way to recover the goods stolen by Berns.

Regarding Agustín Lizárraga, he was a man from Cusco who was looking for farmland in 1902, when he came across the ruins. Recognizing their historical value, he painted his name and the date on one of the stones. Years later, Hiram Bingham erased that name, claiming that it damaged the ruins.

The most famous explorer of Machu Picchu is Hiram Bingham, but others had come before.
The most celebrated Machu Picchu explorer is Hiram Bingham, but others had come before.

Hidden fact

Historian Mariana Mould de Pease provides more details. She tells that the North American explorer had official documents that referred to Augusto Berns. The German who plundered Machu Picchu left clues behind him. We will never be sure of the amount of treasures he took from the ruins.

Hiram Bingham’s travel diaries reveal that he did give Lizárraga credit for the discovery. He even admitted that he had arrived at the citadel before him. However, he omitted it in his book “The Lost City of the Incas”.

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