History Department
History Department

Christopher Heaney, second-year graduate student in Latin American History, publishes first book

Thu, April 15, 2010
Christopher Heaney, second-year graduate student in Latin American History, publishes first book
Christopher Heaney, second-year grad student to give reading from first book

The book tells the story of Yale University historian and explorer Hiram Bingham's efforts to find the last cities of the Incas. It also explains, however, Bingham's fights with the Peruvian government over the excavation, exportation and ownership of Machu Picchu's artifacts and human remains – the "trophies" at the heart of Peru's modern lawsuit against Yale University.

"In 1911, a young Peruvian boy led an American explorer and Yale historian named Hiram Bingham into the ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu," Heaney explains about his book. "Bingham made Machu Picchu famous, and his dispatches from the jungle cast him as the swashbuckling hero romanticized today as a true Indiana Jones-like character."

However, Bingham's excavation of the site raised old specters of conquest and plunder, and met with an indigenous nationalism that changed Peruvian archaeology. "Bingham was able to bring Machu Picchu’s treasure of skulls, bones and artifacts back to the United States," Heaney explained,"but in a manner that set Yale and Peru up for the modern debate over a very complex question: Who can own Inca history?"

Cradle of Gold book cover by Christopher HeaneyHeaney wrote Cradle of Gold during his first two years at The University of Texas's History Department's Graduate Program. He conducted his research, however, from 2002 to 2006, as an undergraduate at Yale University and in Peru on a Fulbright Fellowship. He is a 2009-2010 Harrington Graduate Fellow at the university.

"Chris's performance in graduate seminars has been marked by the same creativity and inquisitiveness that produced this remarkable book," Prof. Seth Garfield said, one of Heaney's professors.

Cradle of Gold brilliantly tells the story of how Hiram Bingham revealed Machu Picchu to the world. Chris Heaney combines dogged research with a gift for storytelling and a historian’s rich and nuanced understanding of his subject’s times," wrote Roger Atwood, author of Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers, and the Looting of the Ancient World. "The result is an immensely compelling tale of exploration and exploitation that has waited nearly a century for the right chronicler.”

In the Wall Street Journal last weekend, Alvaro Vargas Llosa, senior fellow at the Independent Institute and the editor of "Lessons From the Poor," called it a “thorough, engrossing portrait of a mercurial figure at a crucial juncture of his life.”

"A fascinating work of narrative history that combines careful research with a subtle portrait of a man of great contradictions. Hiram Bingham was an explorer, adventurer, extraordinary scholar, U.S. Senator, and, in the eyes of many, high-handed thief. Heaney's highly readable book at last gives him his due," wrote Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost.

Related Links:
Christopher Heaney
Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham, A Real-Life Indiana Jones, and the Search for Machu Picchu
Book Reading at BookPeople
History Department Graduate Program
Harrington Graduate Fellows Program
Hiram Bingham III, Wikipedia
"Call Him Andean Jones" book review by Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Wall Street Journal

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