In 1911, Yale scholar Hiram Bingham rediscovered Machu Picchu. Although he thought, incorrectly, that he had found the last refuge of the Incas (this was actually Vilcabamba), there is no doubt that what he did find has turned out to be much more significant for visitors to Peru.
In 1912, Bingham sent a number of Machu Picchu artefacts back to Yale University with the permission of the Peruvian government. Although intended to be a loan, these pieces remained in the United States until just last year when an agreement was finally made to begin shipping them back. Under this agreement, the pieces will continue being studied through a partnership between Yale and San Antonio Abad University in Cusco.
The first of these pieces are now on display at the Casa Concha Museum in Cusco. This museum is housed in a Spanish colonial mansion, built on top of the palace of Tupac Inca Yupanqui. It is possible to see architecture from both structures while touring this site.
Rather than a full museum, Casa Concha is more what you might think of as an exhibit, as the number of pieces currently being shown are not that numerous. They are also simpler every day types of items as opposed to fine ceramics or precious metals. Despite this, it is fascinating to view even simple objects knowing that they were once used at Machu Picchu itself. There are also some pieces on loan from the Inca Museum that are from the same period. Having these pieces on display as well helps to give a fuller picture of life at that time.
Perhaps the most interesting aspects of the exhibit are the explanations of what has been learned from the artefacts thus far. For example, Bingham originally believed that most of the skeletons found at the site were women. This promoted various theories about what the site was used for. Now, we know that the ratio of male to female skeletons was actually fairly even.
Going through the Casa Concha Museum before your Machu Picchu tour will allow you a much better understanding of this ancient archaeological site. While you are taking your tour, do pay attention to the house itself. There are some beautiful fireplaces, ceilings and other architectural details that are worth viewing for their own merits.
The museum is located at Santa Catalina Ancha 320. It is open Monday thru Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and on Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. The price to enter is S/. 20 for tourists.
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Alan R. Cohen is the Co-Founder of South American Vacations and a frequent contributor to the blog.