In my travels I’ve visited a fair few archaeological sites such as Machu Picchu, Kuelap, Tikal, and various other magnificent ruins of ancient civilisations. I’ve certainly harboured quite a few fantasies of stumbling across a jungle-enshrouded temple myself, fuelled, no doubt, by a healthy enthusiasm for Indiana Jones and lesser imitations. That’s what you get for growing up in the ‘80s. To be fair, I’ve done little about it other than daydream about setting off randomly into northern Peru (where folk in the know reckon there’s actually more than a few undiscovered sites).
That’s why a recent story caught my eye, about a Frenchman currently endeavouring to uncover the tomb of the Inca Pachacutec, which he believes to be located in a relatively recently discovered chamber in Machu Picchu. Thierry Jamin heads up the ‘Instituto Inkari,’ an NGO based in Cusco, whose remit is, ‘scientific research, the protection and the development of archeological sites existing on the Peruvian national territory.’ Having been out in Peru for many years seeking the unlikely ‘Gran Paititi,’ (aka El Dorado), in 2011 a much more tangible prospect emerged, when someone found what appeared to be a previously unnoticed entry way in Peru’s most emblematic site.
With the help of some electromagnetic gear, Thierry and his crew announced they had verified the existence of underground cavities, including a large rectangular room, and some steps, alongside some ‘possible’ archaeological materials / metal. Given that most people have long given up the idea that there’s some great ‘Lost City’ still lurking out there, the idea that we could yet see some kind of “Incan Tutankhamen” scenario admittedly quickens the pulse. While one could argue that Machu Picchu is suitably exciting enough, it is, after all, a century since its discovery, so perhaps it’s about time it coughed up something new?
Incidentally, they actually have unearthed several amazing tombs in Peru in recent years, with significant rulers fully intact with their burial booty – they just didn’t happen to be Incas, who are the ones who sell the tickets.
Back to Thierry. The next step, obviously, was to open up the tomb, hope there were no nasty curses waiting to pop out, and revel in the glory of being a real-life ‘Indy.’ And here’s where it gets even more interesting, as the Peruvian Ministry of Culture turned down his request on a number of occasions in 2012. Things went further south this year, as apparently the French Minister of Foreign Affairs warned the Peruvian ambassador that Jamin is not a proper archaeologist, and had no scientific training. Evidently the message was that letting him run amok in Machu Picchu would be akin to lobbing a border collie into a small room full of glass vases. It subsequently transpired that he received death threats, (perhaps from someone who really cared about the threat to Peru’s patrimony?).
A quick browse on Thierry’s websites and several others has him depicted as anything from a noble man of science and history seeking out exhilarating archaeological secrets, to a lowdown huaquero (tomb robber). So, 21st Century Hiram Bingham, or a serious threat to South America’s most famous historical site? The story, I suspect, has a way to run…
If you’d like to see what all the fuss is about, you can delve into Machu Picchu’s secrets yourself on one of our Peru holidays.