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This is the 17th in my series of short reviews of a National Geographic Magazine as it reaches the age of one hundred.



There are two articles in this issue.  Both are related to the 1915 Peruvian expedition sponsored by the National Geographic Society and Yale University.  The first is by Hiram Bingham, the expedition leader and the second by O. F. Cook, the expedition botanist and of the Bureau of Plant Industries of the Department of Agriculture.

It is the third in a series of articles in National Geographic that document results from Hiram’s ongoing expeditions to uncover Incan ruins in the mountains of Peru.  The first one was in  the iconic April 1913 issue; it covered the expeditions of 1911 and 1912.  The second, in February 1915 covered the expedition of 1914.  This entire issue is dedicated to the 1915 campaign.

In addition to the copious photographs lacing both articles, the issue also contains a set of 16 Photogravures located near the center of the magazine, just past the beginning of the second article.  These 16 etchings (13 in landscape) complement, and document, both articles.

As well as the etchings, there is a photo supplement, albeit undocumented on the cover.  However on page 459 in the first article there is a reference to a "frontpiece" to this issue entitled "Panorama of Sacshuaman".  Here s an image of said photo courtesy of Phil Riviere:


After a brief intro reviewing the earlier expeditions, the author begins describing the planning of the expedition including its objective: “the securing of as much information as possible about the former inhabitants of Machu Picchu and the territory immediately surrounding the city”.  It was deemed worthwhile to have as many branches of science as possible represented in the party.  The strategy had the team split up to cover more ground and to have everyone do field work for everyone else, reporting back to the individual whose field of interest pertained to an item found or seen.  The area covered by this expedition and be seen on the two maps on pages 434 and 435.

Photo courtesy of Philip Riviere.

The article then goes into the logistics for the expedition.  This not only includes the supplies required and the pack animals needed for transport, but also the location and construction of the base of operations.

Finally the article gets into the expedition itself, describing the many mountains and valleys crossed, their flora and fauna, and the indigenous peoples of the area.  Besides identifying ruins of past Incan glory the group actively searched for and explored roads connecting the various sites.

As for the objective of the expedition, things learned about the Inca civilization include: the fact that Machu Picchu was the center of heavily populated area; their pottery was comparable to the Greeks; medical practices, including surgery were advanced; and they were religious with the sun as their chief deity.


In the second article, Mr. Cook describes in great detail the extent of the engineering applied to agriculture; especially the walled terraces for farming not only the valley floors but also stair-stepped up the mountainsides.  Also the massive amount of aqueduct construction undertaken for the sole purpose of producing an amazing amount of foodstuff from what otherwise would have been a harsh environment.

An additional advantage for this mountain society was that the Andes allowed from topic to near arctic conditions within a few miles of each other.  This afforded them an incredible (pun intended) variety of fruit, vegetable, grain, and livestock for general consumption.



The advertisement on the back cover of this issue is for Colgate’s “Ribbon Dental Cream”.  I do not know when “tooth paste” became the common name of this product.

I also had no idea the Stegosauri died out 8 million years ago because they didn’t brush their teeth.  Stegosaurus actually lived from 155.7 to 150.8 million years ago in the late Jurassic period, so the estimate from 100 years ago is off by a factor of 20.  The reason that geologist vastly underestimated the age of the fossils was that radioactivity and isotope ratios (like carbon dating) were not well understood. Due to that fact, stratigraphy was used for dating fossils; and at the time only small segments for the fossil record exists in any one place thus hiding the true length of the story written in the rocks.  Stegosauri died out around the time of the Tithoniun ‘minor’ extinction event at the end of the Jurassic period.

One other interesting thing about the Stegosaurus is that its spiked tail is called a “Thagomizer” even by paleontologists.  This comes from a 1982 “Farside” comic strip "After the Late Thag Simmons”:


Tom Wilson

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As always, thank-you Tom for presenting these monthly flashbacks.You gave me a rare chuckle with your comment about the Stegosauri not brushing their teeth, and hence, they died. I'll do a better on my teeth tonight, eh what then!


This is a very important companion issue, to complement the gargantuan April 1913 "Bingham issue" of NGM, for sure... as you state.

* love The Farside !

Note: I just added a brief mention of the 16 Photogravures in this issue.

Note: I just added a reference and an image for the pictorial supplement to this issue.

Note: I just added a map referenced by the first article in this review. (Thanks Phil.)



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