Amy Cox Hall

Amy Cox Hall


I am a writer and cultural anthropologist with specializations in Peru and the United States. Currently, I am researching food, women, modernity and nostalgia in Peru both in the 1950s and today. My work has appeared in History of Photography, Ethnohistory, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, Anthropology of Food, Religion, Journal of Political Ecology and various edited book collections. My first book, Framing a Lost City: Science, Photography and the Making of Machu Picchu, was published by University of Texas Press in fall 2017. 




Framing a Lost City: Science, Photography & the Making of Machu Picchu

When Hiram Bingham, a historian from Yale University, first saw Machu Picchu in 1911, it was a ruin obscured by overgrowth whose terraces were farmed by a few families. A century later, Machu Picchu is a UNESCO world heritage site visited by more than a million tourists annually. This remarkable transformation began with the photographs that Bingham published in National Geographic magazine, which depicted Machu Picchu as a lost city discovered. Focusing on the practices, technologies, and materializations of Bingham’s three expeditions to Peru (1911, 1912, 1914–1915), this book makes a convincing case that visualization, particularly through the camera, played a decisive role in positioning Machu Picchu as both a scientific discovery and a Peruvian heritage site.

While Bingham’s expeditions relied on the labor, knowledge, and support of Peruvian elites, intellectuals, and peasants, the practice of scientific witnessing, and photography specifically, converted Machu Picchu into a cultural artifact fashioned from a distinct way of seeing. Drawing on science and technology studies, she situates letter writing, artifact collecting, and photography as important expeditionary practices that helped shape the way we understand Machu Picchu today. Notably, the book demonstrates that the photographic evidence deployed by Bingham was unstable, and, as images circulated worldwide, the “lost city” took on different meanings, especially in Peru, which came to view the site as one of national patrimony in need of protection from expeditions such as Bingham’s.



This is one of those rare books that should be read and appreciated by scholars, students, and a broadly curious public alike—all who are interested in the part played by science in fashioning Peru’s monumental heritage site, Machu Picchu. Amy Cox Hall’s rendering of this powerful narrative is in itself a marvel of first-rate storytelling.
— Florence Babb, Author of The Tourism Encounter: Fashioning Latin American Nations and Histories (Stanford U Press 2011)
This is really good historical research that demystifies the romanticism surrounding Machu Picchu’s ‘scientific discovery.’ It also provides a window into what ‘science’ was in the early 20th century.
— Walter E. Little, Author of Mayas in the Marketplace: Tourism, Globalization and Cultural Identity (U Texas Press 2004)
The archives of the Yale and National Geographic expeditions to Machu Picchu and Peru are a largely untapped treasure chest for the history of science, anthropology and US-Latin American relations. Amy Cox Hall pulls open the lid, showing how the explorer Hiram Bingham used letters, cameras and calipers to ‘develop’ the Machu Picchu that tourists buy on postcards today.
— Christopher Heaney, Author of Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham, a Real-Life Indiana Jones, and the Search for Machu Picchu