It turns out that Yale professor/explorer Hiram Bingham wasn't the first Westerner to discover (and plunder) the ruins of Machu Picchu after all, according to BBC News. A German entrepreneur who owned a sawmill in the region discovered the ruins 40 years earlier—and ransacked the site, selling artifacts to European museums on the sly.
The new information came to light when historians stumbled across an old map in Peru's national museum and started tracing its source. The fact is, Peru's historical sites are poorly protected and being continuously looted to this day. Amazingly, Machu Picchu still has an extraordinary presence, a feat made all the more impressive considering how much abuse (tourists notwithstanding) it's had to endure. Indeed, I count it as one of my favorite travel experiences.