Monday, March 6, 2017

Lost Inca Gold - Redux

A historian carefully leafs through pages of a 400-year-old, leather-bound book until she finds the shaky signature. The signature is the key to unlocking two of archeology’s greatest mysteries: What happened to the body of Atahualpa, the last king of the Incas? And what became of his fabled treasure?

She had stumbled across the last will and testament of Atahualpa’s son, Francisco Topatauchi, written on Dec. 16, 1582 — 50 years after his father’s death.
In 2003, as she researched the life of famed Incan general Rumiñahui, she discovered a pattern. The general was believed to play a role in hiding the treasure. He and other Incan officials all converged on a remote area of Ecuador called Sigchos, about 70 miles southwest of Quito. She found that Sigchos was part of Atahualpa’s landholdings.
With the help of some villagers, they eventually stumbled on an area where thick brush concealed previously unknown Incan-style stonework.
The site sits in an area that isn’t typically associated with Incan construction. Built around a trapezoidal plaza with a network of stone walls and water channels, the complex was likely an Incan governmental or religious site built late, perhaps even as the Spaniards pressed northwards.

Atahualpa’s body — like the fabled treasure — might never be found. The Incas didn’t bury their dead rulers. They kept them out in the open as “living oracles.” And as the once mighty Incan empire collapsed into dust, the body likely did too.

Its not the mythical city of gold that draws treasure seekers to the rugged Llanganates mountain range in central Ecuador, some say there is a vast Inca hoard of gold hidden from Spanish conquistadors there.

The Inca Empire in South America in the early 15th century was quickly crumbling to European invaders. Atahualpa was an Inca king who, after warring with his half-brother Huáscar for control of the empire, was captured at his palace in Cajamarca in modern-day Peru by Spanish commander Francisco Pizarro.

Pizarro agreed to release Atahualpa in return for a roomful of gold, but the Spaniard reneged on the deal. He had the Inca king put to death on August 29, 1533 before the last and largest part of the ransom had been delivered.

Instead, the legend goes, the gold was buried in a secret mountain cave. The story resides in the frontier between fact and fiction. Atahualpa's gold existed because it's recorded in the Spanish chronicle, and it's recorded that a large convoy of gold was on its way from Ecuador. After that, the most persistent stories revolve around the Llanganates.