The vast Inca empire flourished in South America between the 11th and the 16th century. This advanced civilization spread across the territory of present-day Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Colombia.
The imperial capital Cuzco was famous for its unique Coricancha temple, where everything – walls, floor and ceiling – was covered in gold and silver panels. The statues of the gods in the temple were made of solid gold, worshiped by many generations of locals.
The powerful empire collapsed after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in 1532. They managed to conquer most of the territory and imprison Emperor Atahualpa. The Spanish knew that the Inca had lots of gold and promised to free the ruler in exchange for a large gold and silver ransom. Precious items, jewelry, gold nuggets and religious relics were melted to make gold bars with a total weight of 6 tons. This was the largest ransom in human history. After receiving the gold, the cruel conquistadors still executed Atahualpa. This was followed by more massacres, looting and destruction.
The empire came to an end in 1572, when its last ruler, Tupac Amaru, was beheaded, and the remaining temples pillaged.
Throughout the ten centuries of their civilization's existence, the Incas extracted vast amounts of gold. According to some legends, the Spanish got their hands only on a small part of it, while the locals cunningly hid much of the gold and silver in lakes. The remainder was taken to the Amazon jungle. This is the root of the legend of Eldorado, where buildings and streets are paved with gold and gems, as well as of the City of the Caesars, where ten-meter-tall giants guard the treasure of the Incas, and other mysterious cities that have never been found.
Some treasure hunters are still convinced that the mythical Eldorado exists and go searching for it in the heart of South America.
According to Peru's laws, Inca gold cannot be taken out of the country more than twice a year, so seeing those massive necklaces, ritual knives and masks of divinities outside of Peru is a rare occasion. The Inca civilization still hides many secrets.
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