Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Ancient Peruvians – Part VI

Continuing from the previous post regarding the connection between the Land of Promise and Andean Peru.

Fernando d Montesinos, the Spanish Priest and chronicler of ancient Peru, stated that Rocca, called Inca-Rocca, was the first of the Incas. He writes that the Inca was connected with the old royal family, but did not stand in the direct line of succession. The story of his rise to power in the 15th century is firmly told by him about one Mama-Ciboca, who contrived, by artifice and intrigue, to raise to the throne her son called Rocca, a youth of twenty years, and so handsome and valiant that his admirers called him Inca, which means lord.

This title of Inca began with him, and was adopted by all his successors.” He secured possession of Cuzco, made war successfully against the neighboring princes, and greatly extended his dominions. Under his successors, the empire thus begun continued to grow, until it was extended from Quito in Ecuador to Chile, and became the Peruvian empire which the Spaniards robbed and destroyed.

It may be useful to consider that the main fact in his report on the subject is no more “original and distinct” than the testimony of the monuments around Lake Titicaca. The significance of this testimony is now generally admitted. There was a period in the history of Peruvian civilization much earlier than that of the Incas, a period still represented by these old monuments which, so far as relates to this point, were as “novel” and “original” as Montesinos himself.

Timeline of the occupation of Peru as the Land of Promise


That the civilization found in the country was much older than the Incas can be seen in what we know of their history. Their empire had grown to be what Pizarro found it by subjugating and absorbing a considerable number of small states, which had existed as civilized states before their time. The conquest of Quito, which was equal to the greatness of the Valley of Cuzco in civilization, had just been completed when the Spaniards arrived.

The ancient Peru conquered and robbed by Pizarro is now divided into Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile as far down as the thirty-seventh degree of south latitude. Its remains are found to some extent in all these countries, although most abundantly in Peru. The ruins known as “the Palaces of Gran-Chimu” are situated in the northwestern part of Peru, near Trujillo. Here, in the time of the first Incas, was an independent state, which was subjugated by the Inca set down in the list of Montesinos as the grandfather of Huayna Capac, about a century before the Spaniards arrived.

For what is known of these ruins we are chiefly indebted to Mariano Rivero, director of the National Museum at Lima. They cover a space of 2.6 miles, without including the walled squares found on every side. The chief objects of interest are the remains of two great edifices called palaces. These palaces are immense areas surrounded by high walls of brick, the walls being now ten or twelve yards high and six feet thick at the base. There was in each case another wall exterior to this.

Within the palace walls were squares and dwellings, with narrow passages between them, and the walls are decorated. In the largest palace are the remains of a great reservoir for water, which was brought to it by subterranean aqueducts from the River Moche, two miles distant. Outside the enclosures of these palaces are remains of a vast number of buildings, which indicate that the city contained a great population.

Removing the mercury leaves almost pure gold


These early Peruvians knew how to extract precious metals from ore by mixing liquid mercury with finely ground gold or silver ore, creating an amalgam or alloy. They then separated out the heavier amalgam and heat it to boil away the mercury, arriving at almost-pure silver or gold. The Romans knew of mercury amalgamation, but not until the 1st  Century AD, and it was not widespread in Europe until the 12th century.

On the other hand, some experts believe that this process was nonexistent in the Americas until colonist Bartolomé de Medina developed a variant in Mexico in 1557. However, William Brooks, a geologist based in Reston, Virginia, along with a team of geologists and archaeologists has found clues that these indigenous people refined gold with mercury amalgamation, an important metallurgical technique that is still in use today.

He believed that any society which produced large quantities of gold as did the early Peruvians, lack techniques to recover it from placer gold, the minute gold flakes in stream beds found along coastal Peru. So Brooks and colleagues in Peru and Colombia analyzed residual mercury levels in seven samples of pre-European-contact gold foil—three from the pre-Incan Sicàn culture, and four from Colombia. The team found signs of amalgamation similar to those seen in contemporary gold foil in southeastern Peru, which was reported at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting in Portland, Oregon.

As Brooks stated: “We think this technique was used throughout the Andes, probably centuries before it was commonly used in Europe.” He also added, “They had to have some way to produce all that gold, and an obvious candidate is the metallurgical technique used everywhere else in the world” (William Brooks, Andean Gold, Science Magazine, Vol.326, Iss.5952, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 23 October 2009, p505; George Petersen and William E. Brooks, “Locations of Cinnabar-Mercury Occurrences in Peru: Implications of Pre-Contact Gold Production,” Geological Society of America, March 1, 2010).

Overnight, Spain became very rich taking home unprecedented quantities of gold and silver stolen from the Peruvians and the mines that the Spanish came to control


The Spaniards took vast quantities of gold from the huacas or tombs at this place. The amount taken from a single tomb in the years 1566 and 1592 was officially estimated at nearly a million dollars. The gold was used by the Spanish monarchy to pay off its debts and also to fund its ‘religious’ wars. As a result, the gold started to trickle out to other European countries who benefited from the Spanish wealth. They were also able to purchase an unprecedented quantity of imported goods from around the world – including Europe and China.

The Chimus, subjugated a few years earlier, are described as even more advanced in civilization than any other Peruvian community. The Chimu, also known as the Moche or Mochica civilization—the oldest civilization present on the north coast of Peru within the Chicama, Moche and Viru valleys. Many large pyramids are attributed to the Early Chimú period that were built of adobe in rectangular shapes made from molds. Early Chimú cemeteries are also found around the pyramids, and their early pottery was characterized by realistic modeling and painted scene (Otto Holstein, "Chan-chan: Capital of the great Chimu, Geographical Review vol17, iss,1, 1927, pp36-61).

The small states thus absorbed by Peru were much alike in manners, customs, manufactures, methods of building, and general culture. It is manifest that their civilization had a common origin, and that to find its origin we must go back into the past far beyond Inca-Rocco, the first of his line, who began the work of uniting them under one government.

Moreover, there were civilized communities in that part of the continent which the Incas had not subjugated, such as the Muyscas (Muisca) or Chibchas in the northern portion of the chain of the Andes, on the Altiplano Cundiboyacense, a high plateau located on the table-land of Bogota, about 700 miles north of Quito. They had a remarkable civil and religious organization, a temple of the sun built with stone columns, a regular system of computing time, a peculiar calendar, and who used small circular gold plates as coin (John Denison Baldwin, Notes on American Archaeology, Harper and Brothers, New York, 1872, p271).

(See the next post, “The Ancient Peruvians – Part VII,” for more information about the early people of Peru and tie-in to the Book of Mormon)

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