till Feb 27: INKAgold Exhibition / 31.01.2011
Gold: in the West symbol of materialsm - in the old Inca civilization a symbol devine bondage between earth and mankind.
What is known today, of the once vast and magic civilization of the Incas? The shown Inca treasure gives us a feeling of the sensitiveness and the high culture of the Inca peoples of the South-American Andes.
Before the arrival of the Spaniards the Inca had an highly developed social society - and infrastructure: their extensive road network even exceeded the quality of the former Roman system in Europe.
For the Incas, gold had no material value. They felt mythical bonded with „mother earth“ and renewed themselves frequently by the strength of the sun.
They did not know iron. Nevertheless the Incas had a elaborate knowledge of metallurgic methods - much earlier than the Europeans: they knew how to cast, drive, braze and alloy gold and also how to define the melting points of gold.
The Inca culture did not know the meaning of money. Gold was sacred and reserved for spiritual usage. The brilliance and converting were important, but not the quantity: Razor-thin gold masks had been regarded as precious as massive big cups or crowns. The Spanish melted down hundreds of fine and outstanding pieces of jewellry to send one bullion home to Spain.
The exposed treasures are evidence of this. The more precious are the artefacts which have survived, and for the first time left Lima for Europe.
Novomatic Forum, 1., Friedrichstraße 7
every day 10-18, Thu till 21
entry: students, trainees (<26) 11.- €, adults 15.- €
[more]: The Inca of Peru have long held a mystical fascination for people of the Western world. Four hundred years ago the fabulous wealth in gold and silver possessed by these people was discovered, then systematically pillaged and plundered by Spanish conquistadors. The booty they carried home altered the whole European economic system. And in their wake, they left a highly developed civilization in tatters. That a single government could control many diverse tribes, many of which were secreted in the most obscure of mountain hideaways, was simply remarkable.
Inca society was made up of ayllus, which were clans of families who lived and worked together. Each allyu was supervised by a curaca or chief. Families lived in thatched-roof houses built of stone and mud. Furnishings were unkown with families sitting and sleeping on the floor. The secret of Inca wealth was the mita. This was a labor program imposed upon every Inca by the Inca ruler. Since it only took about 65 days a year for a family to farm for its own needs, the rest of the time was devoted to working on Temple-owned fields, building bridges, roads, temples, and terraces, or extracting gold and silver from the mines. The work was controlled through chiefs of thousands, hundreds and tens.
Inca roads in the highlands were especially designed for the challenging terrain. Switchbacks scaled the steepest slopes, much like their modern counterparts. Sometimes paved with stone, the thoroughfares were often supported by retaining walls that have lasted for more than 500 years. To bridge rivers, the Incas lashed balsa-reed boats together or built sturdy stone spans. The deepest ravines they conquered with the world's first known suspension bridges, swinging constructions of braided fiber and vine anchored to pillars on opposite sides of a chasm. The anonymous Inca engineers achieved artistic immortality with the design of massive masonry walls that incorporated stones weighing more than 100 tons! The irregular but fastidiously finished blocks interlock so perfectly the joints between them appear as mere hairlines.
With the arrival from Spain in 1532 of Francisco Pizarro and his entourage of mercenaries or conquistadors, the Inca empire was seriously threatened for the first time. Duped into meeting with the conquistadors in a peaceful gathering, an Inca emperor, Atahualpa, was kidnapped and held for ransom. After paying over $50 million in gold by today's standards, Atahualpa, who was promised to be set free, was strangled to death by the Spaniards who then marched straight for Cuzco and its riches.
Ciezo de Leon, a conquistador himself, wrote of the astonishing surprise the Spaniards experienced upon reaching Cuzco. As eyewitnesses to the extravagant and meticulously constructed city of Cuzco, the conquistadors were dumbfounded to find such a testimony of superior metallurgy and finely tuned architecture. Temples, edifices, paved roads, and elaborate gardens all shimmered with gold. By Ciezo de Leon's own observation the extreme riches and expert stone work of the Inca were beyond belief: "In one of (the) houses, which was the richest, there was the figure of the sun, very large and made of gold, very ingeniously worked, and enriched with many precious stones. They had also a garden, the clods of which were made of pieces of fine gold; and it was artificially sown with golden maize, the stalks, as well as the leaves and cobs, being of that metal.