The True Inca Treasure

Alpaca Panting in progress

The South American Incas were famous for their remarkable use of gold, and even considering it to be the sweat of the sun.  Not only did they make jewellery and elaborate head dresses out of this precious metal, they also crafted gold into cups, figures, and even animals.  These golden treasures were often used as offerings for the dead, as gold did not tarnish like copper and silver, and it was quite common for deceased Incan noblemen to have shiny figurines accompanying them to the grave; and most notably figurines of Llamas and Alpacas.   

But why these two beasts?  Well, besides making clothing and even bridges out of their fibrous wooly coats, these animals could also carry loads like a horse, and their meat was a key source of protein.  The alpaca, being notably cuter than its cousin the llama - and for producing more wool - were so important to the Incan people that they were believed to be a gift from the Inca Goddess, ’Pachmana’ (Mother Earth); but only for as long as man respected and cared for them.  

Similar to the death rituals of the ancient Egyptians, the Incas buried their dead with offerings that symbolised the deceased persons needs in the afterlife, and being that these animals were central to the Incan Empire, a golden llama or alpaca was essential. Unfortunately when the Spanish Conquistadors made their way to the Andes mountains, they saw very clearly how the Incas were reliant on these incredibly useful creatures, and with ambition to disable the Inca communities, they decided to inflict a most heinous blow and wipe out all of the alpacas.  

Thankfully a few of the Incas fled: climbing high up into the mountains to seek refuge.  They took with them a handful alpacas, thus very well possibly saving the animal from extinction.  Today alpacas can be seen in thriving wild herds, with 3 million in Peru alone.  Pachmana will be pleased! 

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