Mysteries of the Inca: New insights in the Andes | DW Documentary

Mysteries of the Inca: New insights in the Andes | DW Documentary

Rulers of the Andes. The first superpower of the American double continent. The Inca civilization was once vast and powerful. In recent years, technological progress has yielded new insights, which now present the history of the Incas in a new light.

Shrouded in myth and legend, the spectacular history of the Incas remained largely hidden for a long time – their story was told by their enemies, the Spanish conquistadors.

The Incas went down in history as rulers of the Andes and the Pacific coast. In the 15th and 16th centuries, over a period of just over 100 years, they captured an area that extended from their capital Cuzco in the south of contemporary Peru to the area that is today’s Chile.

At least 10 million people lived in this empire, the largest of pre-Columbian America. Despite the size of their territory, the Inca did not have a fully developed written language. That’s why their story was told by the Spanish conquistadors, who captured the Inca Empire starting from 1532.

Following the brutal repression of the Incas, chronicles appeared in Spanish. These included the manuscript of Don Felipe Waman Puma de Alaya. In the 19th and 20th century, whenever new finds from the Inca Empire needed interpretation, the fledgling science of archaeology systematically referred to this single historic source. But over the past 15 years, technological advances and numerous research projects have provided new insights. Previously unknown or misinterpreted elements were clarified. This information presents the history of the Incas in a new light.

So what was life really like in this legendary civilization? Scientists are carrying out research across the entire former Inca empire to find precise answers to that question.

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Video Transcript

They conquered the Andes. They were rulers of the Pacific coast. And the first superpower of the Americas. Their name has gone down in history. The Incas. From their capital Cusco in the mountains of southern Peru, they conquered a huge territory in little more than 100 years

Between the 15th and 16th centuries, stretching from Ecuador to Chile. This empire was the largest that ever existed in this region, consisting of around 10 million inhabitants at its peak. But this formidable civilization is said to have never had its own written language. Its history was recorded by its enemies: The Spanish conquistadors.

After their brutal victory over the Incas, a lavishly illustrated chronicle was written, documenting their history. In the 19th and 20th centuries, this and other chronicles were regarded as the only historical sources and references for all archaeological research on the Incas. However, in the last 15 years, thanks to technological advances,

New discoveries have challenged many of these assumptions. A new history of the Inca Empire has been revealed – and with it, unknown or previously misunderstood aspects of this legendary civilization. We always say that the Inca civilization was the only one that existed without writing, but you know what,

Maybe weíre going to have to change that. Many people think Spanish arrived and the Inca empire fell that day. However, we now know that after the Spanish arrival, they retreated into a remote area of the Andes and continued resisting Spanish rule. The Incas fought back symbolically, surrendering with great ceremonies, truly spectacular.

But this is not mentioned anywhere in the reports of the conquistadors. Through our research, we can now hopefully write a more complete and accurate version of their story. Wow. This landscape is incredible. Scary, but incredible. One never gets used to the dizzying roads of the Andes, even if, like anthropologist Sabine Hyland,

Youíve been traveling them for many years. Sheís on her way to a village in a remote Peruvian valley, Tupicocha. I’ve never been to this village. As you can see, it’s very difficult to get to. This landscape is gorgeous but itís rugged. Itís kept this village isolated and so it has traditions

That, in many ways, are unaffected by the modern world. Tupicocha is very important for Sabine Hyland’s work. For 10 years, the anthropologist has been questioning a theory taught in many history books. The Incas are said to have been the only major civilization without their own writing system.

But how could they have managed such a huge empire, the largest and richest that ever existed in the Americas? That’s what Sabine Hyland is trying to find out. Because something puzzles her. Although the Incas did not know how to write, they developed a system for recording numbers

Onto these unique and complex structures made of strings and knots, known as quipus. A few hundred of these quipus still exist in the Andes. In Tupicocha, they are carefully guarded by the representatives of the oldest family lines of the community. Sabine Hyland was given special permission to examine them.

This one looks perfect. Quipus are unique. The word quipu is one of the Quechua words for knots or numbers. And this is the ancient Inca way of representing numbers. So this is what we call a long knot, it has three twists right here, that means that represents three.

This is in the tens place and itís a single knot representing one. And this is a single knot in the hundreds place. So this cord is a hundred and thirteen. This means probably, that this represents the obligation that somebody had. They had to do a hundred and thirteen of something.

And what could it be. It could be how many loads of grain, how many loads of potatoes they had to give to community fiestas. Or it could be how many jars of beer they had to donate to the festival. Iím actually writing an article. Since the middle of the 20th century,

All the quipus examined by archaeologists were thought to have had the same characteristics. They were made to record numbers. But in 2017, Sabine Hyland suddenly discovered that completely different quipus exist as well. I got a call from a woman who lived in this small village, San Juan de Collata.

She asked me to come look at their quipus, so of course, I came. We have to go over this mountain, and then weíll arrive at Collata. What a road. It helps to be an adrenaline junkie to do this kind of work. Sabine Hyland is on her way there to finish examining the quipus.

I’m really excited to see this quipus again. You know, the last time I tried to come here, we had to turn back. Because the roads, you know there was a little bit of rain and the roads became too dangerous. Like, you can see, itís really hard to get to this place.

We hope weíre going to be able to get through today. There it is, thereís Collata! Wow. Itís so good to see it after years. It is a great honor for Sabine Hyland to be invited back to their village. After all, the quipus, which have been preserved from the Inca era,

Are never supposed to come out of storage. They are considered sacred and are both a treasure and a momento for the community. Even if the villagers are unable to decipher them. Sabine Hyland is only allowed to examine them in the presence of the village chief.

When she saw this quipu for the first time, she realized that it was very different from any she had seen before. First of all, there are no knots, but more than that, the cords themselves are incredibly complicated. When I looked at the quipu, I looked at it with two herders from the community.

And they identified the fibers of each cord as being from different animals. So this beautiful kind of buff color, this is from a vicuÒa. Okay. This blue here, this is dyed llama. Thereís also, in here, this kind of burnished red. This is from deer.

Altogether, there are six different animals represented in the cords. So I realized that I was looking at a quipu with a complexity far beyond anything I had seen before. And so I thought what are they? Thatís really mysterious. During her research, Sabine Hyland came across a missionary

From the 16th century who testified to having seen quipus that were not used to represent numbers, but rather, syllables and words. Contrary to previous assumptions, the quipus could therefore also have been used for writing. I thought: Oh my gosh, could this be a syllabic quipu? Wow.

And so I thought, if itís syllabic, if itís phonetic, that holds out the promise that we could read it some day. If this quipu were a form of writing, how could it be deciphered? Sabine Hyland takes inspiration from a great master of deciphering. My great hero, of course, is Champollion,

Who deciphered the Egyptian glyphs. And what Champollion taught us, is that the first thing you do is try to figure out what kind of information is where. Right. So he looked at the cartouches and he said, ah the Pharaoh’s name is here. Well for various reasons that are too complicated to go into,

I thought well maybe the name of the person who sent this is in this. Now, when I looked at this quipu, if youíll notice, there are these markers along the top. And the herders from the village told me, this is the insignia of one of the major lineage in the village.

So I thought, well what is the major lineage in the village, itís Alluka. A revelation for Sabine Hyland. The name Alluka could be the key to deciphering the quipus. But before she continues, she wants to verify some information. She heads to the General Archives of the Indies in Seville, Spain.

They have records of a census taken by Spanish colonial rulers in Peru. The page for San Juan de Collata mentions an Alluka lineage. This could be Sabine Hyland’s Rosetta Stone. She begins deciphering. So, okay, we say, the name of the lineage is probably the last three cords. Like a signature.

We have a dark brown guanaco fiber, A.LLU, which is this modeled white-brown. And then, KA which is the blue-yellow fiber. If we try to match these sounds with the ending cords on the other quipu, do we come up with a decipherment that means anything? There is a second quipu in Collata.

Unfortunately, it is not as well preserved. However, the last strings are not damaged and can be examined. So the ending cords are over here. We have dark brown, which is A. Blue which is KA. And then we have this golden brown. This coloring Quechuas called ëpar.í Acapar.

For Sabine Hyland’s method to be confirmed, the word Acapar must correspond to a name. She delves into the records again, hoping to find this name there. And indeed, an Acapar family line is recorded in the Collata area. When I first started to think that this could work,

And when I came up with this decipherment, I was almost afraid. I was like, oh my gosh no. That canít be. How could that be? But this is what the data is telling us. Just as Sabine Hyland had suspected, each string seems to stand for a syllable.

When joined together, these syllables could form words. Sentences. A text. A three-dimensional system, fundamentally different from our alphabet. To confirm this revolutionary theory and prove that the Incas indeed had a ìwrittenî language, Sabine Hyland needs more data. So this is really exciting to be able to do a preliminary decipherment

Of these syllables. So one of my goal is to try to find more quipus that look like this and that has these features, because that would make the decipherment so much better. This is going to revolutionize our understanding of the Inca Empire.

Because if we can find quipus like this, that date to the Inca empire, if we can decipher them, then weíre going to be able to hear the Incas own words about their histories, instead of that of the conquerors. And Iím willing to travel the world to find them.

This is really the holy grail that Iím after. In a few weeks, sheíll fly to the US. A promising quipu is kept in a museum in Salt Lake City. And sheís been given permission to examine it. If Sabine Hyland succeeds in completely deciphering these quipus, her work would represent a fundamental change

In our understanding of the Inca world. Because what she reads from these strings could call some theories into question. In particular, how the Incas were able to conquer such a huge area. According to the history handed down by the Spanish, the ninth ruler of the Inca dynasty, Pachacuti,

Became the ruler of the city of Cusco in 1438, beginning the Incan empire. His successors continued the expansion he started, and within less than a century, the Incas conquered territories belonging to over a hundred different peoples. According to the chronicles, they were extremely ruthless.

The Incas had the heads of the chiefs impaled on spears. They ordered drums to be made from the skin of their bellies. The ruler gave orders to cut open the pregnant women alive. It was done. In their reports, the Spaniards only recorded the violence and cruelty of the Inca army.

Until recently, this was the generally accepted viewpoint. But since the 2000s, archaeologists at Lake Titicaca have been pursuing a completely ignored aspect of the Incaís Andean conquest. The existence of this lake seems almost unreal. It is the size of a sea and sits so high up

That you would expect to find snow-covered peaks here. This gigantic lake, more than 1000 km from Cusco, plays a key role in Incan mythology. In this remote area, the god Viracocha is said to have created the sun and its opposite, the moon.

When pachacuti, who saw himself as the direct descendedant of the sun, set out to conquer the Andes in the 15th century, the lake – the birthplace of the deities on which his dynasty was founded, was an absolute priority. The Incas reported an apparently brilliant victory on their arrival.

But how were they able to maintain their rule over this remote region in the long term? Were there other factors besides their military superiority? This is what Belgian archaeologist Christophe Delaere is trying to find out. For ten years, he has been leading an extensive research program on the bottom of the lake.

Together with divers from Belgium, Bolivia and Peru, he digs underwater for eight weeks every year. Our last day of excavation. We have to finish the excavation up to US3 today. The other probe: Miquel, do you remember, there’s something there. Rocio please take over these two zones.

Timing is a bit tight, so we’ll start before 11am. Let’s not dawdle when we switch. If you’re cold, come up after 55 minutes, we don’t have to do a full hour. When we’re all there, we’ll start. OK? Everything is over there; weíll start in 15 minutes. Letís go.

Christophe Delaere is not digging near the shore, but at the depths of the lakeís center. Relics from the time when the Inca armies came to this region could be hidden there. At nearly 4000 meters above sea level, this dive will put the archaeologists’ bodies to the test.

The water is barely 6 degrees. And a descent of 12 meters at this altitude is like 20 meters at sea level. A few years ago, a discovery by archeologists here led Christophe Delaere to a realization: The expansion of the Incas, especially here at Lake Titicaca, was more than just a military conquest.

To get to the site of the discovery, you have to travel to the other side of the lake, five hours by boat. At sunrise, the K’akaya reef comes into view. The K’akaya reef is still revered today. Such places in the Andes are known as “huacas.”

Locals believe that these rocks, just like mountains or rivers, have a soul. Anyone who wants to approach them must do so with respect. Weíre bringing an offering with us, so they know we are here. Weíre bringing Coca leaves as our offering. Christophe’s colleague, Bolivian archaeologist Marcial Medina Huanca,

Was the first to explore the reef. This place is still sacred to the people here, so why not go there? There had to be something special there. So we wanted to take a look. Shortly after descending, one of the archaeologists discovered a strange shape.

At the foot of the reef, where there is a lot of vegetation, there was actually a small stone chest. It had been in exactly the same place for 500 years. The diver came up and said: We’ve got something! I immediately had to get into the water myself to make sure

– maybe it was just a stone with a round indentation. But when I saw the stone chest, I was immediately sure. To prevent it from opening on the way up, I fixed the lid and wrapped the whole thing as if it were an injured person. Everyone in the boat was waiting.

It was one of the rare moments when everyone applauded. We never do anything like that, that’s our everyday life as archaeologists. But we were all so emotionally charged. It was a powerful moment. Back on land, the team continues to document the extraordinary discovery in order to share this rare archaeological moment.

Christophe Delaere is now certain that it is an Inca chest, the style is characteristic. But what could it contain? He asks to open the chest inside the village hall. At first we saw nothing at all after opening it. There was a thick layer of sediment, both inside and out.

We carefully removed it and examined the surface of the cavity centimeter by centimeter. And at the very bottom, the last two centimeters, we suddenly saw a tiny sparkle. We tried to dig further and further and when the whole cavity was free,

There on the bottom was a small, rolled-up piece of gold and next to it, a miniature figure made of orange spondylus. It was really an incredible moment. 9 years later, the two small treasures are still kept here. Could these objects help us to better understand

What really happened when the Incas came to this area 600 years ago? Christophe Delaere suspects so. The villagers revere the miniatures as spiritual objects. This is a small miniature bracelet with a perforation. The noble Incas had bracelets like this. And this one is a camelid figure thatís connected to the female figure.

This is very interesting, because as an offering, regardless of what they stood for, it makes a pair, a man/woman duality. Perhaps we can even go one step further: In a way, they represent the original pair of the Incas, the original pair of the dynasty – with the parallel to the sun and moon.

This is proof. This proves that the Incas gave sacrifices to the water. That there has been a sacredness about Lake Titicaca. The stone chest was made to hold the precious offerings. The chest is very well made – from andesite, a volcanic rock. These holes are interesting.

The Incas had ropes and the sacrifice was made from a ship. It is easy to imagine how the chest was gently placed on the bottom of the lake during a ceremony. The chest was not simply thrown into the lake, but carefully placed in a selected location.

According to Christophe Delaere, itís not the only one. His research has revealed that around 30 similar chests with miniatures have been found in the lake over the last 50 years. All were carefully positioned near reefs or rocks that were considered sacred. But what for? Why did pachacutiís armies go to the trouble

Of holding such complex rituals in so many places on the lake? How can this be explained? What did the Incas want to achieve? The answer may also be found at the bottom of the lake. Thanks. I think you still have 2 more minutes. Are you at 2 or 3?

At the interface of US 3. Where we were last night. Tiwanaku ceramics. Here, too, there is iconography, but as the ceramics were shaped after firing, itís a bit more eroded. The Incas worked the clay before firing, their ceramics are firmer. Iíll put them with the others.

In recent years, divers have found many objects like these, which come from people who lived on the shores of the lake before it was conquered by the Incas. In particular, the Tiwanaku. Whatís striking is that they are all, without exception, offerings, like these incense burners with anthropomorphic heads.

Or this medallion of decorated gold. Long before the Incas, people living near the lake were sinking spiritual objects into its depths. This means these rituals were not introduced by the Incas. Rather, they seem to have adopted them and perhaps consolidated them by increasing the ceremonial offerings at the lake.

After all, faith played an essential role in the Inca’s plan. According to the chronicles, much blood was shed during the conquest of the region around Lake Titicaca by pachacutiís armies. But what these excavations tell us – and what was previously unknown –

Is that they used a different, more subtle method at the same time. They used the localís faith to incorporate different peoples and secure their rule over the area in the long term. At least that’s what Christophe Delaere concludes. Weíre talking about a strategy thatís political and religious

At the same time. This is why their expansion was so successful – because they did not force the population to worship other gods. They incorporated their gods into their pantheon, so to speak, and thus gradually appropriated the much older sacred places

– especially the lake as one of the oldest sites. It is emblematic. In a way, they conquered the hearts of the Andean people. Through this strategy of appropriating the culture and occupying sacred places, the Incas succeeded in conquering the areas around the capital, Cusco. This policy of appropriation illustrates the intentions of pachacuti:

Create an ideal world that unites all the conquered people and the most sacred sites of the Andes. He wanted to immortalize this ideology in stone. As shown by new findings in Machu Picchu. In the midst of this landscape, these buildings seem to be carved into the mountain.

The conquistadors never made it this far, so they didnít write about it. What was the purpose of this fascinating city? Since its discovery in 1911, it has often been portrayed as a kind of vacation retreat, with room for around 750 people.

Pachacuti is said to have built it in the middle of the 15th century to spend a few weeks a year there – away from the capital Cusco, life at court and its intrigues. But two researchers are now going much further. In their opinion, pachacuti turned this city into a manifestation

Of his ideology of civilization. This conviction is the result of many years of research by Peruvian archaeologist Lucy Salazar. She has been trying to uncover the secrets of Machu Picchu since the beginning of her career. A few years ago, she examined these ceramics from Inca burial sites

That were discovered in Machu Picchu at the beginning of the 20th century. Here we see some artifacts. These are vessels that were used daily by the people who lived in Machu Picchu. For example, they helped themselves from these bowls at mealtime. When Lucy Salazar examined the items,

She noticed that they were all of modest quality. She concluded that the people buried with them worked for pachacuti. Their status was apparently low. They were doing different types of jobs in Machu Picchu. They grew corn, flowers and tubers, worked metals and wove garments.

They were workers who maintained the manor house all year round. They were humble workers. To find out more about these workers, Lucy Salazar studied their skeletons. In all, 174 were found in coffins at burial sites. She examined each one thoroughly. This is in very good condition.

She suspected the skeletons could provide valuable information about Machu Picchu during the time of the Incas. Here we have the skull. This is a woman, and as you can see, the skull is deformed. A board was probably strapped to her head at birth so that it became deformed.

Here you can see the traces of the strap and it remained there until a certain age, maybe 7 years. That’s what caused this deformation. Lucy Salazar suspects that this is a cultural, ethnic marker. However, this marker does not match the people

Who lived in the valleys around Machu Picchu at the time of the Incas. So where did this woman and the 173 other servants in the tombs come from? Perhaps from more distant regions? And if so, which ones? American Bethany Turner has offered her help in the search for answers.

She is an expert in bioarchaeology, a discipline that combines biology, archaeology and medicine. She believes she can determine the geographical origin of the skeletons in Machu Picchu by analyzing their teeth. This individual appears to be very fragmentary and aspects of their bones have been deteriorated.

But thatís not a problem for me because when I look at, say, these teeth, I see a treasure trove. And that is because I study ratios of different isotopes. Isotopes are variants of a chemical element, for example carbon. They are found in everything that surrounds us.

In water, plants, animals and in our bodies. When we ingest food, the isotopes it contains enter our tissues and traces of them remain there. However, different isotopes are not equally present everywhere, and their proportions vary considerably from region to region. On the shores of the Pacific, for example,

The isotope signature is different from that in the highlands of the Andes or in tropical regions. By identifying the isotope signature inscribed in the bones, Bethany Turner can deduce the region in which the individual was born. When we look at say, tooth enamel, at tooth dentin, these are representing the ratios

That are are metabolized into those tooth crowns during the first years of an individualís life. So the information in this tooth tells me where they were living during the first three years of their life. So I compared enamel and dentin from 2 or 3 teeth for each individual.

And what that helped me see was that the people at Machu Picchu were born all over the empire. None of them were from the exact same place. They didnít appear to have been moved to Machu Picchu as big groups of people from the same place.

Instead, they all seemed to be drawn from different regions of the empire and brought to Machu Picchu to serve the emperor. According to the analysis of the isotope signatures, the workers came from the Andean highlands, from the north coast of Chile and from Ecuador.

In short: from all the regions that the Incas had conquered. By bringing servants from all regions to Machu Picchu, the ruler turned the fortress into a microcosm, a miniature of his multi-ethnic empire. Wow. I’ve been here probably 7 or 8 times, but every time, itís like the first time.

When we think about this landscape, not just the beauty of the site, but the sacred nature of the landscape. That we have terraces wrapping around the site, that we have a river that wraps around the site. The site is surrounded by mountains, by huacas, which are sacred stones.

It really represents an ideal of Inca cosmology. According to Bethany Turner, the city of Machu Picchu was not just a place of retreat for its creator pachacuti, but much more than that. The fact that the Inca were bringing people from all over the empire to this one place, this perfect place,

Really represents, in many ways, this embodiment of an ideal. Of the Inca ideal. And really helps us think about Machu Picchu, not just as one of a few dozen royal estates, or the biggest and best preserved of the royal estates. My research and the research of others has helped us think

It could actually serve as a model city, a perfect microcosm of everything that the empire wanted to be. Thanks to these investigations in Machu Picchu and at Lake Titicaca, the true face of the Inca is gradually emerging. Apparently, it is also thanks to their mastery of symbols

And religious rituals that they managed to merge more than a hundred different peoples into a single powerful empire in just a few decades between the 15th and 16th centuries. But at the height of this power, the Andean giant suddenly, brutally, collapsed. The Spaniards began their conquest in 1532.

Shocked by the overwhelming force of the invaders, the Incas were overpowered and defenseless. However, recent discoveries show that the Incas werenít passive in the face of the conquistadors. The nature of their resistance, however, was unusual. This is what Belgian archaeologist Peter Eeckhout is trying to prove on the Pacific coast near Lima.

He has been carrying out excavations in Pachacamac every summer for 30 years. The site has suffered greatly since the Spanish conquest. First, by the Spaniards themselves and all the looting that took place right after their arrival. And also because this region is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Pachacamac is also the god of earthquakes.

But if you remove the sand and rubble left by the tremors, everything is intact. At the time of the Incas, between the 15th and 16th centuries, this site was a highly frequented, sacred pilgrimage destination. Much like Lourdes today, believers flocked here in the hope of miraculous healing. Those who died were mummified

And buried on the 600-hectare sacred grounds. According to Peter Eeckhout, the pilgrims had to walk along this long road lined with high walls to reach the shrine. Once inside, they performed rituals to seek the favor of the god Pachacamac. They often made sacrifices of gold and other valuables. Because of these treasures, Pachacamac

Became one of the conquistadors’ primary targets as soon as they landed. If their reports are to be believed, the city did not even have to be besieged to bring it down. Spellbound by the superiority of the attackers, the priests and pilgrims surrendered without resistance. But the excavations carried out by Peter Eeckhout

In recent years paint a different picture. Together with Peruvian archaeologist Milton Luj·n D·vila, he examines an Inca-built temple within this 1600 square meter complex. The building is divided into six halls connected by corridors. When they began excavating, the archaeologists had no idea what they would discover.

We said, we wanted to start at a special place, and this building here has some interesting characteristics. I said at the beginning of the excavation, letís let it surprise us. And that’s exactly what happened. Near the temple, the archaeologists find numerous mummies of believers

Who were buried in the immediate vicinity of the shrine for Pachacamac. But what captured their attention even more is the discovery they later made inside the temple. The ground they uncover dates back to the late Inca period and is littered with sacred offerings. When Peter Eeckhout removes them,

He discovers that they have all been broken and destroyed and then scattered around the sanctuary. How did they end up this way? He hopes that restoring the offerings will provide some clues as to what might have happened. These are all sacred objects from a wide variety of origins.

In these pedestal goblets, for example, they are made from shells that come from the warm waters of Ecuador. Or this large vase with the raised motif of a cat of prey. This technique, the workmanship, clearly comes from the distant north coast. Others may come from even further away. This object, for example,

Is a fragment of a large headdress with feathers from the Amazon region. The variety of countries of origin is evidence of the different regions of the pilgrims who traveled to Pachacamac during the Inca period. But why were all these offerings found in this condition? Were they destroyed by the Spaniards during their looting?

To find out, Peter Eeckhout conducted an experiment with a copy of a vase. That tells us something, because it partly corresponds to what we found. Here is the impact site, where the main parts of the vase were lying, so it was broken there. But the shards are only up to two meters away

– unlike our finds, where they lay outside the walled area where the vases were destroyed. For example, the vase with the motif of a feline predator. The point of impact was found in this room. But several fragments were found on the other side of the wall.

For many other offerings, it was the same. What can we conclude from this? The vases were actually broken at this point. Then some of the shards were collected and carefully distributed in different parts of the temple according to some unknown ritual pattern. The same probably applies to the other objects – feathers, fabrics,

Parts of which we found similarly scattered around the temple. That means the offerings were deliberately smashed and distributed. But what had happened in Pachacamac that caused the Incas to ritually destroy these objects? For Peter Eeckhout, this destruction, although not caused by the conquistadors themselves,

Is directly linked to their arrival in Pachacamac in January 1533. When the Spaniards invaded the sacred area, gthey brought chaos with them. A fact made clear in the chronicles. We tortured one of their priests, but he didn’t give up any information. We searched every house for hidden gold and silver.

They also dug up almost 100 mummies, and after stealing all the valuables, burned them. We found large quantities of gold and silver at sacred sites, in tombs and among mummies. Faced with such sacrilege, the temple servants probably decided to act on their own accord and resist the Spaniards.

After years of research, this is now Peter Eeckhout’s hypothesis. What happened here, what we are now witnessing, is a voluntary closure of the temple. Instead of submitting to the ultimate sacrilege of looting, which is usually followed by fires and destruction, the Inca, the temple servants, decided to close the temple themselves.

This is a form of symbolic resistance, of cultural suicide. But instead of watching the site be devastated or destroyed after looting, they took matters into their own hands to end things in a good way. To close the temple, the priests held a final service,

A ceremony of surrender – and broke their most sacred objects. They then distributed the pieces to the various rooms in a meaningful ritual. At first glance, it may seem surprising that you break up objects and give up a building and a world you believed in.

But the status of objects or things that make up the universe is different in these ancient communities than it is for us. This table, for example, has no soul, no consciousness for us. An animal is alive, it has a bit more – and humans have full consciousness and are our equals.

It’s different in the Andean world. By creating things, you give them life, and when you break them, you kill them. One last ritual to end their world. The priests of Pachacamac did not allow themselves to be passively wiped out. They put up moral and symbolic resistance and actively participated in their own demise.

And what happened in the aftermath? 1533. The conquistadors continue their advance on the capital Cusco, leaving chaos in their wake. Around 90% of the inhabitants soon die, massacred or killed by diseases introduced by the Spaniards. The survivors are enslaved or ally themselves with the conquistadors.

Ruler Manco Inca, the 14th of his dynasty, flees with his last followers. They are estimated to number just a few hundred. Recent research reveals that the ruler hid in the jungle to organize resistance. From a remote town called Vilcabamba, he hoped to set out and reconquer his kingdom.

However, the chronicles give no indication of the name of this forgotten city. So where is Vilcabamba, this last bastion of the Incas? American archaeologist Brian Bauer has set out in search of the lost city. After 10 years, he believes heís finally found it. The bridge is gone, shit.

I donít see them, but I presume I keep going? Weíll have to sit here and be nervous for three, four hours. But it used to be a lot harder to go to the site. The very first time I went with a crew,

We needed to rent horses and it took us three days to hike in with horses. But now, in the last few years, theyíve finished the road. But itís a very, very remote location. Ten years ago, Brian Bauer came across reports by researchers

From the early 20th century that spoke of ruins in this valley. This is the end of the road, and from here we have to hike up to the site. Vamos, vamos, here we go! It’s an hour’s hike to the site. Brianís fourth visit. Now, heís almost certain that itís Vilcabamba,

The refuge city of the Incas. According to his research, the partially uncovered site has all the attributes of a ruler’s city. Platforms for ceremonies, perfectly rectangular buildings, and most importantly, a huge complex that took a long time to excavate. The quality of material we have is exceptionally beautiful,

Exceptionally well made. And so we know this was an elite building. And so we believe, as the Incas would have in all of their villages. They would have had their palaces and their residence. But they also would have had a temple of the sun.

And so we think this was the temple of the sun. And it has various rooms. And we found within them, chicha production, consumption material, and so what we expect is that the workers of the state would have been preparing food in these rooms and then thereís a small patio there,

Where they would have come out and served the dignitaries when they were visiting. The temple was dated back to the middle of the 16th century. This is exactly the time when ruler Manco Inca is said to have hidden in the jungle. Is this site really Vilcabamba?

So far the city has only been partially excavated, only a few buildings have been uncovered. So how far did it really extend? Are there more residential buildings under the vegetation where hundreds of resisters could have organized an uprising against the Spanish invaders? To find out, Brian Bauer has put together this team

Led by Marjorie Coulin. Tomorrow they will attempt to scan the entire site with a drone equipped with a LIDAR sensor. LIDAR stands for Light Detection and ranging, it works like radar, but with light pulses. They are systematically emitted and some of them penetrate the vegetation

And the canopy and what lies beneath is reflected back. In this way we hope to get an idea of what is under the canopy and whether we might find archaeological structures there. Iím really excited about the LIDAR because I think this might be the first time itís ever been used in Peru.

We have no idea whatís in dense trees over there. So weíre hoping that the LIDAR will be able to see the extension of the city without excavating the entire city. And nobody wants to do that, because this is a beautiful, tree-covered region.

So you want to do the science but leave the site as intact as possible. The LIDAR will be in the air for six hours. Brian Bauer hopes it might find residential areas that could have housed hundreds of exiled fighters. This would support the theory that this site is indeed Vilcabamba

– the bastion from which the Incas organized their resistance against the Spanish invaders. Another piece of evidence that could strengthen this idea was discovered here a few years ago. This vase is being filmed for the very first time. Its fragments were found in the Temple of the Sun.

Since its restoration, itís been kept in a secret storage facility. Israeli archaeologist Bat-ami Artzi has just finished examining it. This is very special to see this unique piece. Not many people have had this opportunity. Itís a special moment. This is a reconstruction of an Incan piece

Made from 55 fragments found near the door. It shows a battle between Spaniards and indigenous people. Here are 4 Spaniards and around them are many Inca warriors from different parts of the empire, fighting against the Spaniards. After months of investigation, Bat-ami Artzi succeeded in identifying the figures.

In the process, she noticed an interesting pattern. Here an Incan warrior slays a Spanish rider on his horse. And here another Spaniard is impaled. All the battle scenes have one thing in common: The Incas are always the victors. The Spanish riders under the rainbow take center stage.

For the Andean people, the rainbow represents significant change. This concept is called pachacuti in the Andes: The end of one era and the beginning of another. Here we see the depiction of the future. A future in which the Incas will defeat the Spanish and bring a new pachacuti.

A pachacuti in favor of the Incas. They believed that they could turn the tables and return to power. Even at the very end, the Incas did not seem to give up. Driven by their will to resist, they continued to believe they could one day recreate their empire from this city.

Your data is nice. Yeah. Look at that. Look at that tree. Thatís great. Is the tree on top of the wall? Theyíre very preliminary and weíre still working on the data. But my first impression is that Iím surprised with the amount of construction that weíre finding underneath the forest.

It does tell you about the scale of the construction and the size of the city itself. You see a huge city, so thereís no doubt that the site was the city that the Incas called Vilcabamba, during the final of the Inca state. A few months later, the 3D rendering shows:

Vilcabamba stretched over more than 15 hectares. A size that, as Brian Bauer suspected, was more than enough to accommodate the estimated amount of warriors. Here, within these walls, they organized their resistance for 40 years and believed themselves to have found protection in the anonymity of the jungle.

But in 1572, the Spaniards stormed the settlement. Despite their determination, the resisters were defeated. Vilcabamba lay in rubble and ashes. The last ruler of the Incas was executed, ending a mighty civilization. The former giant, the Inca empire, was silenced forever. But half a millennium later, it could regain its voice.

Anthropologist Sabine Hyland is still on the trail of the forgotten Inca writing system. Sheís looking for a quipu similar to those from Peru to prove her theory that the Incas used these objects to represent words. Somebody sent me a picture of the quipu here in Provo.

And I was astonished because it looks exactly like the Collata quipus. And Iím going to see it right now. Iíve travelled a long way just for this moment. She has an appointment to see a quipu which came to the United States in the 1940s.

Oh my gosh. This looks just like the quipus in Collata! It comes from a valley in the Andes, 400 km north of Collata, where she studied the other two quipus. Thereís not knots. And a lot of the same colors. The dark browns, the blues, all of these different colors.

Itís really incredible. This is not a numerical quipu. Numerical quipus donít look anything like this. I am quite convinced that this is another phonetic quipu, very similar to those in Collata. This is what I was hoping. Iím a little overwhelmed at seeing this right now because this is the proof I needed.

When I first came out with my research on the Collata quipus and my partial decipherment, a lot of people said, ëwell maybe just in that village in the 18th century. But we donít have any proof that anybody else in the Andes every used this.í This is really exciting because this is proof

That there are other quipus out there besides those in the town of Collata. Apparently, as Sabine Hyland suspected, there was a common script in the Andean valleys at the time of the Incas. Now she has to patiently compare all the results to find out which string stands for which syllable.

Then, sheíll finally be able to properly read all the quipus. You know, itís funny, because the story of Champillion, we always hear he gets the Rosetta Stone and he sees the relation and he figures this out. We donít often hear: it took him 18 years. It wasnít a simple task.

Why am I accumulating all this data? Why am I making all this effort to try to decipher these quipus. Now we know that the Incas have left a written trace. And itís my obligation to bring their words back to life. And I believe that it is the same for all the researchers

Embarking on this adventure. What do you do when you set out on the trail of the Inca resistance? What do you do when you dive in to the Titicaca Lake in search of forgotten offerings. What are we doing if not giving back to the Incas their own words,

Their own voices, their own vision of the world, without filters or intermediaries. And I believe that for an empire… For civilization that has suffered so much but has also contributed so much to humanity. This is only just.

Video “Mysteries of the Inca: New insights in the Andes | DW Documentary” was uploaded on 12/17/2023 by DW Documentary Youtube channel.