Friday, 23 January 2009
This graphic is from an eight page colour comic section that came from a Sunday April 4, 1937 Montana Great Falls Tribune newspaper, undoubtedly similar to all of the nationally syndicated comic pages for this date. The back page contains the Camel cigarette advertisement featuring American archaeologist, explorer, inventor, illustrator and author, A. Hyatt Verrill.
Tuesday, 20 January 2009
BEFORE THE CONQUERORS
A Modern Adventure in the Land of the Incas
By A. HYATT VERRILL
THE BOYS' BOOK OF BUCCANEERS, etc.
THE story of an American boy who went with his father and the author on a most active archaeological expedition to
The book is authentic because it is built around Mr. Verrill's own experiences during years of archaeological field work in Central and
Recent Books by A. HYATT VERRILL
AN AMERICAN CRUSOE
THE BOYS' OUTDOOR VACATION BOOK
THE BOYS' BOOK OF BUCCANEERS
THE BOYS' BOOK OF CARPENTRY
THE BOYS' BOOK OF WHALERS
ROMANTIC AND HISTORIC
ROMANTIC AND HISTORIC
DODD, MEAD & COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1935 By DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY, INC.
A. HYATT VERRILL
ALL boys love mysteries; all normal, healthy young fellows love adventure and treasure seeking, visiting strange lands, hunting wild beasts and meeting strange primitive tribes. Few are the boys to whom life in the open does not appeal, who do not thrill to the thought of riding across vast deserts, of climbing miles-high mountain peaks capped with perpetual snow, of hewing a way through untrodden tropical jungles. And find me the real boy who does not like camping out, who does not respond to the lure of the unknown—the fascination of not knowing what new and amazing discovery may be revealed at any moment—and who does not delight in trying to solve puzzles.
All this, all these things which gladden the hearts of boys—and of most redblooded men as well—are combined in that scientific, scholastic and rather formidable word, Archaeology. For Archaeology—the study of relics of former races of men—is by no means the dry, uninteresting science which most boys imagine it. And when applied to the study of the remains left by the prehistoric Americans—the great cities, the magnificent palaces, the imposing temples, the titanic walls, the marvelous highways, the monuments and idols, the pottery and textiles, the wealth of objects wrought of solid gold—it becomes one great adventure, a fascinatingly interesting adventure.
Mystery! Where can anyone find a greater mystery than the mystery of the long lost civilizations of
To try to solve these mysteries is like putting together a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. One finds a piece here, another there. And to fit these pieces into their proper spaces is the fascinating game of the archaeologist. Yet even more fascinating is the search for the missing pieces, for no one can foresee when or where some new and amazing discovery may be made, at what moment the key to the whole may be unearthed.
And the work of the field archaeologist takes him to many a strange land, among many strange tribes, and leads to many an exciting adventure. Into deep, dank, tropical jungles of
Yet all of these—all the mystery, the adventure, the travel, the search for missing fragments of the puzzle —hold no greater interest, no greater fascination than the stories of these ancient people, the facts that we know of their histories, their lives and undertakings, their beliefs and customs, their governments and aims, their arts and accomplishments.
It reads more like a fairy tale or the wildest fiction than like reality, for much that we know beyond the shadow of a doubt appears impossible, incredible, even though we are familiar with such amazing and marvelous things as radio, electricity, telephones and telegraphs, modern machines and robots, television and photo-electric cells.
It is to tell this story, to bring to the attention of American boys the mysteries, the wonders, the almost superhuman feats of the ancient American races that this book has been written. It is a story as replete with marvels as any scientification tale of interplanetary travel. A story of treasures so vast as to be almost inconceivable. A story of human accomplishments so stupendous in scope that we can almost believe them the results of magic or of supernatural powers. A story of drama and heroism, of magnificence and pomp, of cruelties and oppression, of peace and happiness, of sublime faiths and monstrous beliefs; a story to thrill and interest any boy and to arouse his wonder and his admiration for those long-vanished Americans whose feats have never been equaled. And, best of all, it is a true story.
Over the top.
The Turquoise Snakes (Aztec).......20
The contents of the pre-Incan girl's vanity case . . 36
The Bearded God (Wira Kocha)......42
Part of an Aztec codex.........44
Part of a Maya codex.........44
Examples of Maya glyph symbols......62
Maya numerical symbols........64
Llama train on a suspension bridge.....66
Ancient Peruvian pottery........122
The ceremonial cup of mother-of-pearl . . . .132
The Bearded God, a pottery "portrait jar" . . . 132
Like a terrier digging out a woodchuck . . . .138
"I wonder who he was?" said Bob......138
Feather headdress and coat........148
Ancient pre-Incan walls in
Beside the railway llamas and alpacas grazed in the fields.............180
The Indians watched the train as it swept past their villages............180
The Indians stared curiously at the aeroplane . . 188
The reed boats on
A son of the Incas.......... 220
The steps to the temple at
The gateway of the sun at
The lion of
"GOSH, but I'd like to go on one of those trips!" exclaimed Bob.
I had just returned from one of my expeditions into the Peruvian Andes and had been telling Bob's father of some of my experiences and discoveries. At first seventeen-year-old Bob, buried in a Wild Western adventure story, had paid no attention; but presently he had laid aside the magazine and had listened, with rapt interest, as I told of unearthing golden idols and ornaments, of unwrapping the mummies of ancient kings, of adventures with Indians and wild beasts.
His father laughed. "How long since you've taken an interest in archaeology, Bob?" he asked.
The boy flushed. "I don't know that I have," he admitted. "But to dig up gold and hunt jaguars and Andean bears, and meet wild head-hunting Indians and, well, to have all sorts of adventures, must be wonderful. And if archaeology means all that sort of fun I'm going to be interested in it from now on."
"I'm afraid you'd find it pretty dull work—in the long run," I told him. "Plenty of hardships and discomforts, and it's not so much fun digging all day in a desert under a blazing sun and with eyes, mouth, nose and ears filled with dust."
“Especially when the dust is fifty percent dried-up mummies," chuckled Bob's father.
"I'll bet I wouldn't mind even that," declared the boy. "Not if there was the chance of finding a lot of gold or silver or some sort of treasure. And at those ruins in the jungles, there can't be dust and hot sun."
"No," I agreed, "but there are clouds of mosquitoes at night and sand flies during the day, not to mention ticks and chigoes and ants, and all the rest of the jungle pests."
"But there are the wild animals and the Indians to make up for it," he argued. "And—"
"You've overlooked the real excitement and lure of the work," his father announced, interrupting Bob's words. "As I look at it, the real adventure of digging into to America's past is not knowing what's just around the corner, so to speak—not knowing what you'll find next, what marvelous discovery a spadeful of earth may reveal. Not knowing at what moment you may unearth some key, some missing link that will help solve the mystery of those vanished Americans."
I nodded. "You've hit the nail on the head," I told him. "It's that uncertainty, that possibility that makes field archaeology so fascinating. It's a good deal like doing a jigsaw puzzle. One simply cannot stop until one has found and fitted the last piece into its place."
"Gee, is there mystery in it, too?" exclaimed Bob. "That makes it all the more interesting."
"It's all a mystery, Son," his father assured him. "Although I'm no archaeologist, I realize that, and I think it's my insatiable desire to help towards a further solution of the mystery that has induced me to finance so many of the Doctor's expeditions.”
"But what is the mystery?" the boy persisted. "Of course I don't know anything about it, really, but in school I learned about the Incas and the Aztecs and the Mayas, and I don't remember that there was anything mysterious about them."
"Everything about them is mysterious," I told him. "Who they were, whence they came, how they accomplished their marvelous feats of engineering, stone-cutting and road building; how they acquired such an advanced knowledge of astronomy, how they devised their highly perfected mathematics and calendars—all these are unsolved mysteries. And it is even a greater mystery as to who the people were who preceded these ancient civilized Americans. Who the races were who had vanished from the face of the earth thousands of years before the discovery of
"Whew!" he exclaimed. "Archaeology must be interesting. Seems to me it would be a lot more thrilling and exciting to try to solve all these mysteries than to shoot big game or to have adventures with head-hunters or even to dig up gold."
"Looks as if you'd secured a convert to the cause of archaeology, Doctor," chuckled Bob's father. "But let's go back to what you were telling me—about that story of an unknown ruined city. You think there may be some truth in the yarn, and if it does exist it may hold the key to many of the puzzles down there. Your idea is to take a trip down to the district to learn whether or not the place actually exists, and, if so, to visit it and determine how much of an outfit would be needed to carry on an exhaustive investigation. Well, I'm willing to back you in this. Funny," he chuckled, "that I've been financing your archaeological expeditions and I don't really know a darned thing about archaeology. I suppose you wish to get off as soon as possible. Let me see—"
"Oh, I say, Dad, can't I go along?" cried Bob, breaking into his father's sentence. "I can ride and shoot and tramp, and I could dig or do anything. I'm pretty husky, you know."
"Hmm, yes, you're husky enough, and when I was your age I guess I would have been as anxious to go along as you are. But boys are a nuisance on scientific expeditions sometimes. Still it might do you a lot of good—get some of that magazine fiction nonsense out of your head and teach you a lot you'll never learn in a prep school. But it's up to Doc to say whether he'll have you or not. So just ask him."
I smiled. "I don't know exactly what to say.” I declared. "You're old enough to have some responsibility—about seventeen, aren't you. Bob? At your age I was off on an expedition of my own into the tropical jungles. And as your father says, it will be a liberal education for you. But on the other hand you'll be an added responsibility, not that there is any real danger where I am going, but accidents will happen. Still, it's your father's expedition and—I'll tell you what I'll do. If you're really interested in trying to solve the jigsaw puzzle of ancient Americans and will show your interest by learning all you can about them, I'll take you along. And if your father doesn't object we'll take in all the most interesting ruins and sites for your especial benefit."
"Hurrah!" cried Bob jubilantly. "You bet I'll learn all I can, and maybe we'll dig up a treasure or find something that will make that old puzzle as simple as jumping off a log."
His father laughed. "You've got two of the requisites for the making of an archaeologist," he declared. "Enthusiasm and self-confidence. But don't start out by being too optimistic, Son. From what Doctor Verrill tells me this archaeological game holds a lot of disappointments."
"Nevertheless," I said, "many of the most important 'finds' have been made by amateurs. Sometimes technical and scientific training proves a hindrance rather than a help. I can tell you a little story to illustrate that. I had just completed my field work on one of my Peruvian expeditions, and was packing up my collections, when a friend arrived from
"It happened that close to the town, actually within the boundaries of a city park, in fact, there was a small burial mound which appeared so insignificant and unpromising that I had never bothered to investigate it. But as it undoubtedly contained mummies—even if they were those of farmers with nothing of scientific interest or value buried with them—it would serve to appease my friend's ambition, I thought. So, armed with pick and spade, we visited the little mound and fell to work. Within fifteen minutes we uncovered unmistakable signs of a burial which, to my amazement, was totally different from anything I had ever seen. Digging carefully, and with my friend tremendously excited, we came to the mummy. And what a mummy!
"Instead of the dried-up body of some peasant wrapped in the plainest and coarsest of textiles, we had discovered the mummy of a royal Inca—a high priest or prince. Upon the head was a crown of gold, topped with yellow feathers and with the royal symbol of the rainbow wrought in gold above the forehead. Over the face was a wooden burial mask adorned with gold. On the chest were three gold disks bearing the humanized tiger head and the conventionalized sun. About the forearms were golden bracelets, beautifully chased, and the richly embroidered garments and robes that covered the mummy were in as perfect condition as on the day when the man had been buried.
"Of course my friend was immensely elated at the rich find; but as we had agreed beforehand that any objects of scientific value were to belong to me, he did not profit greatly. But he had one satisfaction. He has never ceased chaffing me for having beaten me at my own game."
Bob's eyes were glowing and his face was flushed with excitement as I finished.
"Gosh!" he ejaculated. "Weren't you awfully excited when you saw all that gold! I'll bet I'll like archaeology. Do you think we might find Atahualpa's treasure some day?"
"To an archaeologist gold isn't as important as pottery, textiles and other objects," I told him. "I must admit, though, that I have never become such a hard-headed, matter of fact scientist as not to be somewhat thrilled at the sight of gold. But as most of the gold objects we find are very thin, their actual intrinsic value is not very great. As for Atahualpa's treasure: I don't think an archaeologist will ever find that; if it is found at all it will probably be discovered by accident."
"You don't actually believe the old yarn about that, do you?" cried Mr. Sheldon.
"I most certainly do," I assured him. "Very probably the amount of the treasure has been exaggerated, but that there was such a stupendous treasure, and that it was hidden somewhere in the Andes between
"Gee, wouldn't it be great to find that!" exclaimed Bob, his eyes bright with the mere thought of it. "How much would it be worth, Doctor?"
"Allowing for the exaggerations I mentioned—I should say about half a billion dollars; but of course many times that as antiquities."
"Whew!" whistled Bob. "That's some treasure! Why, there must be tons and tons of gold to be worth that much."
"Tommyrot!" ejaculated his father. "There isn't that much gold in the world—outside of the treasury vaults of the nations. You may be able to get me to finance your expeditions, old man, but you can't make me swallow that fairy tale."
"Why not?" I demanded. "It's perfectly reasonable. When Pizarro and his men weighed the gold they had treacherously obtained by promising Atahualpa his freedom, they had a total of over twenty-five tons, worth about fifteen million dollars. Remember, it took fifty men, working thirty days, to melt the golden objects and convert them into bullion. Yet that was but a fractional part of the treasures that were being brought to Cajamarca to ransom the Inca. Atahualpa had promised to fill the room wherein he was confined with gold to a height of seven feet. The room was still in existence until a few years ago, so its size is well known. It measured roughly twenty by sixteen feet, and gold sufficient to fill it to seven feet in depth would weigh very nearly one thousand two hundred tons! But of course the golden objects were bulky and many were very thin, and a liberal allowance for that fact would bring the weight to about two hundred and fifty tons or about one hundred and fifty million dollars. I—"
"Hold on!" exclaimed Mr. Sheldon. "That's a lot of money, but it's a long way from half a billion. How do you explain that?"
"Very simply," I told him. "Atahualpa had sent word to bring in all available gold within the empire, and far more gold than would have been required to fill the room a dozen times over was on its way to Cajamarca when word of the Inca's murder reached the carriers who concealed their precious burdens. But we have not only tradition but documentary evidence of a portion at least of that greatest of the world's treasures."
"Golly, and that's the sort of treasure that is hidden somewhere down in
I smiled. "If I or anyone else could answer that last question it wouldn't remain hidden very long," I told him. "But I'll qualify that. I haven't the least doubt that many of the Indians know exactly where it is hidden; but nothing could induce them to reveal the secret, for to them it is sacred and, moreover, they have learned by bitter experience what happens when the white man's cupidity is aroused. Still, it may be within the bounds of possibility that some Huanco or Hualla or Huara who knows the secret may tell some white man who has befriended him. Such things have happened in the past and may happen again.
"The answer to your other question is easier. Much of the gold of Atahualpa's treasure came from
The Cuzco treasure was mainly from the Temple of the Sun—you'll have a chance to see that famous building when we visit Cuzco, Bob—which had a marvelous garden in which all the trees, shrubs and plants, as well as the birds, insects and even the toads and lizards, were of gold and silver adorned with gems. Within the temple there were countless golden and silver images and other objects, vessels and ornaments, and an immense golden sun seven feet in diameter with silver rays, each tipped by a huge emerald. Then there was a smaller silver image of the moon with golden rays tipped with topazes, besides twelve life-sized statues of the dead Incas, all of gold. Finally, completely encircling the temple near the eaves was a band of gold over a yard in width, while much of the exterior walls was covered with thin gold plates or shingles. All of this, everything I have mentioned, was on the way to Cajamarca. No, I must make one exception; the magnificent and sacred image of the sun had been taken down and hidden by the priests and a smaller and thinner sun of gold had been substituted for it."
"Wasn't the big sun ever found?" asked Bob, as I stopped to fill and light my pipe.
I nodded. "Yes," I told him, "long after the conquest, the Viceroy Toledo, while having the Wilca Pampa or plaza fixed up, unearthed the missing sun from the temple. He was a far more intelligent man than most of the Spaniards, and he realized the incalculable value of the wondrous object as an antiquity. So he wrote a letter to the King of Spain— which by the way is still preserved and is dated Oct. 9, 1572, begging that the sun should not be broken up and melted down to bullion. But the great golden sun with its emerald-tipped rays never reached
"By Jupiter!" cried Mr. Sheldon. "You're beginning to get me as interested and keen on this thing as Bob is. If all you say is so, and I'm about convinced it is, you were well within the bounds when you said that treasure was worth about half a billion. Doctor, I don't know but what I'll go along on this next expedition myself."
Bob burst into merry laughter. "Dad's going to turn archaeologist, too!" he chuckled. "Golly, Dad, I'd like to see you digging up mummies in a desert."
"See here, young man," his father exclaimed with a grin, "don't you get flippant or disrespectful. In the first place if I go I'm not going as an archaeologist or to dig up old mummies. I'm going along just to have a look at the old cities and those amazing walls and to be on hand when you find that half billion dollars' worth of gold. But don't think I can't dig if I have to! I've been digging into my pockets to keep you going and to finance these expeditions, and I can dig just as deep in sand or muck. Don't forget I made my first stake at placer mining in
"All right," agreed Bob, "but I'd prefer the treasure. Seems to me it would be as easy to find that as to find the Incas' mines. But I want to hear more about treasures—and when was it the Indians told somebody about a hidden treasure? And who are the Huallas and Huancos and Huaras you mentioned, Doctor? I thought all the Indians down in
I shook my head. "That's a very common mistake," I informed him. "There never was a tribe or race called Incas. The word Inca, or rather Inga, meant 'Of the Sun' and was a title, like King or Czar or Emperor, borne by the ruler of the Incan Empire which embraced all of what is now Peru and Bolivia with a large part of Ecuador and Chili, all together over four million square miles. Among the twenty million people who inhabited this vast area there were many tribes and sub-tribes, each with its own dialect, customs and religion. But all were ruled by the Inca, and to enable them all to understand one another the Quichua language was devised. This was a sort of Esperanto made up of the best portions of many dialects, and is still the universally used language in the interior of
THERE was no doubt that Bob was keeping his promise, for when I dined with the Sheldons a few nights later he was fairly bursting with questions and was enthusiastic over what he had learned.
"I'm afraid you haven't any idea what you've let yourself in for," declared his father with a grin. "Thank heaven I don't know anything about Incas or Mayas or Aztecs or the rest—that is, scientifically speaking—or I wouldn't have had a moment's peace since the boy's been up to the museums and the library."
"You're just jollying now, Dad," declared Bob. "You were as interested as I was the day you went up to the museum with me. And maybe you weren't proud when you showed me the collections from the expeditions you have financed. Even if he won't admit it. Doctor, he was fascinated by the funny gold images and by that lot of gold vases and plates and things at the
"I can believe that," I said. "By the way, that collection of golden utensils is the treasure I referred to when I said an Indian once revealed the hiding place of his people's gold."
"Please tell us about that, before I begin to ask questions," begged Bob. "Is it part of Atahualpa's treasure?"
I laughed. "Now you're beginning to ask questions before I have had a chance to start on the story," I reminded him. "But I may as well answer that one query. No, it was not a part of Atahualpa's ransom, but is treasure from some temple of the
Mr. Sheldon guffawed. "You're getting into deeper and deeper water," he declared. "Now Bob'll want to know who the Chimus were. The more I see and hear of this subject the more it seems to be one long questionnaire. But go ahead with the yarn, old man, and let the third degree you're in for wait a while."
"It happened several years ago," I began, "when a Peruvian gentleman appeared at the
"According to the Peruvian, he was one of several brothers whose family for generations had owned vast estates in
"Then, a few years after the old Indian had divulged his secret, a revolution swept
"Realizing that if they waited until the Indians gathered sufficient courage to attack it would mean the loss of their lives as well as their treasure, the Peruvians hastily decamped with what they had obtained. But they were scarcely better off than before. Although they possessed many thousand dollars' worth of solid gold, yet they could not realize a dollar on it. According to Peruvian law all huacos, as Indian antiquities are called, belong to the government; and if it had become known that the men had the objects, the gold would have been seized and the finders would have been arrested and imprisoned for having violated the law. There was but one solution to their problem. That was to smuggle the gold out of
"As I have said, the tale sounded a bit fantastic and might well have been invented to account for the gold objects if they had been acquired dishonestly.
But it was finally agreed that the Museum would purchase the collection on the condition that a member of the archaeological staff should be taken to the alleged site of the find. The Peruvian readily consented, and in due course of time the Museum's representative, together with the Peruvians and a little cavalcade of trusted servants, arrived at the spot where the Peruvians declared the gold had been found. There was not a sign of ruins, tombs, burials or human occupancy to be seen, and as the archaeologist gazed about at the barren, treeless hillside, with here and there a little pile of charcoal hinting of forest growth which centuries before had been destroyed by fire, he felt more than ever convinced that the strange story was out-and-out fiction.
"His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a shout from one of the men, and hurrying forward, an exclamation of utter amazement burst from the scientist's lips. There, sticking up from the windblown sand, was a magnificent golden vessel!
"There was no longer any question as to the Peruvian's veracity, and, spreading out, the party searched every inch of the hillside, with the result that nearly a dozen additional objects of gold were found.
"But no one, not even the archaeologist, could hazard a guess as to why the golden treasures should have been there, miles from any known Chimu or Incan ruins or remains. That's the story, Bob; but there is a sequel to it. Several years ago, while I was in
"That is interesting," Bob exclaimed. "Do all the specimens in the museums have such romantic histories? And please tell me who were those Chimus?"
"A great many of the specimens have even more romantic and tragic stories," I told him, "some of them as thrilling, as strange and as incredible as the histories of the Kohinoor or other famous diamonds. As for the Chimus, they were a highly civilized people living in northern
"Well, that's news to me," the boy admitted. "I thought the Incas were the only civilized people in
"Not at all," I said. "There were a number of highly cultured races who had attained to civilization in
"Now I'd like to ask a question," remarked Mr. Sheldon. "In your opinion were the Incas, the Aztecs or the Mayas the most highly civilized?"
"That's a hard question to answer," I replied. "It depends upon the standards by which civilization is judged. In government, organization, religion and engineering the Incas undoubtedly excelled either the Mayas or the Mexicans, yet they did not possess a written or recorded language.
"The Aztecs on the other hand had a very elaborate and complete pictographic method of recording events; they possessed a marvelous astronomical knowledge, an almost perfect calendar, and in many other respects had reached a state of high civilization. The Mayas also had a language and numerical system which was recorded by hieroglyphs and symbols; they had evolved a mathematical system and a calendar which was perhaps the most accurate ever invented, and if judged by their architectural skill and their cities, they had reached an even higher civilization than the Incas or Aztecs."
"I saw the Aztec Calendar Stone in the
I laughed. "The pictures you saw on the Calendar Stone, or rather on the copy that is in the Museum, for the original is in
"You asked if all the specimens had romantic histories. The history of the Calendar Stone is romantic. According to the date upon it, it was carved and completed between the years 1487 and 1499, and was cut from a single immense block of hard black porphyry, and was placed in the great temple in
"And now to return to the figures carved upon the stone. The first twenty of these are symbols for numerals from one to twenty, and indicate the twenty days of the Aztec month. The large figure with the human face is Tonatiuh, the sun god. The cartwheel-like figure is the sun disk, and the figure on the side is the year symbol for 13 Acatl, or the reed, indicating that the present 'sun' or cycle began in that year. As you may have noticed when at the museum, all these various symbols are arranged about the central figure of the sun god, and are divided into five sections. These represent cycles—four of the past and one for the present—as indicated by the four past 'suns' or cycles, each within its little rectangle as I have sketched them. The Aztecs read from right to left, but to simplify matters I have drawn the figures to read from left to right. Hence the first or oldest of the earth cycles is the Jaguar or Ocelotli, signifying that, according to Aztec mythology, the world was destroyed by a jaguar god at the end of its first age or cycle. The second period is represented by Ehecatl, the symbol for a hurricane, which was supposed to have destroyed the world the second time. The third cycle symbol is Quiahuitl or fire, which destroyed the world the third time, and the fourth is Atl or water which was believed to have destroyed the earth like the flood of our Genesis. And just as our Old Testament relates that Noah and his family were the only human beings who survived, and that their descendants populated the earth, so the Aztecs' mythology related that each time the world was destroyed a single couple escaped. Finally, at the top of the stone, you will see the symbol Olin, signifying an earthquake which, in combination with the sign of the reed, means that the present era or cycle of the world will end by an earthquake. Of course there is a great deal more on this famous old stone, such as the Turquoise Snakes or Xiuhcoatl, symbols of fire and water, the sculptured figure of the sacred Obsidian Butterfly or Itzpapalotl and other figures, but I have shown you enough to prove how simple the pictographs really are."
"Maybe they are—for you," grinned Bob. "But I'll have to study a lot if I intend ever to recognize and interpret them. Seems to me it's as bad as trigonometry. And how on earth do you pronounce those names? It sounds easy, the way you rattle them off, but all those Z's and T-L's stump me. But it is interesting. Are those funny pictures on the Maya things just the same?"
"Not a bit the same," I told him. "The Mayas had gone far beyond the Aztecs in their method of recording dates and events. But unfortunately we have never yet discovered a key which will enable us to decipher their sculptured language. However, archaeologists have learned how to interpret dates. And they are quite simple. But I'm not going to confuse you by trying to explain the Mayan system now. Your mind will be filled with a hodgepodge of facts about the Aztecs, the Mayas, the Incas and others unless you learn about each group separately. You have a fairly good idea of the arts and artifacts of these ancient Americans through your visits to the museums and from the books you have read, or a 'horizon' as we archaeologists call it. Now confine yourself first to the Aztecs; learn what you can about them and then ask me questions about them. Then take up the Mayas. Of course you cannot obtain a full or even scientific knowledge of either in the short time before we sail, but there will be plenty of time to learn more about them later, and on our voyage to
Bob sighed. "I guess I've let myself in for an awful lot of studying," he observed. "But it's interesting and it's worth it—going on the expedition, I mean."
"Good boy, Son!" exclaimed his father. "But I'm not planning to study up on the subject, and as I am interested and want some information on certain matters I'm going to ask some questions now—that is, if you're not sick and tired of answering, Doc."
"Fire away," I said. "What's your puzzle?"
"You spoke about the Incas' religion being superior that of the Aztecs and Mayas," he replied- "Weren't they all equally sun worshipers and idolatrous?"
“Yes and no," I told him. "Although the Incas are isually classed as sun worshipers they did not actually adore the sun, but regarded it as the visual manifestation of Inti, the sun god, who was the son of a Supreme Being known as Wira Kocha or Pachakamak, and whose wife was the Moon Goddess or Mama Quilla. Wira Kocha, or the Creator, was in many respects similar to our own God or Creator, while Inti was the prototype of Christ. Neither did they worship idols, but merely made offerings and prayers to the artificial representations of their deities, just as Christians kneel and pray before the figures of Christ and the Saints, not to them. Moreover, the Incas believed in the resurrection, in a heaven and hell, and in an evil being or devil called Supay. In fact, as a whole their religion was so strikingly similar to the Christian faith that one intelligent Spanish priest wrote a voluminous book in which he argued that the Incan people should not be considered infidels as their religion was practically a form of Christianity. But all he got for his pains was persecution by the Inquisition and the confiscation of his book."
"Hmm, I always understood that the reigning Inca was supposed to be the son of the sun," said Mr. Sheldon.
"Quite correct," I told him. "Or rather the son of Inti, the god of the sun. But I imagine that this was more or less an allegory. In other words, the Incas' claim to divine origin was much the same as the modern kings claim that they rule by 'divine right.' Be that as it may, the Incans' deities were benign, kind, gentle and forgiving; whereas the Aztecs' gods were cruel, bloodthirsty and demanded human sacrifices. The same holds true of the Mayan deities, although at the time of the Conquest the Mayas had largely substituted blood letting for human sacrifices, aside from the virgins cast into a sacred well as brides to the water god."
"I see," said Bob's father. "I suppose the influence of their religion was one reason why the Incas were more readily conquered than the Aztecs."
"Unquestionably," I agreed. "But in both cases, and in the case of the Mayas as well, the principal reasons for the Spaniards' comparatively easy victories over far superior numbers were: first, their firearms and horses which brought terror to the natives; and, second, the fact that the Indians regarded the white men as superior, semi-divine beings whose appearance had been foretold in ancient prophecies."
"Oh, Doctor, please tell us about that," cried Bob.
I glanced at my watch. "Not tonight, my boy," I declared. "It's later than I thought. But some other time—"
"Just one more question," he pleaded. "Did the Aztecs and Mayas have as much gold as the Incas?"
"Probably not," I told him as I rose to go. "The Spaniards secured vast sums in gold from the Mexicans, but not as much as from the Peruvians, and very little gold has been found in Mayan ruins and tombs.
“Still they may have possessed a great deal which they concealed when word reached them regarding the ruthless Spaniards' devastation of
WHEN I next called on the Sheldons I was met by Bob's mother who had just returned from
"Yes, that is so," I assured her. "But I made the condition that he must try seriously to learn some' thing about the ancient American civilizations before we go. The boy has gone at it splendidly and I believe your husband has rather caught the infection. Do you mind?"
"Not in the least," she declared. "I'm immensely pleased that Roger has at last found something for a fad and can take an interest in something other than business and golf. And of course I shall not object to Bob going with you. I know he'll be in good hands and it will be a liberal education for him. Well, here are your disciples, all a-flutter to ply you with questions, I suppose. Do you mind if I join the favored few and listen in?"
"Aha!" cried Mr. Sheldon as we entered the library. "So you've been bitten by the archaeological bug, my dear. Well, I suppose there were Incan and Aztec and Mayan women as well as men, and no doubt they had much the same foibles and fancies and inconsistencies as the women of today. How about it. Doc?"
"I'm afraid I cannot answer regarding their inconsistencies," I told him. "But unquestionably they were as indispensable to man's happiness as are women today, and they were fully as fond of finery and cared as much for their personal charms as modern women. In fact, many of what you term 'foibles and fancies' of American women of two or three thousand years ago are identical with those popular with American women today."
"Now how do you know that?" demanded Mrs. Sheldon. "Did they leave books or magazines with fashion plates and beauty hints and pictures?"
I laughed. "They did better than that," I replied. "They left their clothing, their personal adornments, their toilette articles, and even themselves, as evidence."
"Just what do you mean by that?" she asked. “Surely nothing in the way of garments could remain after thousands of years, unless preserved in a museum case."
"On the contrary," I informed her, "the finest textiles—far finer than the silk stockings you wear-are perfectly preserved, with their colors unchanged, in the burial mounds of
"Goodness, you are getting me interested now!" Mrs. Sheldon declared. "Do tell us about that prehistoric flapper. Who was she and where did you find her?"
"I cannot say who she was, except that she was a Moujik girl and was of noble or at least aristocratic blood, as proved by her costume and her ornaments. I found her in a burial mound in northern
"Come, come, Doctor, you don't really mean the omen used vanity bags in those days," cried Mrs. Sheldon, breaking into my narrative.
"Not only vanity bags but all the feminine requisites which you modern women carry in your vanity bags today," I assured her. "In the vanity bag buried with the Moujik girl there was a powder puff of feathers with a powder container made from a little gourd. There was also a hollow seed containing rouge, another container filled with red pigment for coloring the lips, together with a tiny silver spatula for applying it, a section of hollow reed containing black pigment for darkening the eyebrows and eyelashes, a hard wood stick for manicuring the finger nails, as well as a bronze curved knife for trimming the nails, a pair of silver tweezers for removing superfluous hair, and a miscellaneous lot of needles, pins, thread, a thimble and a hand mirror of polished iron pyrite set in a carved and painted wooden handle."
"I can scarcely believe it!" declared Bob's mother. "I suppose"—with a laugh—the girls in those days tinted their finger nails also."
"They certainly did." I told her. "Not only the finger nails of the girl's mummy, but the toe nails as well, were painted crimson. Moreover, she had bobbed hair and had plucked eyebrows."
"By Jove, women haven't changed a bit in two thousand yearsl" exclaimed Mr. Sheldon.
"Oh, yes they have," I said. "In the days when this Moujik girl lived, no woman was allowed to lead a life of idleness or uselessness. Although this girl belonged to the nobility she had to make her own garments and even had to weave the cloth and card the wool. Buried with her was her work basket with its needles and yarn, its reels of thread, its silver thimbles and its bobbins for spinning thread. And she was an adept at weaving, for beside her were two hand looms each with a partially completed piece of cloth upon it just as they had been left when death interrupted the young lady's work."
"Poor child!" sighed Mrs. Sheldon. "How very interesting it would be if we could know her story— who she was and how she happened to die so young. She was young, wasn't she?"
"About fifteen or sixteen, I should say," I replied. "But married. Her bobbed hair and the jewelry she wore proved that. By the way, I forgot to mention the jewelry. She had gold and silver rings, gold anklets, silver bracelets set with turquoise, big-headed silver and gold pins to secure her dress in place, and necklaces of agate, quartz and turquoise."
"Did you ever find a boy's mummy?" Bob asked. "I'd like to know how the fellows dressed and what they did in those days. Did they play ball or any games like that?"
"Lots of games," I told him. "The Moujik, Chimu and Incan boys played a game almost identical with basket ball but more difficult, for to make a goal they had to throw the ball through a ring. This was a very popular game for it was played by the Mexicans and the Mayas as well as by the South American races. Another game the boys played was the same as your hockey, and in the graves of boys of thousands of years ago we find rubber and leather balls and hockey sticks quite frequently. They also had quoits and jackstones, a game like marbles, and of course they had their toy bows and arrows, spears and slings and boomerangs."
"Boomerangs!" exclaimed Bob. "Why, I thought they were used by the natives of
"So they were—and still are," I told him, "but they were widely used by the ancient American races also, and a simple form of the same weapon is still used by the
"I guess perhaps I'm more interested in
"You may be going to
"I've discovered that the Aztecs were just one of the tribes of civilized Mexicans the Spaniards found, and that the name means the 'Crane People,' and that they came to the Valley of Mexico from somewhere in the northwest, and that they ruled the other Mexican races, some of whom were more civilized than the Aztecs themselves. I also studied the Aztec codices in the museums. Aren't they funny, with the pictures of queer people all in profile and with their big noses? But what interested me the most were all the stone idols or images. Seems to me the Aztecs had a god for nearly everything; but their names are jawbreakers. How on earth do you pronounce them? I'd like to know more about them, Doctor."
"I don't think you need bother your head trying to remember the Aztecs' names for their deities," I told him, "although the names aren't so difficult to pronounce as you might think. X has the sound of SH and TL has the sound of TEL as nearly as we can pronounce it in English. But you probably couldn't remember which was which by the native names anyway. The principal god was the air god or 'Fiery Mirror,' who can always be recognized in the pictures and idols by the polished shield he carries, in which he was supposed to see all the deeds and acts of human beings. At the time of the Spanish conquest there was a tendency among the Aztecs to regard this deity as the one supreme god. Perhaps, if Cortez had not conquered
"The 'Fiery Mirror' god had many other names such as 'Hungry Chief,' 'The Enemy,' 'The Young Warrior,' 'The Night Wind' and 'The Claimer of Prayers.' He was supposed to give life and to bring death, and was thought to rush along the roads at night, searching for persons whose time had come. In order that he might rest himself, there were stone benches placed beside the highways, and no human being would have dared use these. As in the case of most primitive people, the Aztecs regarded their deities as possessing many human qualities, and they believed that anyone who met the Fiery Mirror and overcame him would be granted anything the victor might ask. Human sacrifices were made to this god, and once each year a physically perfect young man was selected from among the prisoners taken in war. He was most tenderly cared for, was housed in a magnificent apartment, was fed on the finest of food and dressed in the richest of garments. His life, until the time of sacrifice, was a continuous round of pleasure and feasting, except at night, when he was given a polished shield and a spear. Thus equipped, he wandered over the roads and rested on the benches intended for the Fiery Mirror, whom he impersonated. And when, on the appointed day, he was led up the altar steps to the sacrificial altar, he had neither fear nor sorrow but felt highly honored at having been selected for the ritual.
"Another very important Aztec god was the sun god or 'Sun Chief,' also known as 'He by whom men live,' as he was supposed to be the source of all life. He is easily recognized by the jaguar jaws on either side of his head and by his projecting tongue which indicates that he is lapping up the blood of his victims. Most of the Aztecs' human sacrifices were made to this sun god, and the hearts of the victims were torn from the bodies and held up to him. Next in importance was the war god whose Aztec name means 'Hummingbird to the Left' and who is represented with a headdress of hummingbird feathers and a feather leg guard. According to Aztec mythology, this god was the son of a very pious widow, who afterward became a goddess known as 'Snake Skirt’ or 'Earth Mother.' You probably noticed her statues in the museum, for she is a very terrible looking creature with a death's head, with talons on her hands and feet, and with a skirt composed of rattlesnakes. According to the Aztec myth the widow was praying on a mountain when a small bundle of bright-colored feathers fell from the sky upon her. This she placed in her bosom, intending to make it an offering to the sun god; but when, a little later, her two sons and her daughter plotted to kill her, the war god was born from the feathers, fully armed with a spear and shield of blue and wearing a helmet and leg guard of hummingbird feathers. Killing his brothers with a flash of lightning, and beheading his sister with his spear, he saved the life of his mother, who was made the goddess of the earth and whose snake skirt is symbolic of lightning.
"Another goddess, whose worship demanded the annual sacrifice of lovely young girls, was the corn goddess. She is represented in the sculptured figures as having a human face within the open jaws of a rattlesnake.
"But the most bloodthirsty of all the Aztec deities was 'The Flayed One,' or the god of human sacrifice. He is easily recognized by the human skin he is wearing, the skins of human feet and hands worn like gloves and shoes, and his crown and jacket of feathers. Not only were countless human beings sacrificed to this cruel god, but on his festivals victims were flayed alive and their skins were worn by the god's devotees for twenty days.
"Then there was the rain god whose wife was the 'Emerald Lady' and whose children were the clouds. Many children and women were sacrificed to this god on special altars on the mountain tops. The rain god is usually represented as resting on his back and holding a plate upon his stomach, while his wife is shown as a lizard or frog.
"As you see, most of the Aztec gods were cruel and bloodthirsty, but there were some who were benign and kindly. There were the 'Flower Godchild,' the 'Obsidian Butterfly,' and finally, and most important of all perhaps, the 'Plumed Serpent' or 'Feathered Serpent' or 'Quetzalcoatl,' which is a combination of Quetzal, the beautiful resplendent trogon, and Coatl, a serpent. He is always represented as having a heavy beard, when shown in human form, or as a combination of serpent and bird when in symbolic form. But the most remarkable feature of this deity is the fact that he was supposed to have been a stranger and a white man who mysteriously appeared and as mysteriously vanished. One myth has it that the god appeared first as a resplendent trogon or Quetzal. Hence the trogon has always been the sacred bird of the Aztecs, and of the Mayas as well, for they also adored the Feathered Serpent god. Another tradition was that this bearded god arrived in a great winged boat. But regardless of the manner of his arrival, all legends agreed that he taught the people their arts and civilization and instructed them in religion. However, gradually the gentle and benign faith he taught them was cast aside for blood sacrifices, and the bearded god, becoming angry, left the people after giving them a prophecy. Among other things he told them that white men would arrive from overseas and would conquer the country and destroy the idols and altars and set up another religion. Also, he promised that eventually he would return and restore the Aztecs to their former greatness."
"Was that the prophecy you meant when you spoke of it to Dad, the other night?" Bob inquired as I paused in my narrative.
I nodded. "Yes, for when the Spaniards did arrive in
"Hmm, how do you account for such a remarkable coincidence, and for those old Indians inventing a bearded white man for a god?" asked Mr. Sheldon.
"I don't pretend to be able to explain the fulfillment of prophecies, although I confess that I believe there are many occurrences in this world which science cannot explain—forces and powers of which we have no knowledge as yet. But I think that the explanation of the bearded god is quite simple. The Indians did not 'invent’ such a deity, because he or they—for there may have been several—actually existed."
"You mean that white men visited
"I am firmly convinced of the fact," I declared. "I feel certain that, centuries before the arrival of the Spaniards in
"That is most interesting," said Mrs. Sheldon.
"And most at variance with accepted ideas," declared her husband. "But let's have your reasons for your belief."
"I am not the only archaeologist who accepts this theory," I informed him. "The legends of Atlantis, and of a lost Pacific continent which has been called Mu, are gaining more and more credence. And evidence in support of prehistoric migrations from such vanished lands is steadily piling up. But I have even stronger reasons for believing that the Plumed Serpent of the Aztecs and Mayas and the Bearded God of the Peruvians were actually white men. Not only do I feel that it would have been impossible for the Indians to have evolved such characters from their own imaginations, but even the costumes worn by them, as shown on carvings and sculptures, are distinctly such as would have been used by men from Phoenicia or the Near East. But the most conclusive proof is this. Among the so-called 'portrait jars' of the Chimus and Moujiks of Peru we find a few which represent a seated bearded man with distinct Semitic features, and wearing a peculiar type of eared cap and a shoulder cape or shawl. As these are obviously very lifelike and accurate likenesses, and never vary in the least in facial details or expression, we must assume that they were modeled from some living man. And, if so, he was assuredly no American aborigine, but of some Semitic race.
"If we admit that the jars were made from life, then this man must have visited
"Of course, I do not believe that a single white man found his way across the Atlantic and visited the Aztecs, the Mayas and the pre-Incas; but there is no logical reason why one or more ships should not have reached America in those days, and if the visitors found the Amazon it would have been natural for them to have ascended the river and its tributaries and to have reached Like Titicaca."
"Maybe we'll find a mummy of one of those fellows —or something to prove they were in
"I'll tell you about the swords and throwing sticks or atlatls before I answer your question about stone cutting," I said. "The obsidian teeth of the swords are almost as brittle as glass, but nevertheless records prove that when wielded by the Mexican warriors they were very deadly weapons and more than once penetrated the Spaniards' armor. By the way, the word machete is merely a corruption of machuahuitl, as the Mexicans called the steel cutlasses introduced by the Spaniards.
"The throwing sticks or atlatls were not thrown, Bob. They were used for throwing spears or javelins, and by their use the spears could be hurled with terrific force and great accuracy. Similar throwing sticks were used by the Mayas and Incas, and even by some North American tribes, and are still in use by the Guaymi Indians of Panama who are descendants of an outlying Aztec colony. In fact their reigning chief still bears the name of Montezuma, and their chiefs and medicine men wear the sacred Quetzal feathers. In using the throwing stick, the warrior or hunter holds the spear lightly in the fingers of the hand grasping the stick and with the butt of the shaft resting against the little pointed hook. Then, by bringing his arm well back and swinging it forward, he throws the spear. The atlatl is in effect an extension of the thrower's arm and adds to the power and leverage exerted. An expert can throw a spear with greater accuracy and force than an arrow can be fired from a bow."
"Say, I should think that would be fun," exclaimed the boy. "I'm going to make one and try it."
"You asked how the Aztecs and the other ancient American races managed to carve hard stone," I continued. "That is one of the greatest puzzles or mysteries and one we have never been able to solve. If we assume, as is the ordinary supposition, that these people had no iron or steel, but used only stone and bronze implements, then their feats of stone cutting border on the supernatural. No one has ever found a bronze tool capable of cutting even the softest limestone, and the most ardent supporters of the stone implement theory admit that they cannot explain how such marvelous and stupendous results could have been attained with stone tools. Even if it were possible for human beings to quarry, cut and carve gigantic masses of hard rock by means of stone tools it would have required years—life times—to have completed a single monolith or one of the gigantic sculptured statues. Yet there are thousands of these in
"Yet, in a way, the obsidian objects you saw in the
"I had been excavating in
"By Jove, there's a problem for someone to solve!" cried Mr. Sheldon. "Have you any theory to explain such seemingly impossible feats?"
"Well, a Bolivian gentleman once informed me that he knew how the pre-Incas accomplished their amazing feats of stone cutting," I told him. "His theory was that the people did not cut the rocks but possessed some lost secret of how to melt and cast the stone! Other theorists have suggested that these ancient races knew of some method for softening the rocks until they were readily cut and then allowed them to harden. But the Indians of Cozumel Island, off the coast of
"I'm not sure that explanation is not as reasonable as any you have mentioned," declared Bob's mother, when the laughter subsided. "But, all joking aside, haven't you any theory of your own, Doctor?"
"Yes," I replied. "I am convinced that these ancient races possessed steel or hardened iron tools. In the first place, many expert stone cutters and masons who have examined the work are willing to swear that only by steel tools could such results have been accomplished. In the second place, all of these people smelted copper, silver, gold and other metals, and when ores are smelted—especially copper—an iron button is usually found in the bottom of the crucible. It is inconceivable that intelligent, civilized men, finding this bit of metal so much harder than the copper, should not have realized its value and superiority and should not have made use of it. Moreover, the Peruvians, Chileans and others used meteors for hammers, axes and weapons, and they would have been of very low mentality indeed if they had not used the same material for stone cutting."
"But no one ever has found an iron or steel tool among the remains, as I understand it," objected Mr. Sheldon.
"That proves nothing," I argued. "Steel and iron are the first metals to decompose and disappear. It would be remarkable if iron should remain preserved after hundreds of years' exposure to the elements. Even in
"Golly, wouldn't it be great if we could dig up some iron tools down in
"They'll have to wait," I told him. "By the way, there is a truly wonderful collection of Mexican antiquities on exhibition at the Pennsylvania Station this week. It's the
"I MADE one of those Aztec throwing sticks and it worked!" cried Bob when next I saw him. "It's great fun using it, too. All the boys are wild over it, and they're all making the atlatls and spears. We're going to have a contest. And I took your advice and went to see the
"Now just what would you like to know?" I asked him as I took my favorite chair in the library.
"I'd like to know how the Mexicans made such lovely gold work, and if they were Aztecs or some other race. And I'd like to know how the things were discovered, and if anybody ever found anything of the sort before. And how old they are and—"
"Whew, hold on a bit, my lad!" I exclaimed. "One question at a time, if you please. However, as most of your queries are related, I'll answer them together. Just how the Mexicans or the other civilized and cultured American races made their delicate and intricate gold work is something of a mystery, but it was largely a question of patience, delicate touch, expert craftsmanship and a highly developed artistic sense. Even today, in Yucatan and Mexico—as well as in some parts of Peru and Bolivia—one may see Indian goldsmiths at work in the market places or before their homes making the most delicate filigree work, (though they use only the simplest and crudest of tools, and have no patterns or models to copy, yet these Indians will produce most intricate and elaborate designs and will duplicate them—as in the case of a pair of earrings or a number of beads—so perfectly that one cannot detect the slightest variation in the design anywhere. But there are some examples of prehistoric goldwork which cannot be explained in this way.
"At Manabi in
"But how did the Indians make such things?" cried Bob.
"Must have possessed microscopic eyes, eh!" his father suggested.
"I'm of the opinion that they used lenses of some sort," I said. "In all probability they discovered by accident that a convex flake of quartz crystal magnified objects. My theory is that the chap who made the discovery realized it could be used to his own advantage, and guarded the secret, no doubt vastly impressing his fellows with his magic. In that case the chance of finding the primitive lens would be very small. And even if such lenses were in quite general use we might search for years before we happened to stumble upon one."
"Seems to me those old Peruvians went to extremes —cutting two-hundred-ton blocks of stone one minute and making microscopic gold beads the next," observed Mr. Sheldon.
"But you haven't answered my other questions yet," persisted Bob. "About the Mexican things, I mean; and now we're getting back to
"My mistake, Bob,” I laughed. "We'll have to try to stick to
"Pardon me for interrupting, but how do you estimate the ages of such things?" inquired Mr. Sheldon.
"In several ways," I told him. "If there are indications of Spanish influence—designs, figures or objects showing the Indians' contact with Europeans—then we know they were made subsequent to the Conquest. For example, in one burial mound in
"For example, a few years ago I discovered the site of a formerly unknown civilization in central
"And speaking of this remarkable site of an unknown race in
"I'll bet you were sore," declared Bob.
"Not exactly sore," I told him, "but I admit I kicked myself for having missed the find. However, it wasn't my fault, for I ceased work only when the funds at my disposal were exhausted. Moreover, that sort of thing is all in the day's work in archaeological explorations. A person may excavate scores of graves and find nothing unusual, and then some amateur may dig up a real treasure. Such was the case at
"Not unlike the King Tut tomb," Mr. Sheldon commented.
"Very similar," I agreed. "And at any time, at any site, anyone is just as likely to come unexpectedly upon some momentous find."
"Maybe we will, in
"It wouldn't surprise me in the least, if we should," I declared. "Are there any more puzzles you wish me to solve, my boy?"
"Yes, I wanted to ask about the feather cloaks I saw at the museum," he replied. "The labels said they were worn by Aztec nobles, and I wondered how they were made, that is, if they were made of birds' skins."
"No," I told him, "the feather mantles and feather clothing of the Aztecs were made by sewing innumerable tiny feathers upon a cloth foundation. But equally beautiful feather garments were made by the Peruvians. If we visit the Nasca district you will no doubt have the thrill of securing some of these marvelous specimens of ancient art yourself. Did you notice an Aztec shield of turquoise mosaic in the
"You mentioned the Aztecs' calendar the other day," said Mr. Sheldon. "And although you explained the Calendar Stone I'm still hazy as to how they calculated their days, months and years. I imagine Bob will be interested in that also, so suppose we have a lesson in ancient American calendrical systems."
"Yes, that will be important and interesting," I agreed. "But in order to make the matter clear I think I will have to explain not only the Aztecs' but the Mayas' and Incas' calendars, as well as their mathematical systems, for the three are closely related, and many archaeologists believe that the Mayas copied their systems from the Aztecs, or vice versa, or that each race borrowed certain features of their systems from the other race.
"Of the three calendrical systems the Aztecs' was the most complex, and I'm afraid it will be rather difficult for me to explain it so that it is clear. However, I'll try. In the first place their year was of three hundred and sixty-five days, like our own, and therefore in due time the calendar lost its seasonal or monthly significance because of the omission of extra hours in each solar year. We make up for that by having months of thirty and thirty-one days and by leap years, but the Aztecs had a more complicated system. The priests kept two distinct years: the ordinary 365-day year and a 260-day year. The former ran in eighteen twenty-day months, with five 'unlucky' days over. The 260-day year ran in twenty months of thirteen days each or 'birth cycles' as they were called. The twenty days of the 365-day year were the basis of all reckoning from the waxing to the waning of the moon, and each day had its name, such as house, reed, wind, snake, etc. Also, each twenty-day month was divided into five-day weeks which were named after the third day of each, while the year was called by the name of the middle day of the week on which it began. Four ordinary years made one 'sun year, and as no work was done on the five 'unlucky' days—the people living in fear and terror of the world coming to an end during one of these periods—the actually named days of a year were but 360.
"The other or religious year, however, always began with the first calendar date—like our New Year's Day—regardless of the name dominating the ordinary year. And to equalize the two years there was the so-called 'binding of the years' which occurred when there had been fifty-two civil years and seventy-three of the religious years. Each 'binding of the years' marked a new cycle, and as the people firmly believed that the world would come to an end at the close of one of these cycles, they spent the final days offering prayers, making countless human sacrifices and striving to placate their deities. Also, at this time, all fires except the sacred fires of the temples were extinguished until, with the beginning of the new cycle and the assurance that the world was not to be wiped out, the fires were rekindled by coals and torches from the sacred fires, and life was resumed as usual.
"Here let me call attention to the frequent occurrence and the mystical significance of the number thirteen, for it was common to all the ancient American civilizations. Doubtless it originated with the computation of the lunar year of thirteen months, and the fact that the religious year was made up of thirteen-day months, while the fifty-two year period or 'binding of the years' was a multiple of thirteen. As a result, these people regarded thirteen as a lucky instead of an unlucky number, and not only based nearly all their prophesies on thirteen or its multiples, but made use of it as an augury and a charm whenever possible.
"Unlike the Aztecs, the Mayas based their calendar on the lunar year, but this was modified and calculated to bring it into harmony with the solar year. The result was that, like the Mexicans, the Mayas actually maintained two distinct years, although but one was used as the calendar. To attempt to explain the complex system of their computation would be merely confusing, so I will only point out the most important features. Thus the Mayan year of 260 days was divided into twenty-day weeks with a name for each day. But with these names the Mayas combined numbers running from one to thirteen, when the numbers began again. Thus the names and numbers of a Mayan month would be as follows. You had better write these down, Bob, so you can study and memorize them later. 1 Imix, 2 Ik, 3 Akbal, 4 Kan, 5 Chicchan, 6 Cimi, 7 Manik, 8 Lamat, 9 Muluc, 10 Oc, 11 Chuen, 12 Eb, 13 Ben, 1 Ix, 2 Men, 3 Cib, 4 Caban, 5 Eznab, 6 Cauac and 7 Ahau. Then it would begin the next week with 8 Imix, 9 Ik, etc. And as the only common factor of both twenty and thirteen is one, twenty times thirteen days, or two hundred and sixty days, had to elapse before there was a second 1 Imix, 2 Ik, etc. This period was known as the 'Round' and was used as the ritual calendar for divination and soothsaying rituals.
"But eighteen of the periods of twenty days, or 365 days, followed by five 'unlucky' days, bore different day names. These were: 1 Pop, 2Uo, 3 Zip, 4 Zotz, 5 Tzec, 6 Xul, 7 Yaxin, 8 Mol, 9 Chen, 10 Yax, 11 Zac, 12 Ceh, 13 Mac, 14 Kankin, 15 Muan, 6 Pax, 17 Kayab, 18 Cumhu, and the five unnamed unlucky days. These eighteen numbered days, added to the day name and numeral already described, fixed any day's position in the year. For example: 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu would correspond to our Wednesday January thirteenth, the 4 Ahau fixing the day in the 260-day period, while 8 Cumhu fixed the date in the solar year.
"But instead of beginning their periods with a new day, the Mayas dealt only with past time and a date such as 'O Cumhu' indicated that the month of Kayab was over but the new month of Cumhu had not begun. When they said 'O Cumhu,' therefore, it was as though we should say 'It is seven o'clock less thirty minutes' when we mean 'half past six'; or as when a man says 'I am in my eightieth year' when he has passed his seventy-ninth birthday."
"Owing to the five 'unlucky' days in each year, every year and every month in the year always began with a day name five days later than that of the preceding year, and although the day names repeated their relative positions in the calendar every four years, such was not the case with the day numeral which was every year one more than on the previous year. Hence fifty-two years had to pass before the day names and numbers could recur in the same position in any one month. This period was known as the 'Calendar Round,' but, in addition, the Mayas had a 'Long count' which was a combination of the calendrical and arithmetical systems. In order to make this clear I must explain the principles of the Mayas' numerical system, which was undoubtedly the most astonishing mathematical achievement of any race and has never been equaled even by Europeans.
"While our arithmetic is based on the decimal or count of ten, that of the Mayas was based on the count of twenty. When we write the number 136, we know that the three is ten times as valuable as it would be if it were where the six is, and that the one is ten times as valuable as it would be if it were where the three is. But in the same number, if written according to the Maya system, the three would have twenty times the value of the six and the one would have twenty times the value of the three, so that if expressed in Mayan numerals the figures would read three times twenty plus one times twenty times twenty plus six or 466 of our system. But when the numerals were used in reckoning time a change was made.
"In such cases the first figure represented the number of years, the second the number of months of twenty days, and the unit the number of days. The name for a day was Kin, and twenty of these equaled one Uinal or month, and eighteen Uinals made a Tun or year of three hundred and sixty days. A figure occupying the position of our thousands would be twenty Tun or Katun, and twenty Katun made a Baktun or Cycle of one hundred and forty-four thousand days.
"I think, Bob, if you will write that down it will be of help when you come to study the Mayas, for it is the basis of all interpretations of the date glypths of Mayan inscriptions.
"You will readily see how this numerical system, combined with their named and numbered days, enabled the Mayas to fix any given day within almost any period of time. Merely with the numeral appended, any day could be fixed within two hundred and sixty days. By adding the month sign and its numeral the day could be fixed within fifty-two years. By adding the Tun or year numeral the exact date was fixed within 936 years. By adding the Katun sign the day could be determined anywhere within 18,720 years, and if the Cycle or Baktun symbol was appended the precise date of any one day could be determined during a period of 374,400 years. Imagine being able to declare positively that a certain event took place on Wednesday the fifteenth of October, B. C. 372,466! Yet the Mayas could have done so, and they went even farther. At times they added a Great Cycle of twenty Baktuns, while some monuments bear sculptured date symbols for Great-Great-Great-Great Cycles or, in other words, they fix the exact dates during a period of five million years!"
"Tut, tut!" ejaculated Mr. Sheldon. "That's going a bit too far, you know. There couldn't have been either calendars or civilizations in
I laughed. "Probably not," I agreed. "I did not mean that the Mayas actually recorded events which took place millions of years ago. But neither do we know the day of the week nor the month nor even the year upon which David slew Goliath. We, however, are not at all concerned as to whether the epic duel took place on Monday or Tuesday, in July or in January; but the Mayas were not so easily satisfied, and they wanted to be sure of the exact date of anything and everything that had ever taken place since the world began. Moreover, the beginning of the Mayan calendrical count went much farther back than ours. We reckon our years from the birth of Christ, or A. D. 1. But the Mayas' beginning was far back in the dim past, and nobody has yet discovered whether it was based on some actual occurrence or was purely arbitrary."
"Gosh, that is interesting," declared Bob. "And somehow it seems as if it would be easier to learn Mayan arithmetic than our own. How did they write their figures?"
"In two ways," I replied. "At times they used symbols in the forms of human faces, each distinctive face representing a number from one to nineteen. But the formal method was by means of bars and dots. Each horizontal bar or line indicated five, while the dots above them indicated units below five or multiples of five. Thus two bars and two dots would be twelve, one bar and three dots would be eight and so on, up to three bars and four dots, or nineteen, which, with their system, was the highest the units could go."
"Whew, it must have taken hundreds of dots and bars to have written big numbers, like hundreds of thousands," cried Bob.
I smiled. "On the contrary, by using these symbols properly placed, immense numbers could be indicated as readily and in as small a space as by our numerals. Thus three bars and two dots above them or seventeen if written in conjunction with a single bar and dot or six, and two single bars, would indicate 17,6,5 or 6925."
"Hmm, I wonder how that system would work out in modern bookkeeping," mused Mr. Sheldon. "By the way, while we're on the subject of dates and calendars, how ancient is the Mayan civilization. Doctor?"
"No one can definitely say," I told him. "In fact, no two authorities can agree as to the exact interpretations of Mayan dates. But there are many dates on monuments and buildings which correspond to about 100 B.C. of our calendar, and some archaeologists claim much greater antiquity for the older Mayan remains."
"Was the Incas' calendar like that of the Aztecs or the Mayas?" Bob wanted to know.
"I was coming to that," I said. "As long as we are discussing such matters we might as well cover the whole subject. No, the calendar of the Incas was quite different from those I have described, yet all three had certain features in common. The Incan year was made up of twelve months or Quillas of thirty days each, or 360 days, with five additional unnamed days. But unlike the Aztecs and Mayas, who considered those extra five days unlucky, the Incas regarded them as most auspicious and as occasions for feasting, merry making and rejoicing. They were considered as days entirely apart from ordinary time and as five days of life gained each year and granted by the sun god to enable the people to rest and enjoy themselves. No work, other than the most essential tasks, was permitted; and throughout the Incan Empire there was universal rejoicing, accompanied by dances, music, singing and elaborate opera-dramas.
"As the Incan year was computed from the phases of the moon, instead of from the sun, and as the moon's rotation is completed in 364 days, eight hours and forty-eight minutes of sun time, the Incan months of thirty days, plus the five extra days, brought their year very close to the solar year. And to make it coincide, an extra day was added every fourth year, exactly like our leap year system.
"To the Incas the solstices were of the utmost importance, and their summer solstice, which in
"Does anyone know how they celebrated their Easter?" asked Mrs. Sheldon who had joined us.
"And how did they write their figures and do their arithmetic?" demanded Bob.
"I'll answer Bob's question first," I said. "The Incas did not write their numerals, but recorded all numerical events by means of knotted strings called Quipos; and they figured by the decimal system. But you will learn all about that when we get to
"AS THE sun set on the evening preceding the day of Kapak Raymi, the thousands of people who had gathered in Cuzco for the great event all turned their faces towards the west and joined their myriad voices in a chant to the dying sun. Then, as darkness settled over the valley and the city, flaring torches were placed about the great pampa or plaza and lights gleamed from the palaces of the Inca and his nobles, while torch bearers hurried through the streets issuing orders and instructions to the teeming, expectant throngs. Presently a deep blast from a horn came from the
''But as a rosy glow appeared above the mountain peaks in the east, and the sky paled and another day dawned over the Incan capital, a mighty shout of joy and thanks arose from the watching thousands. Inti, the son of God had been reborn! He had been resurrected, and everywhere was gaiety, happiness and thanksgiving.
"Dressed in their finest and gaudiest garments, and decked with their ornaments of silver, copper, turquoise and mother-of-pearl; with their llamas gay with ribbons in their ears and with tinkling bells about their necks, the people crowded the plazas and with expectant eyes watched the eastern sky. As the light increased and the pink glow faded to saffron, the gates of the Inca's palace were thrown open and through the portals the Royal Guards marched forth to form a double line along the entire length of the street leading to the plaza. Then, from the palace courtyard, came the strains of martial music, and between the ranks of plumed warriors the royal band of three hundred musicians marched to their positions in the great square.
"A moment later a thunder of applause and deafening cheers arose from the expectant throngs as the Imperial cortege appeared. Preceded by the nobles, princes, military officers and governors of provinces, and the pricsts—all ablaze with gold and jewels—came the golden, gem-encrusted palanquin of the Inca, borne on the shoulders of six men. Within it, reclining upon robes of magnificent feather work, was the Inca; the monarch of an empire that stretched from
"Beside him was the empress, and gathered about the royal palanquins were the princes and princesses, the courtiers, and the Virgins of the Sun.
"It is almost impossible to imagine the magnificence and wealth of the royal procession, but all the splendor and richness of the others paled to insignificance by comparison with the Inca and his queen. His garments were of exquisitely woven vicuna wool, heavy with golden embroidery. His sandals of tooled leather were laced with magnificent pearls and were studded with emeralds set in gold. His hair was cut short except for two long braids, one on either side, and was held in place by a fillet or llantu with a plume of white and scarlet feathers above the Inca's forehead. Suspended from this band on the right-hand side was a plate of chased gold encrusted with gems, and concealing the monarch's ears were gold ovals or shells, the symbols of royalty, while covering his forehead was the crimson fringe or borla worn only by the reigning Inca. In his right hand he carried a heavy axe-headed scepter of solid gold, and about his neck was a collar of fifty-two huge emeralds from which were suspended fifty-four immense topazes carved to represent the sun, the moon and the fifty-two phases of the moon.
"Between close-packed crowds of cheering, singing people the Inca and his escort moved slowly to the plaza beside the
"When at last the singing ended, the Inca lifted a golden pacha or ceremonial cup of sacred chicha to his lips, and, having sipped the liquid, handed the vessel to the high priest who in turn passed it from hand to hand among the nobles.
"This ceremony over, the Inca and his court entered the temple, where, alone and barefooted, he prostrated himself before the altar with its great golden sun flanked by the silver symbol of the moon, and bowed low before the life-sized golden statues of his royal ancestors.
"As the first rays of the sun entered through the eastern doorway of the temple and fell upon the golden sun disk with its emerald-tipped rays, the Inca raised a mirror of polished silver and concentrated the reflected light upon a mass of cotton tinder. Instantly, as this burst into flames, the Virgins of the Sun hurried with it to relight the sacred fires of the temple, while with faces eager with excitement and joy the people raced to their homes and camps to relight their hearth fires.
"And along the great Incan road, that stretched for 4000 miles north and south, signals flashed from watch tower to watch tower, spreading the word that once again the sacred fires burned in the
"This completed the religious ceremonies, but the festival had only begun. Everywhere the people were calling greetings equivalent to our 'Happy New Year' and were exchanging gifts. On this one day in the year the public owned the capital, and guards, police and soldiers winked and smiled at infractions of laws and regulations. No manual labor was permitted anywhere within the empire and on this day the twenty millions of ant-like subjects of the Inca were free to do as they pleased, to enjoy themselves as they desired, and the government provided free entertainment, free food and free drinks for all. Everywhere were booths and stalls where foods of all kinds were distributed, and the cider-like chicha flowed from the public fountains in place of water.
"Toward the noon hour the people began moving toward the great open pampa where the real events, the sports and contests of the day, were to be held in the presence of the Inca himself who would distribute prizes to the winners of the various events.
"When at last the vast audience had quieted down and the members of the royal household had all been seated, a chorus of fifty-two young girls appeared, scattering flowers, dancing and waving garlands before the Inca and his court, and singing the beautiful Spring Song or Arihuay. And here let me remark that the Incas were born poets and musicians and possessed many tunes and songs which have been used over and over again as themes for modern music. No other American race ever equaled these people in this respect, and many of their verses and songs, still preserved in the musical Quichua and sung on all festive occasions, are truly beautiful. As an example, let me quote the first stanza of the Spring Song translated into English:
"The spring has come again.
The wintry winds from mountain heights have ceased.
The sky is blue as gentians on the hills.
Beneath the sun's warm rays,
The snow fields melt and trickle to the stream
That sings in gladness down its rocky bed."
"That is beautiful, and so vividly descriptive," declared Mrs. Sheldon. "I never knew that those ancient people were so poetical. And I am amazed to learn how similar to our Easter was that of the Incas."
"I want to hear about the games," put in Bob. "What sort of contests they had, and all about them."
"We're coming to that now," I told him. "When the girls had finished their song, delegations from the various tribes forming the empire came forward to do homage and pledge their loyalty to the Inca. Each group bore presents which were placed at the feet of their monarch, and, having received his thanks, they sang their native songs and performed their tribal dances before retiring to make room for the next delegation. Following these, came a company of Lucanos, grim-faced, powerful fellows, warriors by heritage and profession. Ablaze with color, with the sunshine glinting on their bronze breastplates and shields, and armed with long-handled bronze battle-axes, they bowed before the Inca and formally asked to be appointed members of the royal guard. Their request having been granted—as was always the custom—the leader raised his battle-axe and clashed it on his shield. Then, whirling their weapons above their heads, the Lucanos roared the stirring words of the Warriors’ Song. Louder and louder the cymbals and drums beat, more and more excited the warriors became. Dancing, leaping in air, waving their weapons, carrying on a mimic warfare, they ended their exhibition in a frenzy of sound as they roared the final words of the martial song:
"Beat loud the war drums that like thunder roll,
Lift high the rainbow-banner, let all know—
The armies of the Inca march to war!"
"Gosh, that must have been great!" exclaimed Bob. "I'd like to have seen that war dance."
"Perhaps you may," I told him. "I know of one tribe in
"Oh, gee, I wish we were on our way now," he cried. "But tell us some more about the Incas’ holiday, please."
"Following the Lucanos' exhibition came an event which to the audience was the most interesting of all. This was the annual competition between famous strolling minstrels or singers known as Checollos. To the Incas these men were of great importance, for, as they had no written language, the people's songs, verses, traditions, music, legends, proverbs and histories were all transmitted by word of mouth, and were carried from place to place by these professional story tellers and minstrels. In addition, they composed new songs and verses, originated proverbs and improvised as occasions arose. Also, each year one of these troubadours was appointed as a sort of Poet Laureate to serve in the royal palace for the ensuing year, the fortunate one being the winner of the competition held at this time. This unique contest was to the people, and also to the court, the most interesting and exciting feature of the entire afternoon, for, unlike the other awards and prizes, which were bestowed by the Inca, the decision as to the winner of the Checollo contest was left to the public who signified their choice by their applause.
"Accompanied by their musicians, two of the minstrels advanced, bowed before the Inca, and stepped back. Then, while his musician played an accompaniment on a silver flute or quena, one of the contestants sang the words of a new love song or sarawi which he had composed. As with the last verse his voice died away and the silvery tones of the quena ceased, tumultuous cheers burst from the audience and the Inca smiled and nodded approval.
The rival man was a humorous chap, and when he had ended his song, full of quips and satire, bellows of laughter, stamping of feet, rousing cheers and shouts arose from the crowd, and the Inca nodded twice. Couple after couple appeared and sang their songs, until the last minstrel had been heard and judged, and the fifty-two who had won approval stood apart. Each of these would be rewarded with a silver-mounted staff which would be his badge of royal favor, while one of the number would be selected as the Inca's personal minstrel.
"This meant a real game, a battle of wit, for victory depended upon the contestants' knowledge of countless proverbs and their skill in using them. And as the men were allowed to use proverbs of their own which were thought up on the spur of the moment, it was great fun. For this test there were three judges, one selected by the Inca, another appointed by the public, and the third representing the contestants; and, these having been selected, the contest began. Cheers, laughter and hand clapping greeted the repartee and witticisms of the contesting men. But—"
"Pardon me for interrupting, but could you repeat some of those proverbs?" inquired Mr. Sheldon. "I'm rather puzzled to know how they were used in a competition of this sort."
"I'll gladly do so," I told him. "For example, if one man quoted this proverb: 'From one grain of corn come many ears of maize. From one woman may come many sons. From one worthy deed comes great happiness. From one day of laziness may come weeks of want;' the other might reply: 'One worm may destroy a tree. One evil deed may destroy a man's life.' Then the first might come back with: 'One yarn does not make a poncho. One event does not make a life.' The other might then suddenly change the theme by quoting: 'The condor in the sky seems no larger than a gnat, but the gnat in a man's eye seems larger than a condor.' If his rival hesitated, striving to think of an apt proverb with which to reply, he would lose and by the rules of the game the winner would be the first to speak when he met the next contestant, for it was an elimination contest.
"But before the final winner could be appointed to the court he was obliged to pass another test. One of his duties would be to act as court jester and to amuse the Inca and his nobles by propounding riddles and conundrums. And custom decreed that in order to secure the coveted position he must ask the Inca a riddle which the monarch could not answer. So, dropping on one knee before his ruler and touching his forehead to the ground, he begged permission to ask the riddle."
“What did he ask?" demanded Bob. Then—"Oh, shucks, I forgot this happened ages ago and you weren't there."
"Quite true. Bob," I said, "but just the same I can tell you what he may have asked, for it is a favorite conundrum of the Indians of Peru today. See if you can think of the answer.
"Across the land I wander far and wide, without a home.
I wander over deserts bare and bleak, without a path.
I cross the frozen ice fields white with snow, without a rest.
I travel through the mountain passes wild, but cannot stop.
I hurry onward through the long dark night, and cannot sleep.
I move through jungles dark and forests deep, and there I weep."
"Now tell me, to what do these lines refer?"
"That is a good one," commented Mr, Sheldon. "Let me see— No, I'm no good at riddles. I give it up."
"I'm sure I don't know," declared Mrs. Sheldon.
"I can't guess," announced Bob. "I'll bet even the old Inca couldn't answer it."
"No, he probably couldn't," I agreed. "It is the wind."
"Why, of course!" laughed Bob's mother.
"By jove, those people were clever, you know," exclaimed her husband. "I'll have to remember that and try it on some of the chaps at my club."
"I'll bet none of the boys I know can answer it," chimed in Bob.
"Assuming that the Inca could not, the man would have been duly appointed as court Checollo, and as the insignia of his office he would have received a hard wood staff bound with gold and with an immense massive gold head.
"Following this ceremony came the athletic events. There were contests in running, jumping, wrestling, tumbling, acrobatics, and finally the Incan game of hockey. The last event was a competition among the champions of the various regiments. There were fencing bouts with wooden axes and spears, archery contests, exhibitions of skill in hurling javelins by means of throwing sticks, and a contest for the championship in the use of the sling. Then, as evening fell, the Inca was borne back to his palace, the crowds dispersed and the Incas' Easter came to an end."
"And a good time was had by all," chuckled Mr. Sheldon.
"I'll bet they had a good time," exclaimed Bob. "Gee, how I would like to see those fellows wrestling and fencing and racing, and their hockey game. Were they good runners, Doctor? And what were those slings they used?"
"See here, young man, you're getting out of bounds," I reminded him with a laugh. "You're supposed to be studying about the Aztecs and Mayas, not the Incas. If I answer all your questions about the ancient Peruvians now there won't be anything left to learn by the time you get down there."
"But I don't think the Aztecs are nearly as interesting as the Incas," he declared. "And as far as I can make out, about all anyone knows about the Mayas is that they left a lot of monuments covered with writing that nobody can read, and some wonderful buildings. They seem awfully old and dead and sort of mythical to me, but these Incas seem real and alive."
"I agree with you, Bob," I told him. "Personally, I think the ancient Peruvians were a far more interesting and human lot than the Aztecs or Mayas. Perhaps it is partly because they were a quiet, peaceful, gentle race who abhorred bloodshed and permitted no human sacrifices; but I think it is largely because we know so much more about them. As you say, we have little if any definite knowledge of the Mayas' everyday lives, and while we know a great deal about the ancient Mexicans we possess a much closer and more accurate knowledge of the Incan races. In fact, we are almost as familiar with their habits, their lives and their organization as with those of our own ancestors of the same period. So as you have a pretty good general idea of the high lights of the Aztec civilization, and as there is comparatively little that you can learn about the Mayas that I haven't told you, I suppose that we might as well get on with the ancient Peruvians, especially as we will be on our way to Peru by this time on Saturday.
"Let me see—about the Incan runners. Yes, indeed, they had good runners. In fact, there was a large corps of men who were trained as runners from childhood. These men, known as Chasquis, were stationed at various points along the Incan road and were employed to carry messages and goods from one station to another. In level country the stations were usually twenty miles apart, but in rough or mountainous districts they were often but five miles apart, and as the messages or burdens were carried by relays, each Chasqui covering only the distance between his station and the next, the speed with which a message could be carried was almost incredible. In fact, fresh fish and other food sent from the sea coast to
"You asked about the Incan slings. As far as it is known these people were the only American race to use the true sling, exactly the same type of sling as was used by David when he killed Goliath. They are still in universal use in
“Gosh, I'd like to try one of those!" cried Bob. "Can't you show me how to make and use a sling?"
"If you plan to practice using a sling you had better find a ten-acre lot and stand in the middle of it," I laughed. "But if you really wish to try your hand at using one of the weapons you'll have plenty of chances in
IT was an epochal day in Bob's life when, amid tooting of whistles, shouts of farewell from friends and relatives, waving of hands and handkerchiefs, and with miles of multicolored serpentine streaming from her rails and decks, the steamer moved slowly from her pier and started on the long voyage to Peru.
"Well, Son, we're off," observed his father who had finally decided to accompany us on the expedition. "Ten days from now we'll be stepping ashore in the Land of the Incas."
"I wish it was going to be tomorrow morning," declared the boy. "Of course, I'll have a fine time on the voyage, and I'll like seeing
I laughed. "There are plenty of old things in
"Gee, that's news to me!" cried Bob. "I didn't know there were ancient civilizations there. Did they have cities and temples like the Mexicans and Mayas?"
"I wouldn't say they were exactly civilizations," I replied. "But some of the ancient Panamanian races were very highly cultured. As far as we know, they left no impressive ruins of buildings, but that doesn't prove that such things may not exist. There are large areas in
"How about locating such ruins by means of airplanes?" inquired Bob's father. "Isn't it possible to spot them from the air?"
"Sometimes," I told him, "but as a general thing airplanes have proved of little value in such work. In the first place, most of the ruins are covered with vegetation and are not distinguishable from the surrounding jungles. And even when temples or other buildings are seen from the air it is often impossible to find them by a land expedition. A single temple or pyramid, or even the ruins of a good-sized city, is a mighty small object compared to the vast area of forest, and the jungle is so dense that a person may pass within a few yards of a ruin without seeing it. In addition, it is practically impossible to determine the exact location—that is, within a few square rods—of a ruin when flying over it, and equally or even more difficult to determine the precise spot when in the jungle. Most of the Mayan ruins have been found by the chicleros or men who gather the Chicle gum and who spend their lives in the forests. But unquestionably far more cities and buildings still lie hidden in the jungles than have ever been found. In mountainous or desert country, however, like
"Gee, I'll bet it's lots of fun. Flying over the country and spying out old ruins and things," exclaimed Bob. "But how can we land when we find a place?"
"A plane can land almost anywhere on the Peruvian deserts or punas," I told him. "And even in the
"What's a puna?" he asked. "It sounds like some sort of an animal."
I laughed. "Puna is a Quichua word meaning a high desert plateau. Usually they are stony rather than sandy, but there are always large areas of smooth, wind-drifted sand. When you cross the puna between the coast and
"But what makes them move, and where do they go to?" Bob wanted to know.
"The wind that forms them pushes them ever onward," I explained. "In that locality the winds blow constantly from one direction and sweep the finest particles of sand into these crescent-shaped piles. And as the sand which is toward the wind is constantly being drifted over the top of the mound and is piled up on the concave side, the dune moves slowly onward, until, reaching the mountains, it climbs up the rocky slopes until it lodges in some crevice or ravine where the wind can no longer affect it."
"It appears to me that Bob is destined to see many interesting things other than ancient ruins," observed Mr. Sheldon.
"I've been wondering," mused Bob, "how twenty million people could have lived in
"It's not," I informed him. "There are vast areas of tropical jungles and forests in
"But I don't see how they could raise crops on deserts, even if they did irrigate them," persisted Bob.
"On some deserts it would not be possible," I told him. "But most of the deserts in
"Doesn't it ever rain?" Bob asked. "And if it does rain do plants sprout everywhere?"
"Real rains are extremely rare on the western side of the
"That is remarkable," observed Mr. Sheldon. "But there must have been seeds to have produced plants, and how did they come to be on the deserts?"
"The answer to that natural question is even more remarkable than the vegetation's growth." I replied. "A microscopic examination of the sand has revealed countless seeds extending in strata to a depth of fifteen feet or more beneath the surface. The lower layers are fossilized and among them are many which are not known to exist today. Hence we realize that from the most remote times these periodical changes of climate, with their attendant rains and growths of vegetation, have been taking place on the west coast of
"That may be awfully interesting," said Bob, "but I don't see that it has anything to do with archaeology or the old Incas and the rest."
"That's where you are greatly mistaken, my boy," I told him. "In studying the history of the ancient Americans, and striving to solve the puzzles that confront us, we must also study the conditions of climate, the geology and other features of the countries where they dwelt. For example, it is scarcely logical to suppose that a race selected a desert country as their future home. Even if they possessed the knowledge that assured them that an irrigated desert would produce crops, they would be compelled to construct their canals and irrigate the land before they tilled the ground. And how could they have sustained themselves during all that time? No, the logical theory is that when the arid areas were first settled they were not deserts but were well watered—at least in the river valleys—and that rains fell; and the fact that we know that such things have happened in the past, and are still happening, proves that the district was not always barren and dry. And speaking of vegetation springing up on a desert, there is a wonderful celebration or fiesta held annually near
"Just outside the city, at the base of the foothills of the
"Also, from far and near, from villages high in the
"To the one faction it is a Holy Saints' day and the anniversary of a Christian victory over Infidels. But to the Indians it is a sacred duty, for, so they aver and believe, the golden flowers that so miraculously appear are the visual manifestations of the spirits of the Incas who fell in that battle centuries ago; the spirits of slaughtered thousands springing from the sere desert in golden blooms to remind their descendants of the glory of their past and calling upon them to honor the memories of the slain.
"But there is no sadness in the Indians' observance of the anniversary. Rather is it a time for rejoicing, for to the Indians, who believe in an immortal soul and a happy hereafter, there is no terror, no sorrow in death.
"To let the spirits of the dead Incas know that they are not forgotten, the Indians on this annual gathering revive their ancient dances, sing their ancient songs, wear the costumes of the Incas, and play the plaintive Incan tunes on musical instruments exactly like those used in the days when an Inca sat on the throne at
"That, I should say, would be a most fascinating sight to witness," declared Mr. Sheldon. "Too bad we won't be there at the right time."
"Do they hold spear-throwing contests and races and mimic fights and all the rest just as you described when you told us of the Incas' Easter?" asked Bob.
"They hold foot races, athletic events, horse races and play base ball and soccer football," I told him. "And some of the Indians' dances are symbolic of battle. But I doubt if you could find an Indian in
"Are any of the real Incas left?" Bob asked. "I mean the kings or emperors or whatever they were."
"Undoubtedly," I replied. "Probably there are scores of Peruvian Indians with royal blood in their veins. And there is one mountain village where the Indians claim that every member of the community is a descendant of the Inca line. Now and then, also, some man appears who declares he is the 'last' of the Incas. As the reigning Incas had many blood relations and fairly large families, there can be no real 'last' Inca, and if by some turn of the wheel of Fate the dynasty should be reestablished, the Indians would find it a grave problem to determine who should be sealed on the royal throne."
"I don't think I'd care for that job," observed Mr. Sheldon. "But speaking of royalty, did the Incas possess supreme power over their people?"
"Yes and no," I said. "In a way the Inca was supreme but, at the same time, the government was more of a republic than an empire; and, paradoxical as it may seem, it was the greatest, most complete and only successful example of socialism in the history of the world."
Bob's forehead was wrinkled in a puzzled frown. "I don't see how that could be," he declared. "I thought socialists didn't believe in kings and royalty and courts and all that sort of thing. And how could a government be an empire and a republic at the same time?"
"It is a difficult matter to understand," I admitted, "but I'll try to explain it. Although the reigning Inca was nominally the divine head of the State and the Church there was a tribunal of princes and a cabinet composed of four wise men with their president or chairman. The
"And here let me digress a moment to explain why the princes were called 'Huancos' which means 'Golden Ears.' A son of the Inca Pacha Cutic lost one of his ears in battle, and to conceal the mutilation he wore gold oval plates or shells over his good ear and the scar of the other. In order that he might not be conspicuous, and to commemorate his bravery, the other princes also wore the golden ear coverings which thus became recognized as a badge of nobility.
"But to resume: Although, as I have said, each village and each province was governed by men elected by the people, and these local officials were in turn subject to the Cabinet and Tribunal in Cuzco—who corresponded to the British House of Lords and House of Commons or our own Congress and Senate —yet once each year the Inca himself made a tour of his domains, at which time anyone, regardless of station, had the privilege of an audience with the monarch in order that he might personally complain of any injustice or present any request.
"Yet with all this, or rather in spite of it, there was no real individuality or freedom of action, life or thought permitted. Everything, every act, every effort, every result of labor was devoted to the benefit of the community as a whole. The people were little more than cogs in the great imperial wheel, and from birth until death their daily lives, their marriages, the rearing of their children, their property and even their garments were regulated by law. Aside from the members of the nobility and the priesthood there were no social distinctions, and everyone was equal in position and in possessions, and all contributed equally to the support of the government, the army and the church, as well as to the community.
"Every man was allotted a certain area of land and a certain number of llamas, and from the crops he raised and the increase of his herds he was compelled to give one third to the church and one third to the state. But there were no other taxes, and all surplus supplies were very wisely stored by the government to be used in time of war or to be distributed freely in case of famine. There was no burning or destroying of provisions or products under the Incas, no plowing under of surplus crops, no waste; and, as a result, when harvests failed and the people could not raise enough food to supply their needs, there were no famines, no suffering, and from the Imperial storehouses provisions were evenly distributed to all in the stricken areas.
"Another very wise law provided that in case a member of a community was ill, injured, or too old or feeble to till his own land, his neighbors must cultivate it for him before attending to their own. Equally wise was the rule which compelled each village and hamlet to carry on some particular industry, art or occupation. One village might be devoted to carding wool, another to dyeing the wool, still another to weaving, and so on. By this method a local trade and intercourse was established, and at definite intervals all the villagers for miles about journeyed to a central market place where they bartered and exchanged the results of their industry. So firmly established did this custom become that even today it still prevails. Very often the inhabitants of neighboring villages will journey many miles to the market town and there barter their goods with one another, but never dream of walking a few miles from one hamlet to another to exchange their wares.
"Beneficent and paternal as were such laws there were others which to us appear unjust, cruel and unbearable. The parents had no say as to how their children were reared or trained, for at five years of age they were considered wards of the government and were trained for the occupation or trade which the government selected. If additional soldiers were required, the predetermined number of youths were trained as warriors; if more spinners were needed, a certain number of girls were trained for that trade, and so on. Every man was compelled to marry by the time he was twenty-four, and every girl was compelled to become a wife by the time she was eighteen. But even the Incas did not attempt to interfere with love making and courtship, and men and women were permitted to select their own mates.
"But to the Incan races all these rules and regulations, all the communistic order of things, was quite natural and wholly satisfactory, for they had never known any other form of government and knew of no other commonwealth. To them the entire civilized world was comprised within the borders of their empire of Tihuantisuyo, which means literally 'The Four Corners of the Earth.' Hence they were perfectly happy, and nowhere in the entire history of the world has there been a community to equal the Incan Empire for law, order, industry and honesty.
"To be sure, the laws provided punishments for every crime and offense, and these to us appear out of all proportion in their severity. Blasphemy directed at the Inca or the priests was punishable by death after terrible tortures. A nun or Virgin of the Sun who violated her vows was buried alive, and her native village and all members of her family were destroyed. Murder and immorality were punishable by death, and theft or dishonesty brought on the penalty of being branded for life. Even liars and scandal mongers were punished, being flogged for the first offense, clubbed for the second and having their tongues nailed to a board for the third offense. Persons found guilty of trivial offenses were compelled to carry a heavy stone wherever they went, for a certain period, or were flogged. But these penalties were very rarely inflicted, for so industrious, so law-abiding and so honest were the people that the Spaniards declared that when they conquered
"Too bad our government doesn't take a leaf from the Incas' book," was Mr. Sheldon's comment. "Or perhaps, rather, it's regrettable that we haven't an Inca to run the
"Didn't they have any money?" Bob wanted to know. "And what sort of crops did they raise?"
"Their principal crops were maize or Indian corn and potatoes," I told him. "Both corn and potatoes originated in
"By Jove, according to your account the Incan Empire must have been pretty nearly a genuine Utopia," declared Bob's father. "If these socialistic and communistic chaps in our country could show me that they could put the old
OF course we did not discuss the Incas and ancient Americans all the time for there were plenty of other matters to interest Bob and to occupy his mind as the ship steamed southward. As we passed
"Yonder is the land of the Mayas," I told him, "with
Bob's interest was immediately aroused. "No!" he exclaimed. "Can't we go there some day and hunt for it? And what is mysterious about the ruins, and why do they call the other place the
I laughed. "Possibly we may visit
"No one has really advanced a logical reason for these strange structures, although it has been suggested that they were erected for the use of spirits and not for human beings. You asked about the
"I suppose some day you archaeologists will discover the key to the Mayan inscriptions and will thus solve all these puzzles," said Mr. Sheldon who had joined us. "By the way, speaking of spirits, did the Mayas differ greatly from their Mexican neighbors in their religious beliefs?"
"That is a somewhat difficult question to answer," I told him, "because at the time of the conquest the Mayas had come very largely under Nahua or Aztec influence. Not that they had been conquered by the Mexicans, but because they had employed large numbers of Aztec or rather Nahua warriors—mercenaries, as one might say—to fight their battles for them. As these men continued to worship their own gods and to follow out their own ceremonials and religious practices, it is at times impossible to say whether a Mayan deity was of Aztec origin or vice versa. Take the rain god, for example. Among the Mayas he was known as Chac Mool and was represented in their statues as resting on his back with his knees drawn up and with his hands holding a disk on his stomach. Yet the Mexican rain god or Tlaloc was represented by an identical figure. The Plumed Serpent was another deity common to both races, although known as Quetzalcoatl in
"Aside from the gods which no one has ever succeeded in identifying with certainty, there was the sun god who was perhaps their chief deity. But, like the Incas, the Mayas believed in a still greater or supreme god who was regarded as the unity of all the other deities and who was an invisible being corresponding to our own Creator. The moon god was also important and typified both death and the rebirth of life. The Black God or Ekchuah was a special god of the merchants and cacao planters, and there was a goddess of medicine known as Ixchel. The god of darkness or Bat God was supposed to dwell in a fearsome cavern and was forever battling with Kinichahau, the sun god. Finally, in addition to their true gods, the Mayas had four demigods or genii known as Bacabs who were called
"Now I understand why the Incas called their country the
His father chuckled. "Square literally and figuratively, eh? Well, it would be a hard job to make most people think the world 'square' today. But tell me, why is it that some of the Mayan deities have not been 'identified' as you put it?"
"Largely because of our inability to decipher the inscriptions, and because the written records or codices of the Mayas—yes, they possessed such books —were nearly all destroyed by the Spanish priests; and the three that remain—in Paris and Madrid—have never been fully translated. But another reason is because the Mayas had a habit of representing a god in two or more distinct forms—one when represented in statues or images, another when shown in sculptured relief or when drawn on a codex. Thus Chacmool, the rain god, although a reclining figure with normal features when represented in statuary, is shown in sculptures as a human head with a long proboscis or nose like the trunk of a tapir or even of an elephant. In fact, so uncertain are we of the identities of many Mayan deities that archaeologists have classified them by letters and we have God A, God B and so forth up to God P."
"Hmm, I see," mused Mr. Sheldon. "But to change the subject—with barely sixty miles of water separating
"As far as we know, the Mayas were not sailors," I told him. "Moreover, the prevailing winds blow from the east. And it is quite possible that their migration was westerly and that they reached
"I'm beginning to almost wish we were going to
"Plenty of jaguars and game there," I assured him, "and plenty of Indians, although they are far from being 'wild.' And the temples are far more wonderful and more beautiful than they appear in the photographs and models.
"Yet in some respects none of the Mayan buildings equaled those of the ancient Peruvians. As the Mayas did not know of the arch, they resorted to 'stepping out' stones over an opening until the two sides met, or used straight lintels. This restricted their buildings to a width between walls of about sixteen feet, and to one or two stories in height. In order to give the impression of greater height, the buildings were erected on tall mounds or pyramids, often with one back of another, and were surmounted by elaborate and high roof-combs something like the 'false fronts' on small buildings in our own country villages. Many of the most imposing of the Mayas' temples are in reality low and squat, but, being built upon a mound or Kus much higher than the true building and completely faced with cut and carved stone, and with a roof comb as high as or higher than the building itself, the effect is of one stupendous structure covered from top to bottom with elaborate carvings and sculptures. Probably no race in the history of the world ever equaled the Mayas in the beauty, extent and complexity of their stone carving, yet as the material used was soft limestone, and as a great deal of the ornamental work was of stucco or plaster, the labor and engineering skill entailed was nothing compared to that required to build the titanic structures of the Incas and pre-Incas."
"Did they really have an observatory?" Bob asked. "I didn't know the Mayas had telescopes."
"They didn't," I told him. "Nevertheless, they had an observatory. Just how they made use of it in taking their observations no one really knows. There were narrow apertures through which the Mayan astronomers may have watched the stars and by markings now obliterated they may have been able to make their calculations. But it scarcely seems possible that by such crude methods they could have obtained such an exact knowledge of astronomy as they possessed. They were familiar with the transit of Venus and used it in checking up on their calendar, and there is evidence that they could foretell eclipses and the appearances of comets.
"But the ancient Peruvians did as much or more with even cruder astronomical appliances. When we visit Macchu Pichu you will see the Intihuatana, which is a sort of gigantic sundial, and the stone columns or Pachacta unanchac by means of which they determined the solstices. Also, by means of rows of columns and pointers, many of the prehistoric American races were able to determine time, the changes of seasons, etc. At the ancient site I mentioned having discovered in
"I'm surprised that races so far advanced in many lines failed to leave records or diagrams regarding their scientific attainments and discoveries," said Mr. Sheldon.
"Quite possibly they may have possessed such records," I said. "But unfortunately the over-zealous Spanish priests regarded everything of the sort as the work of the devil and heretical, and utterly destroyed every codex they could find. The only reason they left the monuments, idols and images was because they were too numerous or too difficult to destroy. But they did their best. At one spot in Peru, for example, the padres found a gigantic stone idol fifty feet in height and twelve feet in diameter which with their customary zeal they ordered broken up, although it required the united labor of thirty men working steadily for three days to destroy it. Also, it is quite possible that the more important records were on silver or gold sheets which were melted down for bullion by the Spaniards. In fact, there is a tradition that the entire history of the Mayan civilization was recorded on a 'golden book' of fifty-two sheets of the precious metal, and that to prevent its falling into the hands of the Spaniards the Mayan priests concealed it in a secret hiding place. Do you recall ray mentioning that I once went on a search for Mayan treasure? Well, the treasure I sought was this fabulous 'golden book.'"
"Gee, did you find it?" cried Bob excitedly. "I'll bet it's a great story. Won't you tell us about it?"
"It all started when a friend told me of a young aviator who had related an amazing story of finding a Mayan treasure in
"Crawling from the wreckage of his plane, he gazed about. He was alone in the heart of an uninhabited jungle, miles from any human habitation, absolutely ignorant of woodcraft, without firearms, and without food other than his emergency ration which was barely sufficient to sustain life for two days. But he remembered having passed over a chicle gatherers' camp beside a stream a short time before his motor had failed, and his only chance, he decided, was to push through the jungle to the river and follow its course to the camp. Securing his compass and rations, he started out, when his attention was attracted by a low hill or mound rising from the brush-covered area where he had crashed. Thinking that from this slight eminence he might obtain a better view of the surroundings and the encircling forest, he forced his way through the tangle of weeds, vines and bushes until he reached the hillock. Then suddenly, as he started up the slope, the ground gave way beneath him and, in an avalanche of stones, earth and bits of timber, he shot down into an underground chamber.
"Bruised and sore but with no bones broken, he peered about. Above his head was the opening through which he had fallen, with bits of broken, rotten timber projecting from the edges where a wooden door had once covered the aperture, and leading down to where he stood was a flight of stone steps. The light that entered through the hole above him faintly illuminated the place, which was forty or fifty feet in diameter with walls and roof of stone. Directly across from him was an immense stone idol, and in the center of the floor was a stone bench or trough elaborately sculptured and with some curious looking objects resting upon it.
"Wondering what these might be, the aviator stepped forward and examined them. To his amazement they proved to be bundles of thin metal plates held together by hook-shaped metal rods. And as he lifted one the blood raced through his veins, for he realized that it was solid gold! There could be no doubt of it. The weight—it required all of his strength to lift the thing—and the dull brownish-yellow color left no doubt of it. But to make certain he scratched the surface of one of the plates with his knife. Beneath the patina of centuries the metal gleamed brightly. Excited, thrilled, he counted the plates of gold. On each of the thirteen rods were fifty-two of the thin sheets, each about one-sixteenth of an inch in thickness and nearly a foot square, and completely covered with incised characters and symbols. Before him in that subterranean vault was a fortune, but utterly valueless in his present predicament. And as he moved one of the precious bundles, there was a sharp hiss as a coral snake slipped from beneath it and coiled to strike.
"Terrified, filled with dread that he might touch or step upon another serpent in the semidarkness, the man turned and scrambled up the ancient stairway to the open air. Then, cursing the fate that had brought him by the merest chance to the treasure which he could not take, he plunged into the forest. For two days and a night he struggled onward, stumbling over roots, often compelled to make long detours around patches of impenetrable jungle, tormented by insects and in constant terror of snakes or wild beasts, until at last, ragged, torn and utterly spent, he reached the chicleros' camp.
"Cared for by the gum gatherers, he was supplied with a mule and a guide and eventually reached the coast and worked his way back to the States.
" 'It sounds like a fairy tale,' I told my friend. 'Do you know anything about the fellow or if he actually was in
"My friend assured me that he had checked up on the man's story in that respect, that he had learned that the aviator had served as a pilot under Cabrera and had vanished in a plane as he had described. Also, he assured me, the aviator was not an educated man and had absolutely no knowledge of Mayan antiquities, and hence could scarcely have invented his tale.
" 'It's too remarkable to be true," I declared. 'His description as you repeat it would exactly fit the lost supposedly mythical golden books of the Mayas. If he actually has stumbled onto their hiding place then he has looked upon something which no man has seen for half a thousand years and which would be worth—well, millions, probably; at least more than any museum in the world could pay. But I'd like to see and talk with your aviator before I express my opinion on the matter.
"That was easily arranged, and a few days later my friend introduced me to the fellow. For several hours I questioned and cross-questioned him. But he never varied from his story. And it was evident that he possessed no knowledge of archaeology and had never even heard of the golden books of the Mayas. Moreover, his descriptions of the mound and the underground chamber, of the idol and the sculptured stone bench were such that I became convinced that he must have seen them. And when, from a number of Mayan glypths which I showed him, he selected several as similar to those he had seen on the golden sheets, I decided that, marvelous as it seemed, his story must be true. Still it was too astounding, too incredible for me to accept it, and I communicated with one of the best-known archaeologists in America, who is a recognized authority on the Mayas, giving him all the facts as related by the aviator and a summary of my investigation.
"His reply was that he felt there must be truth in the story and that an expedition to the spot would be warranted; but, he added, such an expedition would have to be financed by private individuals as no scientific institution would care to jeopardize its good standing with the Mexican Government by such an undertaking. Moreover, he reminded me, if the golden sheets proved to be what they seemed, they would be priceless, beyond all monetary value, as in all probability they would solve all the mysteries of the Mayan civilization and might very likely prove to be the key to the Mayan inscriptions.
"When he heard this, my friend was determined to fit out an expedition to recover the treasure; but neither he, the aviator nor the young men who were to accompany him had the slightest experience in such matters; none of them spoke Spanish; and none of them possessed any scientific knowledge. Would I take charge of the expedition? my friend wanted to know.
"Of course I agreed. It was, I warned them, of the utmost importance that the whole matter should be kept a profound secret. If word of our object leaked out, there would not only be the danger of being followed by others, but the certainty that the Mexican Government would interfere, and, even if these difficulties did not result, there would be a very real danger of being murdered and robbed if we succeeded in our quest. Every member of the expedition was sworn to secrecy, and to still further safeguard ourselves it was arranged that we should charter a small yacht, that some members of the expedition should sail from Florida and that others were to join the vessel at Havana, while the aviator and one of the young men were to go to Progreso where we would pick them up.
"In due course of time the boat arrived at
"Gosh, I wouldn't want to sail across here in a boat like that," declared Bob, as he gazed across the tumbling blue seas that stretched from the distant
"Neither would I again," I admitted. "What a trip that was! We left
"The aviator had assured us that he could easily find the spot, for he had noticed a peculiar horseshoe bend in the river which he estimated was not over five miles from the place where he had crashed; he knew the exact course he had been holding and just how many minutes had elapsed after he had left the coast.
"There is no need to relate all the troubles and tribulations we had. We were stuck on sand bars, ran out of water, missed the river channel. But at last we picked up an old Indian who acted as our pilot, and we headed up the stream. The aviator had declared that there were no settlements within sight when his motor had failed; but here, along the river which he insisted was the right one, were huts and villages by the dozen. However, we decided that he might have been farther inland than he had thought, and so we continued on until our boat could go no farther. Above us, so our Indian pilot informed us, were swift rapids, so in the small boat with an outboard motor two of the party and myself started up to explore the district.
"I have run countless rapids in Central and South America and these which confronted us in
"Faced with this he declared that there must be a mistake; that the river we were on must be farther south than the one he had seen, and that he had been misled by the position of the streams as shown on the maps.
"So back down the river we went and headed for the mouth of the next big stream. But before we reached it a howling gale came screeching across the big bay and, caught as we were on a lee shore, our only chance was to head into the norther and try to reach the shelter of the opposite shore.
"All that had gone before was as nothing compared to what we went through that day. On the shallow bay, which was nowhere over eight feet in depth, the wind whipped up a fearful sea; and each time our little sloop reared end-up on an oncoming wave and slammed down in the trough with a jar that smashed the dishes in the galley, I expected to feel her strike bottom and go to pieces. So hard was the gale blowing and so fearful the seas that, although our boat could make ten knots an hour with her powerful motor, it took us ten hours to cover the twenty miles to the shelter of the land where we anchored.
"The next morning the storm was over, and back we went across the bay and into the mouth of the river. But the bar was too shoal to permit our vessel to enter, so taking to the small boat we ferried necessary supplies and equipment ashore and prepared for our trip upstream.
"Close by the river's mouth was a cattle ranch, and the manager, an educated Mexican aristocrat who had lost everything in one of the revolutions, and his señora made us welcome with true Mexican hospitality. Of course, we did not let them guess the object of our visit but declared that we were on a hunting expedition—which we were. As the small boat could not accommodate our entire party, and as one of the men expressed a desire to remain at the ranch and join the vaqueros on a jaguar hunt with lassos, and as another was deathly afraid of snakes and had no desire to explore the jungles, there was no difficulty in determining who should be left behind.
"You would have enjoyed that trip up the river. Bob. On the banks and on submerged logs were huge crocodiles and alligators. Herons, ibis, spoonbills and flamingoes were everywhere; parrots and macaws screamed from the tree tops or flew squawking overhead, and flocks of wild ducks rose from backwaters and among the mangrove trees. But the strangest and most interesting of all the animal life were the gigantic iguanas.
"No ordinary four or five-foot green lizards were these, but enormous beasts seven or eight feet in length and brilliant orange with jet black tiger-like stripes. Basking in the sun on the tops of the trees beside the river, they were conspicuous objects half a mile away, and we passed the time shooting at them with rifles and revolvers. Believe me, it was a real test of marksmanship, for the boat was bobbing and swinging with the current and unless a head hit was scored the iguana would leap from its perch, dive into the stream and vanish. Although we were all excellent shots, and although we must have wasted fully one hundred cartridges, we succeeded in killing and retrieving but two of the monsters.
"Late that afternoon we reached a deserted chicleros' camp beside the river, and ran the boat ashore. Instantly we were surrounded, literally overwhelmed, by dense clouds of minute biting gnats or rodederos. They flew into our eyes, crawled up our noses and into our ears, down our necks and under our garments, and wherever they lit they left drops of blood and an intolerable itching. Head nets were no protection against the pestiferous things which crawled through the mesh with ease. Driven almost mad by the creatures we hastily lit a fire and piled on green leaves to produce a dense smoke. But the rodederos seemed to delight in smoke. Beating and thrashing about with arms and hands, half blinded, we dashed for the camp, hoping that within its shelter we might find partial relief. But scarcely had we entered the place when we beat a hasty retreat, for the deserted building was fairly alive with vicious hungry fleas. We were between the devil and the deep sea, as the saying goes, and there was nothing we could do but grin and bear it. At last, after an hour or more of torture, the sun dropped below the forest to the west and instantly the hordes of gnats vanished as if by magic. Heavens, what a relief it was to be able to move about, to sit down, to cook our meal without being beset and in constant agony! But we were not to be left in peace for long. As the light faded and evening came on, swarms of bloodthirsty mosquitoes appeared. But head nets and grease were partial protections, and by burning sulphur candles under our hammocks we managed to get some sleep.
"The next day there was a good breeze which reduced the numbers of the biting gnats, and we started upstream until, reaching a horseshoe bend which the aviator declared must be the one he had sighted, we landed and began cutting our way into the jungle. For hours wc worked, but at every yard we progressed through the impenetrable tangle of thorn-covered brush, twisted vines, spiny palms and razor-edged saw grass it became more and more apparent that we had not struck the right spot. The aviator had described the country as dry and covered with a growth of large trees, but the locality we were in was damp, semi-swampy country covered with dense tangled jungle. So at last, weary and discouraged, we gave up.
"There is no need to describe in detail our long and exhausting search. Enough to say that there were scores of horseshoe bends in the river, and we investigated them all, only to find swamps and jungles with no sign of heavy forest or earth dry enough to have permitted an underground chamber. The more we investigated, the more uncertain as to his locality the aviator became, and at last, with provisions running low and convinced that the search was hopeless, we gave up and headed downstream.
"Throughout all our search and all our cutting through the jungles we had never seen a snake of any kind. We had flushed wild turkeys, had shot peccaries, had seen several deer and an ocelot, but not a sign of a serpent. So we were prepared to razz our snake-fearful friend for having missed the trip. Imagine our surprise when we learned that during our absence a deadly bush-master had actually been killed in the kitchen of the ranch house! Of course, after that, nothing would convince our companion that the country did not swarm with poisonous snakes. But personally I always thought that the poor snake deliberately visited the ranch and sacrificed itself in order to maintain the country's reputation as the home of venomous serpents."
"Golly, you didn't give up there, did you?" cried Bob.
I shook my head. "By no means," I told him. "We continued the search, ascending every river in the vicinity; but in no spot did the character of the country or the jungle agree with the aviator's description. Moreover, there were houses or villages which he could not have failed to see had he flown over the district, and he could not even relocate the chicleros’ camp he had reached after his alleged hike through the forest. I suggested that he should hire an airplane and fly over the district, but he refused to do this, claiming it was too dangerous with the machines available. So at last, convinced that the fellow's story was pure fiction or the fabric of a diseased or drug-affected mind, we abandoned the search."
"What a shame!" exclaimed Bob. "Perhaps it was true and all that treasure is really there somewhere."
"I do not believe so," I said. "Later on, a friend and an archaeologist flew back and forth over the entire area and could see no signs of the abandoned clearing or of country such as the aviator described."
"But how on earth could the man have possessed such an accurate knowledge of the Mayan golden books and the antiquities if he had not seen them?" Mr. Sheldon asked. "And what could have been his object in leading you on such a wild goose chase if he did not benefit by it? I assume he was not paid a large sum for his supposed information."
"I can't answer your first question," I told him, "for it has always been a mystery to me. It also puzzled us to know why he should have cooked up such a yarn and led us on the expedition, for he received no compensation. But there is a sequel to the story which perhaps explains it. After we had abandoned the search I learned that, with the collapse of the Cabrera revolution, one of the rebel leaders escaped in a plane, with an American pilot, and carried with him a quantity of incriminating documents and a large sum in gold. But the plane never reached any known destination, and was supposed to have crashed somewhere in
"That to me appears more probable than that a man of his type could have invented a tale of finding antiquities of which he could have had no knowledge," said Mr. Sheldon. "Even if he was the pilot of the lost rebel plane his story might yet be true, despite the fact that in that case he lied about the details of his flight."
"And to think those gold books may still be there!" cried Bob. "Aren't you ever going back to have another search for them?"
"Never," I declared. "That is, not unless I have more definite and convincing information. To search blindly for a spot like that in a land where great temples or entire cities can remain hidden would be a sheer waste of time and money. If it actually exists and is ever found it will probably be discovered by some wandering chiclero. Until then it is merely another mystery added to the many mysteries of the ancient Americans."
At Panama Bob became tremendously excited over the gold bells and images from the ancient graves which were displayed in the curio shops; but he was even more interested in some shrunken human heads which were offered for sale.
"Are they really mens' heads?" he wanted to know, "and how do the Indians make them so small?"
"That's scarcely a question of archaeology," I reminded him with a laugh. "These particular heads are very modern. But as the ancient Peruvian races also shrunk or preserved the heads of their enemies, I suppose we might as well combine ethnology and archaeology as we will have to eventually. Yes, these are really human heads," I told him as I examined one of the weird trophies, "although many sold to tourists are rank imitations made from monkey heads, horse tails or even merely modeled in hard wax. These," I continued, "are from
"After the head is severed from the body, a slit is made in the back of the scalp and the entire skin is removed from the skull. It is then steeped in a decoction of roots and leaves which serves to toughen and tan it. The slit is then sewed up, and the skin is filled with heated stones, and the Indian keeps turning and moving it about and at the same time modeling the features. The hot stones dry and shrink the skin, and when they have cooled off others are substituted, smaller and smaller stones and gravel being used, until the skin has been shrunk to the desired size. It is then filled with wax or pitch, ornamented with feathers, and hung up as a prized trophy. You will notice that in this head the lips are sewn together. That is to prevent the spirit of the dead man cursing his slayer.
"But these specimens are quite crude compared to those prepared by some of the Peruvian tribes. Instead of skinning the head they break the skull and extract the bone and contents through the neck, and while the Peruvian heads are not so small as those from
"Today, however, real shrunken heads are becoming scarce. Originally the Indians confined their head-hunting and shrinking to their enemies, but when they discovered that there was a growing demand for their gruesome trophies and that curio dealers would pay good prices for them, the tribesmen became less discriminating and took the heads of everybody and anybody who came along. As a result, the Peruvian and Ecuadorean governments passed strict laws prohibiting the possession, sale or exportation of human heads. Still the practice continues, and plenty of specimens may be obtained from the Indians for a few dollars each."
"Ugh! I don't want any of the things," declared Bob. "But I didn't know there were head-hunters in
"Head-hunting is, or rather was, an almost universal custom among savage tribes," I told him. "Even the taking of scalps by our North American Indians is merely a survival of head-hunting. And head-hunting is still in vogue in Africa, the East Indies, parts of Asia and
Steaming southward through the Pacific, Bob found much to interest him. Whales were frequently seen. At times we passed great schools of huge sharks, and the countless thousands of sea birds aroused his wonder. Then, one morning, the towering cloud-shrouded summits of the
As we neared the ancient city and passed close to the immense burial mound known as the Huaco de Toledo, Bob's eyes opened wide in amazement.
"Golly, there must be thousands of people buried in that," he exclaimed. "Why, it's a regular young mountain. And what are all those little niches? Did they contain idols or images?"
"Those are the tombs which have been opened and robbed of their mummies and valuables," I told him. "Ever since the conquest, people have been mining mummies from this huge mound. But there are hundreds-probably thousands—of burials still remaining untouched."
"Maybe there's treasure!" he cried. "Can't we stop and dig there? Oh, look! There are skulls and bones scattered about!"
I laughed. "You'll see hundreds of human remains lying about every burial mound and every cemetery and ruin in
"By Jupiter, that's better than a gold mine!" exclaimed Mr. Sheldon. "Any chance of getting a concession to work it? By turning a good stream of water onto that mound it could be washed flat and cleaned up inside of two months."
I smiled. "But think of the priceless antiquities that would be lost and destroyed," I reminded him. "They would be far more valuable than the precious metals recovered. However, there is no chance of anyone destroying the mound in that ruthless manner, for the Peruvian Government guards its antiquities most zealously. And now I'll tell you another. Three millions in twenty-six years is not bad, but one old Don did far better than that. In a single year, 1577-78, a Spaniard named Garcia Guiterez dug over four and one-half million dollars' worth of treasure from this mound!"
"Whew!" whistled Bob. "There can't be any treasure left after that."
"On the contrary," I told him, "there is evidence that leads us to believe that there is an even greater treasure, either in this or a neighboring mound. According to Chimu tradition, there were two vast treasures concealed near Chan Chan. One was known as the Peje Chica or Little Fish, the other as the Peje Grande or Big Fish- And as the four and a half million dollar treasure found by Guiterez was identified as the Little Fish you can imagine the value of the Big Fish treasure which never has been found."
"Nothing but tradition, probably," declared Bob's father. "How does anyone know how much was taken out of here back in the sixteenth century? Probably the old Dons exaggerated the way they always did."
"Not in this case," I informed him. "In fact, it was probably the other way about, and Guiterez and the others who secured the treasure underestimated it. In those days the Spanish Crown claimed a quinta or one-fifth of all treasure-trove, and records still extant show that during the period of twenty-six years I mentioned the Treasurer of Trujillo received nearly seven hundred thousand dollars as the King's quinta on gold and silver from the Huaco de Toledo. Again, in the year 1577—78, the sum of $890,157 was paid to the treasurer. And we can be quite certain that the finders of the treasure did not pay the Crown more than the amount to which it was entitled. Rather, we may feel sure that the treasure finders secured a far greater sum than they declared."
"Oh, gosh, why don't we start digging there?" lamented Bob. "We might find that Big Fish treasure."
"You forget this is a scientific expedition and not a treasure hunt," I reminded him. "And although we doubtless would secure a large number of specimens, there would be little likelihood of making any new discoveries; for the Chimu remains—as well as the Moujik culture which preceded them—have been studied for many years and every great museum is well supplied with specimens. In fact, I have collected several thousand objects from this locality myself The lace-gowned girl I described was from here, and it was also here that I obtained the bearded pottery figures. No, Bob, we have more important sites to occupy our time. We'll have a look about
"Hurrah!" shouted the enthusiastic boy. Then, as we came in sight of the remains of the ancient capital of the Chimu Empire—"Isn't this wonderful!"
"Not one-tenth as wonderful as it was a few years ago," I declared. "When the Humboldt Current shifted and rains fell along this coast, as I described when in New York, the ruins suffered greater damage in a few weeks than during the centuries which had passed since the city was deserted.—See here"— I indicated the facade of an immense building—"you can still trace the outlines of the elaborate ornamental designs that once completely covered the walls. And in a few sheltered spots you can find little patches of colored fresco. When I first visited
"Must have been an immense city, in its day," observed Mr. Sheldon as we wandered along one of the ancient streets, littered with the debris of fallen walls, and came to the great plaza. "Do you have any idea of what the population may have been or when the city was founded?"
"That was some city!" exclaimed Bob. "How did the Incas ever manage to conquer so many people?"
"They had a tough job doing it," I told him. "
"For years the armies of the Incas sought to invade the territory of the Chimu-Capak or Grand Chimu, as the ruler was called, but without success. Then, during the reign of the Inca Yupanqui, strategy and superstition won the victory where force of arms had failed. After laying siege for days to one of the most powerful of the Chimus' forts, the Inca caused the river which supplied water to be dammed. Then, sending an emissary to the Chimu king, he threatened to shut off the sun as he had shut off the water if the Chimus did not surrender. Filled with superstitious dread lest the Inca should carry out his threat, the Grand Chimu capitulated."
"I'd like to see one of those forts!" exclaimed Bob.
"You will," I told him. "On one of our proposed flights we will pass directly over the very fort where, tradition says, the Inca shut off the water supply of the defenders. But see here, let's forget forts and look at these ruins. Notice the width of the streets, the immense size of the palaces and temples, and the massive walls. This one"—I indicated a vast ruin facing on a plaza—"covers an area of over six hundred thousand square feet. Just ahead of us is a truly remarkable structure. It contains forty-five rooms arranged in groups of five, with each room fourteen feet in length, nine feet in height and eight feet in width. When the Spaniards arrived they found many of the rooms richly adorned with gold, and the throne room of the palace had the walls completely covered with sheets of gold, richly chased. As we return we will pass the ball court and the public baths, as well as a great amphitheater where contests and games were held. By the way, do you notice that the buildings are all of one or two stories in height and that the walls slope inward?"
"Yes, I noticed that peculiarity," said Mr. Sheldon. "But I fail to see a sign of an arch or even stepped-in blocks such as you mentioned were employed by the Mayas. And how about roofs? Every one of these buildings is open to the sky."
"As far as is known the Chimus had no knowledge of the arch," I replied. "They used heavy wooden lintels over their doors, and their roofs were steeply pitched and constructed of massive beams covered with shingle-like mats of woven reeds. Undoubtedly the inward slope of the walls was designed to prevent spreading under the weight of the roofs."
"That's funny," exclaimed Bob. "I don't see any windows."
"No, the Chimu houses were windowless," I told him. "Neither did they use doors, but employed rush mats or heavy curtains of cotton or wool instead."
"It just struck me as funny, and rather remarkable, that, although I've been financing you chaps to discover all these things, I've never had the curiosity to visit these old ruins before," said Mr. Sheldon. "But how, may I ask, do you know all these details as to the Chimus' buildings when only the walls remain?"
"You may recall my mentioning the so-called portrait jars of the Moujiks and Chimus and their fidelity to nature," I replied. "But the ancient potters did more than that. They portrayed practically every bird, plant and quadruped of this portion of
"Golly, Doctor, do you really find all those things in the graves?" cried Bob. "Even the feathers?"
"All and much more," I told him. "The feathers are perfectly preserved for, strange as it may seem, feathers and human hair remain unchanged longer than almost any other objects in the burials. But our time is getting short. If you are to do any digging, Bob, we'd better get at it."
I had provided a shovel and a light pick and, getting these from the car, I led the way around the ruined city to a small mound on the level plain beyond the last tumbled-down walls.
"Here you are!" I said. "Now for your first excavating, my boy. One spot is as good as another. Just dig in, and if you strike adobe bricks, timbers or reed matting go carefully."
Filled with the thrill and excitement of digging into the ancient mound, Bob began to work furiously.
"Easy!" I admonished him. "You'll tire yourself out before you find anything if you go at it that way."
For a few minutes he dug more slowly, half hidden in the cloud of musty smelling dust that he raised. Then, suddenly, he dropped his shovel and with an excited yell he fell to his knees. "Hurrah, I've found something!" he shouted, as his father and I hurried forward.
At the bottom of the hole two carved wooden sticks projected from the sand and like a terrier digging out a woodchuck Bob was making the dirt fly with his hands.
"By Jove, I guess you have struck something!" cried his father, almost as excited as the boy.
"Yes, there's a burial there," I agreed. "Those are the handles of ceremonial paddles or staffs. Shouldn't be surprised if you had had beginner's luck and had stumbled upon a really fine mummy."
Rapidly the cavity was enlarged, and presently we came to the layer of matting that covered the grave proper. Scraping aside the dirt, we lifted this, and Bob gave a warwhoop like a Comanche as he saw the shapeless bundle of coarse cotton in the grave he had uncovered.
"Hurrah, it's a mummy!" he screamed. Then, as he pawed away the sand: "Oh, look, I've found a pot!"
"And a very fine one," I told him, as he carefully brushed the adhering soil from the vessel he had found. "A true portrait jar. Very probably modeled from the man who is buried here. If so, there should be some really fine things in the grave, for this head on the jar is that of an important personage-either a noble or an officer of the Chimu army. See, he is depicted as wearing ear-plugs and a feather headdress, and with numerous ornaments. If all these objects were buried with him you have struck a great prize, my boy."
A moment later Mr. Sheldon unearthed a second pottery vessel, this time a jar in the form of a beautifully modeled sea lion, and in the next fifteen minutes we took out half a dozen additional pieces of pottery. There were water jars representing an owl and a frog. A whistling jug of fine black ware formed of two jaguar heads; two painted carafes, and a bowl modeled in the form of a melon with tendrils and leaves forming the handles. A moment later I, too, uttered a cry of delight as I came upon a magnificent ceremonial drinking cup or pacha representing an ear of corn with a parrot perched upon it. By this time the mummy bundle had been fully exposed, resting between two beautifully carved wooden ceremonial saddles and a heavy wooden staff.
As Bob drew the latter from the sand he gave a shout. "Just look here!" he cried. "This stick is all covered with metal. Maybe it's gold! Is it?"
"No," I told him as I examined it. "Not gold but silver. Your mummy in life was obviously a local governor or mayor, for this was his staff of office. It's funny," I chuckled, "that you should have so nearly repeated my experience of which I told you—digging into a small mound and finding a royal mummy, you know. Now let's get this chap out of here and find what treasures are hidden within the wrappings."
As the coarse outer layers of roughly woven cotton cloth were removed, and Bob caught sight of the mummy itself, he fairly danced and howled with delight. And with good reason, for it was better than even I had suspected. Upon the false head was a magnificent feather crown. The carved wooden mask was painted scarlet and was ornamented with a silver browband, and inserted in cotton loops on either side were gorgeous ear-plugs of hard wood inlaid with mosaic in turquoise and red shell. Covering the upper portion of the bundle was a tunic of feather work showing a design of twin warriors on the front, and girding this in place was a sash of finely woven llama wool of beautiful design. But other and even greater surprises were in store for us. Beneath the feather tunic the body was wrapped in a gorgeous poncho-like robe of blue and brown cotton, completely covered with silver fishes sewn onto the cloth, while about the mummy's neck was a string of turquoise and shell beads suspending a circular, elaborately chased, metal disk.
Between the shriveled knees, and still clasped in the desiccated hands, were a massive club of black wood and a short-handled bronze-headed mace. But I scarcely noticed these, for resting in a woven bag at the mummy's side was a marvelous object, a ceremonial drinking cup of wood and shell in the form of a fish, composed of mosaic work in mother-of-pearl, lapis lazuli and black agate. Never had I seen anything like it. It was a unique specimen, almost priceless, and I fairly chortled with glee as I examined it. But my thoughts were abruptly interrupted by a cry from Bob.
"Hurrah! Gosh, I have found gold!" he shouted. "This plate on the necklace is gold!"
Lifting the breastplate I examined it closely. "I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you," I said. "It's not gold, but copper plated with gold, and worth far more than if made of the precious metal."
"Gold plated!" ejaculated Mr. Sheldon. "Do you mean to say these old Chimus knew about electroplating? Bosh!"
I grinned. "Not electroplating," I replied, "but plating, nevertheless. How they accomplished it no one knows, but from time to time we find objects of copper, silver and even platinum beautifully and perfectly plated with gold. More, even earthenware beads have been found which were covered with a layer of gold. The process is a lost secret which died with the Chimus, but here is the proof that it did exist. Bob, you have found a real treasure-trove in this mummy."
His father chuckled. "Fool's luck," he exclaimed. "But do you know, I've caught the fever myself. The next time there's any digging to do I'm going to try my hand at the game."
Bob was gazing steadfastly at the skeleton covered with the shrunken skin and desiccated flesh that had been exposed as we removed the garments and wrappings.
"I wonder who he was," he mused. "It gives me a funny sensation to think that he lived so long ago, and that after all these years we have dug him up and taken away his things. I wonder what killed him."
"Possibly we can learn the answer to that question," I said as I bent over the body. "He was killed by a blow on the head—probably by a mace or war club while fighting." Then, as I parted the hair and exposed the wound in the skull—"No, I'm mistaken. This injury was trepanned and the wounded man made a complete recovery. See, the edges of the bone have healed and the scalp has grown over the silver plate that covered the aperture in the skull."
"You're right!" exclaimed Mr. Sheldon. "I'm no surgeon, but I should say that was a mighty fine example of surgery."
"Golly, Doctor, do you mean that someone cut away the bone and put that piece of silver over the hole?" cried Bob. "Why, I didn't know they had doctors in those days."
"Not only doctors and surgeons, but dentists, and very skillful at that," I told him. "Trepanned skulls are quite common in
"But if that hole in his head didn't kill this poor fellow, what did?" persisted the boy.
I examined the mummy carefully and finally discovered a small wound under the shoulder with the splintered shaft of an arrow protruding from the dried flesh.
"There's your answer," I told Bob. "He died fighting. And he must have been a brave soldier to have continued as a warrior after having his head bashed in as he did. But come, we must hurry if we are to get back to Salavery and catch the ship. We'll bury our soldier friend before we leave, for I always reinter the mummies I dig up—unless I need them as specimens. I'm not over-sentimental, but I dislike seeing human remains kicking about. It's bad enough to have to desecrate the graves in the cause of Science, but I have no patience with those who strip the bodies and toss them aside like so much rubbish."
Wrapping the remains of the Chimu warrior in the cotton shroud, we placed him back in his grave and covered him with the sand. Then gathering up our specimens we hurried with them to the waiting car and raced back to Salavery and the ship.
For the next twenty-four hours Bob could talk of nothing else than his discovery and the Chimus. He asked a thousand questions, and before
As we drove over the splendid highway from the port to Lima, I pointed out the numerous ruins of Incan cities, buildings and temples which rose everywhere above the rich green pastures and the olive groves; and the immense burial mound through the very center of which the roadway had been cut.
"When they were building the road the steam shovels dug out hundreds of mummies," I told Bob and his father. "For months, skulls and bones, dismembered limbs, broken pottery and fragments of textiles were scattered everywhere along the roadside. Eventually the authorities had the human remains gathered up and reinterred, but as we pass the mound you will still see plenty of partly exposed bodies projecting from the sides of the cut."
"Rather a gruesome spot, I should say," was Mr. Sheldon's comment.
"The people here are so accustomed to seeing human skeletons knocking about that they never think of that point of view," I said. "The whole
"This is a big mound!" exclaimed Bob, as we arrived at the spot I had mentioned, and I told the chauffeur to slow down. "And look at those thousands and thousands of bricks! Why, there must be millions of them! Did every one of those little square holes have a mummy in it?"
I nodded. "Yes, and there are countless thousands which have never been uncovered. The mound is nearly two miles in length and over one hundred feet high and is composed entirely of the adobe brick cubicles, each containing a human body. And this is but one of many mounds in the valley, several of which are even larger than this."
"It must have been a densely inhabited area at one time," declared Mr. Sheldon. "And I suppose the burials are the accumulation of many years."
"You are right in both surmises," I told him. "Unquestionably, during Incan and pre-Incan days, this and similar fertile valleys were the most densely inhabited spots in the world at that time. The multitude of ruins and the evidences of intense cultivation prove that, even aside from the vast numbers of the dead. And such a mound as the one we have just seen contains graves dating back for many centuries. No one has ever yet excavated the lowest strata of burials, which may well be several thousand years old. But even so, it is difficult to imagine the teeming population which once inhabited
"There is scarcely a square mile from Salavery to Nasca and beyond, and from the Pacific to the
"Hmm, I'm beginning to realize the magnitude of the archaeologists' task," said Mr. Sheldon. "It would require many life times to make a really exhaustive study of so many remains, and the key to the puzzles of these ancient races might lie almost anywhere, in any of these innumerable burial places or ruins, I presume."
"And there might be treasures in any one of them," cried Bob.
I laughed. "Yes, even in the big mound we passed," I admitted. "But it is not probable, for, judging by the vast number of burials which have been investigated, the inhabitants of these valleys were mainly farmers who possessed little in the way of ornaments or what you might deem treasure. Yet at Ancon and other localities some very wonderful mummies have been found, richly adorned with gold and silver objects; and, remember, I dug my finest mummy from a little mound close to Lima, while on San Lorenzo Island opposite Callao immense numbers of magnificent silver cups, dishes and vases have been taken from prehistoric graves. But here we are at
"Isn't this a big city!" exclaimed Bob. "Why, I never dreamed there was a place like this down here. Look at those houses, aren't they magnificent! And such fine streets and lots of automobiles. Oh, look! There's an Inca building right in the city."
"You're mistaken there, Bob," I laughed. "That's the
"Why do they call
"No, because the city was founded by Pizarro on the 'Day of the Kings' or Epiphany, the sixth of January, 1535.
"It's an awfully old city, then," exclaimed the boy. "That was nearly four hundred years ago; but it doesn't look old."
"Some of it does," I told him. "The presidential palace was built by Pizarro; the cathedral, many of the sixty-seven churches, the Inquisition building, now the Senate; the
For the next few days Bob's life was one continual round of surprises, interests and sight seeing. We visited several of the churches with their wonderful old masters, had a look at the alleged body of Pizarro in the great cathedral, saw the marvelous carved ceilings and doors of the Inquisition, drove through the parks and the lovely suburbs of Miraflores and Barrancos, and spent an entire day in the Larco-Herera Museum where Bob and his father were both fascinated and amazed by the wonderful collections of pottery, textiles, stone work and gold and silver objects. The Nasca mummies, with their gorgeous wrappings, their ornate headdresses, their wealth of ornaments of precious metals fascinated Bob, as did the hundreds of specimens of the beautiful Nasca pottery.
"Can't we dig up some of that?" he pleaded. "It's the most wonderful pottery I've ever seen. And I'd love to take one of those mummies back with me."
"I'm afraid we'll have to forgo the Nasca district," I told him. "I'm down here to discover new things, and the Nascan culture is probably the best known of all in
"By Jove, I never would have believed that those old Peruvian Indians could have made such textiles," declared Mr. Sheldon. "Why, they're as finely woven as the best products of our modern looms. And absolutely perfectly preserved after—well, I suppose several hundred years at least. It doesn't seem credible."
The curator's brown face wrinkled in a smile. "More probably several thousand years," he said. "The Parakas culture antedates that of the Nascans and pre-Nascans and may be an offshoot of the
"I'm not surprised at your wonder at these textiles," I told Mr. Sheldon. "Yet these are by no means as fine as some that have been found. Specimens are known which have nearly three hundred threads to the inch, while the finest machine-made silk has only about two hundred. Yet all of these Peruvian textiles were woven by hand on the crudest of looms."
"Will wonders never cease!" exclaimed Bob's father. "And I guess one of the greatest wonders is how darned little I knew about the things that you've been digging up and bringing to the States by means of my money."
"You have only begun to see the wonders of these ancient civilizations, Señor Sheldon," declared the curator. "Although I am a full-blooded descendant of the Incan people, and although I have been exploring and studying the remains left by my ancestors for twenty years, I am constantly amazed at the wonders which are revealed. I am sure that after you have viewed the marvels of Pachakamak, of Cuzco, Tiahuanaco, Macchu Picchu and other famous sites you will agree with me that the ancient Peruvians were more highly civilized, more advanced in numerous respects than are we of today. And if, as I understand you plan to do, you visit Chavin— Ah, who knows what you may find and see!"
"Maybe you're right," agreed Mr. Sheldon. "And thank you for your kindness in showing us your marvelous collections." Then, as we shook hands in farewell, "I may develop into an archaeologist myself," he added.
Our visit to Pachakamak proved a red-letter day for Bob. The eight-mile drive across the deserts, the mighty Andes rising against the sky in miles-high peaks, the mirages hovering above the sandy plain beside the sea were all new, and interested the boy immensely. Then before us rose the ruins of Pachakamak with its miles of walls, its countless ruined buildings, its vase cemeteries and its temple of the sun topping the pyramidal hill.
"Whew, this is bigger than
His father burst into a hearty laugh. "Looks to me as if someone had been digging here for years already," he declared. "Wherever I look I see piles of skulls and bones, fragments of mummy wrappings, and broken pottery. I should say that everything there ever was here has been dug up."
"On the contrary," I assured him, "only a small portion, an almost negligible portion, of the area has been excavated, although many famed archaeologists, many scientific expeditions and uncounted numbers of huaceros (treasure hunters) curio seekers and tourists, have dug and disinterred the mummies of Pachakamak for hundreds of years. Hundreds of thousands of specimens have been taken from Pachakamak, thousands of bodies have been disinterred, yet ten times, probably fifty times as many more have never been disturbed. In many places the burials extend downward in regular layers for thirty, forty or more feet. And in addition to the vast numbers of dead buried in the sand of the cemeteries and the surrounding deserts, as many more are buried among the ruins, in the courtyards and the rooms of the buildings, and even on the slopes of the hill yonder where the temple of the sun stands, as well as within the confines of the temple.
"You asked several questions about the city, Bob. Let's see. Oh, yes, Pachakamak was both an Incan and pre-Incan city. Its history is completely lost, for it was immeasurably ancient when the Incas first came to
"It was still inhabited when Pizarro arrived in
"Whew!" whistled Bob. "Did the Spaniards get all those things?"
"I'm very happy to say they did not," I replied. "Word of the Spaniards' ruthlessness and their desire for gold had reached Pachakamak before the arrival of Hernando Pizarro, the brother of the conqueror, and his party of soldiers who had been sent south from Cajamarca to loot the holy city. As a result, when they reached Pachakamak they found that the temples had been stripped of all their treasures and that these had been hidden away. All they found at the
"Gosh!" exclaimed Bob. "Think of building a house with gold nails! But didn't anyone ever find all that treasure that was hidden?"
"No, and the probability is that no one will, unless the Incan Empire should be reestablished or someone stumbles upon it by accident. No doubt there are Indians living who know where it is hidden; but, despite the most awful and inhuman tortures which the Dons inflicted upon the priests and people of Pachakamak, they failed to secure any information regarding the hiding place of the treasure, aside from the statement that it had been secreted in the valley of Lurin. See there, Bob"—I pointed to the green trees and fields surrounding the little
Bob's eyes grew as round, and he stared as fixedly at the distant valley as though he actually saw the gleaming golden idols and images and priceless gems stripped from the ancient temple close at hand. At last, with a long, indrawn breath, he turned and slowly swept the vast ruined city with his gaze.
"It sounds like a fairy story," he declared. "To think that all that treasure is over there. Wouldn't I just like to see this place the way it was before the Spaniards came! Don't you suppose the priests may have really buried the treasure here, and just told Pizarro it was hidden over at Lurin to throw the Spaniards off the track? Didn't anyone ever dig up any treasure here at Pachakamak?"
I smiled, "I've often thought it quite possible that a portion of the treasures were hidden here in the city," I told him. "In fact, there is a tradition, which many believe, that the entire treasure of the temple was buried or hidden in a secret chamber under the temple. Notice how an immense area on the side of the temple has been torn away? That is where the son of a former president of
"You asked if anyone had ever found treasures here. First and last, vast quantities of gold and silver ornaments and utensils have been found in the graves, but the greatest treasures have been the countless beautiful textiles, the pottery, the weapons and utensils and other specimens that have been obtained from Pachakamak. Yet, as I have so often said, one never knows what may be found when one digs in a spot like this. About three years ago a huacero, digging near the temple in a spot which had been excavated and reexcavated repeatedly, came upon the mummy of a woman, a princess or queen, that was fairly covered with gold. So who knows? Perhaps we may come upon such a find today—if your luck still holds good; or then again we may not find anything of interest."
"Let's get to work!" cried Bob enthusiastically. "Come on, where's a good place to begin digging?"
"One place is about as good as another," I told him, as we took spades and shovels from the car and trudged across the bone-littered sand.
"It appears to me that digging is really a waste of energy," observed Mr. Sheldon as he bent over a heap of earth, bones, torn textiles, heavy cotton wrappings and broken pottery that had been thrown out of a deep excavation. "This pile of rubbish is a real museum in itself," he continued. "See here, I've found a pair of sandals, a basket, some bits of beautiful cloth and these painted sticks already. And—Hello, what's this," he exclaimed, as he scraped away the debris. "By Jove, it's a wooden mask!"
"And a very fine specimen," I agreed. "Yes, these piles of discarded material often yield splendid specimens. The professional huaceros care only for gold or silver or for objects they can sell to the curio and antiquity dealers in
A wild shout from Bob, who had been poking about in the excavation, interrupted my words and caused us to turn.
"Whoopee!" he yelled. "Look what I've found! A real battle-axe!"
Scrambling from the hole he exhibited his find, a heavy bronze axe still attached to its long wooden haft.
"You are a lucky youngster!" exclaimed his father. "All you have to do is to jump into a hole and pick up a thing like that."
I laughed. "If his luck continues nothing will surprise me," I declared. "Not even if we should discover the lost treasure of Atahualpa."
"Oh, let's dig down there where I found this," suggested Bob. "Maybe there are other things there."
I rose and leaped into the pit. "I rather think it would be a good idea," I said as I examined the sides and bottom of the excavation. "This hole was dug a good many years ago and apparently whoever dug it was frightened away or left before he finished his work. All that pile of material is recent—that is, late Incan—but that axe is much more ancient, and if I'm not mistaken there are older and more promising burials still undisturbed underneath here. See, here are the ends of timbers projecting from the bottom of the pit," I added, as I scraped away the debris. "They're carved, and undoubtedly are the four corner markers of a tomb. Come on, Bob, let's see if you've stumbled upon the Pachakamak treasure."
With boyish enthusiasm, and fired with the thought of finding possible huge treasure, Bob dug with a will; and with three of us digging we made rapid progress. As we constantly turned up bones, fragments of textiles, human skulls and various odds and ends of pottery, wooden utensils and other relics, the boy became more and more excited. It was hot work; perspiration poured down our faces and backs in streams, dust filled our eyes, ears, mouths and noses and covered us from head to foot with a gray coating; but with each spadeful of sand we threw out we became more and more certain that just below our spades was something well worth our labors.
Then Mr. Sheldon's shovel struck something solid, and, casting aside the implement and dropping to his knees, he began pawing away the sand, as filled with excitement as was Bob.
"Here it is!" he cried, as he exposed the heavy rope netting covering of a mummy. Then—"By Jove, isn’t that a beauty!" he exclaimed, holding up a bowl which he had found.
"What are those things it contains?" Bob asked. "They look like peas."
I laughed. "So you don't recognize treasure when you see it," I said. "Those, my boy, are not peas but pearls!"
"Pearls!" ejaculated his father. "You don't mean—"
"Unquestionably pearls, but worthless," I told him. "Watch!" As I spoke I blew sharply at the contents of the bowl and the once priceless pearls crumbled to powder.
"Well, I'll be hanged!" ejaculated Mr. Sheldon.
"If all the treasures are as ephemeral as those we won't be much the richer if we find them."
"Why did they go like that?" Bob wanted to know.
"Centuries of absolute dryness and the chemicals in the sand," I replied. "Rarely—once in a dog's age, as they say—a pearl is found which is in good or fairly good condition. At
"What do you mean by
"And here's another!" cried Bob.
"Still another," exclaimed his father.
By now we had completely uncovered the big, shapeless bundle, but as it was impossible for us three to lift it from the deep hole we decided to unwrap it where it stood.
"They certainly did wrap their dead for keeps," grunted Mr. Sheldon as we removed the rope netting that formed the outer covering, and attacked the next layer of heavy cotton cloth.
"I've often wondered whether they kept the wrappings prepared in readiness for a burial or whether they made them after a person died," I said as we struggled with the canvas-like material.
"May have had undertakers who kept a supply of these things on hand," suggested Mr. Sheldon. "Must have taken a darned long time to have woven all this stuff, and with the deceased waiting— Well—"
"They may have dried or mummified the bodies at once," I ventured. "The Parakans unquestionably did so, for the bodies found in their graves are true mummies, with internal organs removed, as well as the larger muscles, and embalmed. But no real mummies have been found elsewhere in
"Gosh, it's just a bale of cotton!" exclaimed Bob as we removed the second layer of wrappings and exposed a mass of cotton bolls held in place by cords.
I laughed. "Not a bit of it," I assured him, "this cotton is merely padding. It's a mummy all right, although we may find a dozen or more wrappings and robes before we reach the body itself in its burial garments."
As the last of the cotton padding fell away I uttered a cry of delight as I saw the beautiful robe beneath.
"Gee, those are funny looking people!" cried Bob as he examined the figures on the tapestry. "They all have their tongues hanging out and whiskers and—"
"They are not people,” I told him, "but represent Wira Kocha, the supreme god of the pre-Incas. Do you remember the sun god on the Aztec calendar stone? If so you will recall that he also is shown with protruding tongue and has snakes' head for ears whereas these gods are shown with jaguars' heads on either side. But there is a most remarkable resemblance between the two."
"I understood you to say that you believed Wira Kocha to have been the bearded white man god, the same as Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs," said Bob's father. "These heads don't look much like a member of the Semitic race."
"That is because they are conventionalized," I explained, "yet the important or salient features of the Bearded God are here—the moustaches, the beard and the peculiar cap, although the latter at first glance appears to be the natural ears of the cat-like face which is intended to represent the jaguar, the symbol of power and strength. Now let's see what is under this fine piece of pre-Incan tapestry."
Very carefully we removed the first robe, and as we did so we dislodged some object which fell among the cotton we had cast aside. Bob plunged his hands into the pile of white fluff, and gave a shout as he saw what he had found.
"Gold!" he fairly screamed. "Look, Dad! Look, Doctor! It's a gold llama!"
"By Jupiter, so it is!" exclaimed his father. "You can't say you haven't found treasure now, Son. And your luck is still with you."
"You shall keep that for a talisman," I told Bob. "That is what it was to the poor chap here. But just look at these textiles!"
Bob, however, was far too busy examining the golden llama to bother about mere robes, magnificent as they were.
"Wouldn't the boys back home be tickled to death to be here," he exclaimed. "And maybe they won't be envious when I show them this."
In a few moments I had removed this second robe and the mummy itself was revealed.
"Oh, pshaw!" ejaculated Bob in disappointed tones, as he looked at the mummy. "There isn't any gold after all. Just those pieces of pottery and those robes and my llama and— Say, what are those things in his lap?"
"Those," I said, as I examined them, "are very interesting things. It is obvious that this chap was a medico—a doctor and a surgeon—for here are his little bags of medicinal herbs, his charms and his surgical implements: a bronze knife, two quartz scalpels, three silver tweezers, an assortment of needles and a hank of sinew or catgut thread and—yes, another llama of gold in miniature."
"But why the llamas?" asked Mr. Sheldon. "Unless he was a veterinary I don't see their significance."
"The llama was probably his clan or family emblem or totem," I replied. "It appears on those specimens of pottery we found. There are highly conventionalized llamas worked into the designs on the textiles, and the fact that he possessed these gold llamas bears out the assumption."
"I didn't know that llamas had five toes," said Bob, who was still intent on his find.
"What's that?" I exclaimed. "Here, let me see! Bob, my boy, you have made a discovery! This fellow came from Parakas or had been there. The Parakas figures and paintings of llamas show the beast with five toes, and skeletons of five-toed llamas have been found there. But in no other locality. This llama and —yes, the little one also—links this mummy with Parakas. I've always felt that some day we would find that the Parakas and perhaps the Nasca culture extended over most of the coastal district of Peru. I'd rather have found this mummy than—well, I was about to say the Pachakamak treasure."
"I suppose you know what you are talking about," observed Mr. Sheldon. "But being only a layman and no zoologist I don't see why a llama shouldn't have five toes. I've seen plenty of the beasts in zoos, but I was never interested in their feet."
I grinned. "Pardon me," I said. "I should have explained. In the dim and distant past, llamas possessed five toes, as did horses also. But in time the superfluous toes disappeared, and although the rudimentary bones remain, there are but two external toes. So when we find skeletons of five-toed llamas associated with human remains, it means that the latter are immeasurably ancient, unless we accept the hypothesis, which has been advanced, that the people bred a peculiar, five-toed variety of llama which vanished with them."
"I see," was Mr. Sheldon's comment; "something like finding a dinosaur's mummy in one of these graves, eh."
"Well, let's take these things to the car and try digging another grave," said Bob. "Maybe we'll find a six-toed llama or something."
"I'm afraid we'll have to call it a day, as far as digging is concerned," I told him. "We'll climb up to the temple if you're not too tired and then get back to
The flight from
"Why, the whole country seems to be covered with ruins and burying grounds," said Bob. "But aren't those green valleys lovely between the deserts? And what a network of irrigation ditches and canals!" Then, with a laugh, "I didn't really believe you when you said a tree would grow up if a bucket of water was thrown on the desert. But I do now when I can see all those trees and green fields wherever there is a sign of water."
"I never made the statement you quoted," I reminded him. "I said that it was a common saying of the natives. But I did state that every pipe line carrying water to the railway could be traced by the vegetation growing wherever there was a leaking joint, and there's the proof of it."
"Oh, and there are those queer half-moon shaped sand dunes!" cried the boy. "Don't they look funny-just as if they were painted on a big sheet of brown canvas. But those mountains don't look very high."
"Naturally not, when you're looking down upon them," said his father.
"These are merely the foothills of the
"That is a beautiful sight!" exclaimed Mr. Sheldon. "That mountain on the left is as symmetrical as
"And they're covered with snow!" cried Bob. "Gee, but they're high! What are their names, Doctor?"
"The conical peak is Misti and the other is Charcano. Misti is about sixteen thousand feet above the sea, and Charcano is slightly higher. Both are active volcanoes."
"Whew!" whistled the boy. "Sixteen thousand feet! Why, that's nearly three miles high! Do they ever blow up or erupt?"
"They haven't in recent years," I told him. "It's possible to visit the crater of Misti if one doesn't mind a long hard climb, and in the crater there are an ancient temple and a chapel with a cross. The first was built unknown centuries ago and the latter were erected by the Spaniards; but both for the same purpose—to appease the powers that be and to prevent a disastrous eruption such as has taken place in the past. To the Indians, Misti is the abode of a terrible evil spirit or demon, and for untold ages every Indian passing the base of the mountain has picked up a stone and carried it, as a sign of humility, past the volcano. Through the centuries these stones have accumulated until there arc two great piles, one on either side of the mountain; and from constant handling they have been worn as smooth and polished as glass. But here we are at
"I don't think I'd care to reside here," observed Mr. Sheldon as the plane swept downward towards the landing field. "Two active volcanoes within a mile or two of one's door is a little too much for comfort."
Both Bob and his father were delighted with the quaint old town and its cleanliness. We visited the old churches, strolled through the markets with the Indian vendors squatting beside their piles of rugs, ponchos, sandals, pottery and other native articles, and watched a train of laden llamas plod by, silent-footed, aloof, disdainful, with beribboned ears and tinkling bells.
"They are queer beasts," exclaimed Bob. "They look like a cross between sheep and camels."
I laughed. "You're pretty near the truth," I told him. "Although the llama, as well as the alpaca, vicuña and guanaco, all belong to the true camel family, yet their fleece is even more valuable than that of sheep, and the Spaniards called them Peruvian sheep."
"How did they get such an odd name—llama?" (pronounced yahma) Bob wanted to know. "It sounds Spanish, but llama in Spanish means a flame, and these animals don't look at all fiery to me."
"The name has no connection with a flame," I explained. "In Spanish, as you know, the verb llamár means to call or to name. And when the Spaniards first saw these strange creatures they asked the Indians '
As I spoke, Bob stepped closer to the llamas and extended his hand as if to stroke one of the creatures.
"Look out!" I warned him. "Don't get too close!"
"Do they bite?" he exclaimed, stepping quickly back.
"No, but they have a most unpleasant habit of spitting at a stranger if disturbed or irritated."
"The more I hear about them the stranger they seem," declared the boy. "But why do they carry such small loads on their backs? They look strong enough to carry three times as much."
"Still another strange thing about the llamas," I said. "They will carry only a certain weight—about one hundred pounds—and if one or two pounds in excess is added to the load they will lie down and refuse to move until the extra weight is taken off."
"Wise beasts," Bob's father commented. "But I should not think it would pay to use pack animals that carry so little. Even a burro will carry far more than one hundred pounds."
"Not in the high altitudes," I reminded him. "Moreover, the Peruvians were using llamas thousands of years before the Spaniards arrived with their donkeys and horses. A llama can find foot-hold and can travel safely and surely where no burro could pass, and in addition they can subsist on the dry, scanty bunch-grass and lichens of the high
"Is their flesh edible?" Mr. Sheldon inquired.
"Yes," I replied. "When young it is excellent, but the Indians rarely use llamas for food. They are exceedingly fond of the beasts and when one of the creatures dies they weep and grieve as though the animal were a member of the family. To the Andean Indian the llama is as useful as the reindeer to the Laplander. The wool is used in making garments, ponchos, slings and textiles of all sorts; the hide supplies strong leather; the coarser hair is made into rope; and the dried dung is the universal fuel of the Indians."
"Well, I'm not surprised that the Indians are fond of the beasts," said Bob, as we turned away. "I think a pet llama would be great. Every time a fellow-wanted a good laugh he could just look at the beast's face."
It was all new and mightily interesting to Bob. Although he was becoming accustomed to deserts and mountains, yet—as on the following day when we climbed higher and higher toward the summits of the Andes, and the train crawled slowly toward the roof of the world—he was constantly finding something new and strange to marvel at.
"What are those queer-looking lumps piled beside the track?" he wanted to know, as we stopped at a tiny desert station where stolid-faced Indians stood wrapped in their gaudy ponchos beside their llamas. "They look more like big, brown, brain corals than anything else," he added, "but of course there isn't any coral up here."
"That is yaretta" I told him. "It is really a plant belonging to the celery family and is the universal fuel of the people of these high altitudes. In fact, it is the only form of vegetation, other than grass and cactus, that grows up here. Don't forget that we are over two miles above sea level, my boy."
"Whew!" he exclaimed. "How much higher do we have to go? And if we're two miles up in the air, how high is that snow-capped mountain over there?"
"That's Amapo," I replied. "It's about twenty thousand feet high, but it looks higher because it stands by itself. Before we cross the loftiest point of the divide we will be about fifteen thousand feet above the sea. Do you feel any unusual sensations?"
"No, why do you ask?" he replied.
"Because many people suffer severely from saroche or mountain sickness when at high altitudes," I told him. "Sometimes they merely have a headache, but at times they suffer severe nausea or even lose consciousness, and it is necessary to use oxygen to keep them alive. See, over there, in the corner of the car, is the locker containing the oxygen tank carried on every trans-Andean train ready to be used for reviving passengers overcome by saroche. But don't worry. If you haven't felt the effects by now you're immune."
"No necessity of asking me," said Mr. Sheldon. "I've done a lot of mountain climbing in my day, and I feel better at fifteen thousand feet than I do at sea level" Then: "By Jove," he exclaimed. "Look at those antelopes. Bob! Did you ever see anything move so fast?"
"Gosh, no!" cried Bob. "You can hardly see them when they run. Jiminy, did you see that fellow jump? He must have gone twenty feet in the air. And watch those others chasing around in a circle!"
"They're vicuñas, not antelopes," I informed them. "They are wild cousins of the llamas, and probably the swiftest animals in the world."
"So those are the beasts whose skins were used to make the robes we saw at
"On the contrary," I told him, "they are very easily killed or caught, for although so shy that they will not allow a man to approach within rifle shot they are extremely stupid. For example, they will not pass a rope or even a string, and the Indians drive entire herds of the creatures within reach of their clubs by stretching two converging lines of cord across the desert, and herding the animals forward by shouts and drums. Another method is to locate the vicuñas' bedding grounds where the silly things allow themselves to be shot down one after another. In fact, such large numbers of vicuñas were destroyed for the sake of their hides and wool that they were on the verge of extinction, until the Peruvian and Bolivian Governments passed strict laws to protect them. Today they are abundant on these high Andean plains and are steadily increasing in numbers."
"I don't see what they find to eat," Bob remarked as he watched the graceful creatures leaping in air, dashing about in mad circles, and chasing one another in clouds of dust. "I don't see a sign of any grass or plants."
"Must live on sand, I guess," laughed his father.
"One would think so," I agreed, "but their food really consists of lichen-like growths and a dry blackish moss, with the short, coarse tuft grass that grows here and there on the plateaus."
But even vicuñas and the wild impressive Andean scenery lost interest for Bob as, for hour after hour, the train climbed toward the clouds, until at last, surmounting the highest point of the divide, and swinging about the shores of the world's highest lakes, the way led all down grade to Juliaca. But on the following day, as we journeyed onward toward
By the time the train pulled into the station at
"Oh, Doctor!" he cried, "I went for a walk and just around the corner I found the most wonderful old walls. I'm sure they must be those Incan or pre-Incan walls you told about. And, gosh! No one seems to pay any attention to them, and there are houses built on top of them. Do hurry up and get dressed and come along, Doctor."
I had to laugh at his enthusiasm and excitement. "All right, my boy," I said. "But if you get so excited over the old pre-Incan walls you'll burst a blood vessel or have apoplexy when you see some of the real wonders of
But even Mr. Sheldon became almost as enthusiastic and as filled with amazement as was Bob, when we strolled through the ancient streets and he saw the numerous astounding structures that were everywhere in evidence in the old Incan capital.
"By the Lord Harry, if I wasn't standing here looking at them I would never believe such a thing possible," he exclaimed, as we stood before the wall containing the famous stone with thirty-two angles. "Why, man alive, the planes of those blocks are as true and perfect as if cut by a modern machine with micrometer adjustments. And some of them must weigh many tons. No one can tell me that they were not mathematically planned and laid out and cut to fit. And I'll tell anyone who claims they were cut with bronze or stone tools that he's a consummate ass to advance such a theory. I'm neither an architect nor a mason, but I took my degree as a civil engineer, and I'd stake a fortune that no living man could cut one of those stones without hardened steel tools, and mighty fine ones at that."
"Yet you have seen only the beginning," I reminded him. "Wait until you visit Sacsahuaman up on the mountain there, and Macchu Picchu, to say nothing of Ollantaytambo, Viracocha and other ruins near here. Yet even those seem insignificant compared to the monoliths of
"I should say that this ranks as one of the real wonders of the world," he announced as he studied the amazing building.
"You'll see even greater wonders when we visit Sacsahuaman this afternoon," I promised him. "And still greater as we proceed."
"I can understand now why you archaeologists are so madly enthusiastic over your work," he declared. "If I knew enough of the subject I believe I'd go crazy, too. But, good heavens, man, how do you ever expect to get at the root of things—to learn everything about the people who made these buildings, in one lifetime? Why, what I've seen already would keep an army of archaeologists busy for years."
We had left the
"Here, Bob," I said, "this should interest you. This is the palace of the Inca Roca, the sixth Inca. The door is Spanish, but the walls and columns and stonework are the same as when the place was the Inca's home."
"That's wonderful!" exclaimed the delighted boy. “To think that an Inca really lived here! It makes our old things at home seem awfully new and modern. I can almost imagine seeing those doors open and the Inca in his gold litter being carried out, with all his nobles and soldiers, just as you described it when you told us about the Birth of the Sun festival."
"I'm beginning to realize that when you speak of the Incas and pre-Incas as civilized, you mean it literally," observed Mr. Sheldon. "I had always supposed that it was merely a relative term, until I came here. But a race that could build such houses as this was as civilized as we are. Are there many of these old Incan houses in the city?"
"Not in such good condition as this," I told him. "The magnificent palace of the first Inca, Manko Kapak, is still standing, although in semi-ruins, but the majority of the Incan palaces and homes have been so altered by the Spanish that little of the original architecture remains. Now that we've seen about all there is to be seen here in the city, we'll take a car and run up to Sacsahuaman and also visit Viracocha."
As the motor car climbed the winding road leading to the ancient fort, Cuzco lay spread like a map at our feet, but the beauty of the scene was forgotten when we reached the end of the road and the shelflike plateau with Sacsahuaman's stupendous walls before us.
"By Jupiter!" ejaculated Mr. Sheldon. "It was worth our whole journey just to see this. I'm almost ready to believe in genii and magic. It doesn't seem possible that such gigantic stones could have been cut and erected by human beings."
Bob drew a long, deep breath as he gazed, open-eyed, at the immense blocks of stone, each twenty feet or more in height and six or eight feet in width, so accurately cut and fitted together that nowhere could a knife blade have been inserted between them.
"How did the Incas get these big stones clear up here?" he asked at last.
"That's for you to answer—if you can," I told him. "In all probability it was as much a puzzle to the Incas as to us, for the fort is pre-Incan, and was undoubtedly here centuries before Manko Kapak established the Incan Empire with
"And the Spaniards took this!" mused Bob's father. "I scarcely know which is the greater marvel—the fortress itself or the fact that the Spaniards ever succeeded in taking the place."
"Don't forget that the Spaniards possessed firearms, even cannon, and wore armor, while the defenders of the fortress had only bows and arrows, spears, battle-axes and slings," I reminded him. "But even with those odds in their favor the Spaniards had a mighty hard time of it. Again and again they attacked Sacsahuaman and were driven off. In fact, the bravery of the garrison was such that the Spanish commander offered to give them full quarter if the Incas would surrender. But they had learned enough of the cruelty of their enemies, and how little trust could be placed in their promises, by the treacherous murder of Atahualpa, and they preferred death to surrender.
"Perhaps the most outstanding example of heroism in the history of the conquest occurred here. After days of siege and savage fighting, the defenders had been killed or wounded until only one man remained; yet even then the Dons could not take the fort. Hurling stones with his sling, driving arrows with such force from his bow that they pierced through the Spaniards' shield and armor, this heroic Incan general defied the entire forces of Pizarro single-handed. Again and again the Dons placed ladders against the walls and, holding shields above their heads, swarmed up to the parapets, only to be beaten back by the flashing, swinging battle-axe of the indomitable Inca who seemed to bear a charmed life. Amazed, filled with superstitious awe in the face of such seemingly superhuman bravery and strength, the Spaniards withdrew, and under a flag of truce attempted to induce the Incan general to surrender. But his only reply was to shout taunts and defiance, and again the Spaniards hurled themselves at the fortress. Attacking from all sides at once, the Spanish soldiers at last gained the summit of the walls. Then, knowing that all was lost, the Incan hero sprang to the verge of the rampart—at that point to the right where the precipice drops sheer from the base of the walls—lifted his face to the sun, and with a prayer to Inti on his lips leaped into space."
Bob stepped cautiously forward and peered into the rock-filled abyss. "He must have been brave!" he declared. "And"—with a note of awe in his voice—"it makes this place seem sort of, well, sort of sacred, to think of him standing up here and fighting the whole Spanish army all alone."
"Makes the story of Horatius at the bridge seem rather tame by comparison," said Mr. Sheldon. "If there had been more of his kind the Spaniards would never have conquered
"There were plenty like him," I declared. "The annals of the conquest are filled with records of almost incredible bravery on the part of the Incas. But civil war, dissentions, inferior weapons, and the Incas' faith in the ancient prophecy, which foretold that bearded white men would conquer the land, all favored the Spaniards. And it was too late when the natives at last awakened to the true character of the white men. But there are few events in history wherein greater bravery and determination were shown than in Manko's revolt. Not only did he and his handful of warriors recapture Sacsahuaman, but they laid siege to
"Oh, that's the place we're going to," cried Bob.
"Yes, we'll start tomorrow morning," I told him. "But if we don't hurry and leave here we won't be able to visit Viracocha."
"Why, those old Indians understood the arch!" exclaimed Mr. Sheldon, when we came within sight of the vast ruins of Viracocha.
"Yes, but they rarely made use of it," I said. "Apparently it was easier for them to cut immense slabs of stone for lintels than to construct arches. But they were marvelously skillful when it came to building curves and circles, as you discovered at the
"Oh, Doctor, what is this?" shouted Bob who had been poking about in a pile of debris thrown up by some huacero in his search for treasures.
"That is a quipo," I told him as I examined the bundle of knotted colored cords he had found. "It was used for keeping accounts and for recording events."
"I don't see how they could do that with a bunch of strings," he declared.
I laughed. "It wasn't so very simple," I said. "Even among the Incans there were especially trained men whose business was to make and decipher the quipos, although the nobles and priests, as well as the keepers of the watch towers along the roads, understood them. They were really not so very complicated, for the basis of the quipo is the human hand. See, this one has five strings attached to a heavier cord, each of the strings representing a finger. The first or thumb string was the key, indicating the type of record; the next and thinnest string, representing the index finger, was the unit string with knots or 'joints' totaling ten. The next or second finger string indicated tens or decimals, the third hundreds, and the last thousands. That, however, was the simplest and most primitive form; but you will notice that this 'hand' quipo is attached by its 'wrist' cord to a still heavier cord to which numerous strings of different colors are fastened. To the Incas every one of these held a meaning, and most elaborate and detailed messages could be transmitted by means of quipos. In addition to these quipos, there were hankos and charas used for keeping purely numerical accounts and business records. The hankos were the credit records and were often made of pearls or gems strung on cords, while the charas were the debit accounts and were of earthen, seed, or shell beads. Each hanko and chara consisted of one hundred beads strung decimally on a cord, with a shorter string with nine beads or units. They were used in much the same way as a Chinese laundryman uses his abacus. At times, too, the Incas employed wooden trays with ten compartments for keeping accounts. Each compartment held ten pebbles, seeds or shells, and by the simple means of taking pebbles from a compartment on the credit side of the tray and placing them on the debit side, or vice versa, accounts of almost any size could be kept accurately. But come, we must be on our way if you are to see the Manko Kapak palace and a chulpa before it is dark."
The trip from
But at last we left the ranges behind, and sped smoothly and safely down the long, easy grade beside the river rushing onward to join the Amazon, and with luxuriant vegetation and palm trees stretching away over valleys and hills. To Bob it was a strange and surprising experience to be so abruptly transported from the bleak, cold Andean heights and treeless deserts to a verdured tropical land, and as we traveled farther and farther into the Montana, as the Peruvians call the district, he found plenty to interest him.
When we had left the last town behind, and in the heart of the wild jungle-covered mountains we met an Indian hunter carrying the spotted hide of a jaguar he had just killed, Bob became filled with excitement at finding himself in a spot where big game could be found.
He was so keen on trying his hand at hunting that it seemed a pity to disappoint him. As we had decided to break the long tiresome ride somewhere, I questioned the Huanco huntsman, and, finding that his village was but a few miles distant, suggested that we camp for the night there and employ the jaguar hunter to take Bob on a hunting trip. With the Indian standing on the running-board and tremendously pleased, even though half-terrified, by the novel experience, we reached the little cluster of thatched huts, one of which was hospitably turned over to us. Then, having extricated his gun and ammunition from the luggage, Bob, accompanied by the Indian hunter, started off filled with hopes of having fine sport and bagging at least one jaguar. It was almost sundown when he returned, and his excited shout and the shaggy load on the Indian's back were obvious proofs of his luck.
"Hurrah!" he cried, as tired but elated he dropped to a wooden bench. "I got it. Dad, I got a bear. Gosh, but he was a big fellow! Just look at his skin!"
"By Jove, so you did!" exclaimed his father, as the Indian unburdened himself and spread the big shaggy hide upon the ground. "A fine trophy, Son. Hello, what's this?" he added, as the Huanco began unfastening a roughly made basket of palm leaves.
"Some sort of a wild turkey, I guess," replied Bob. "Chespi—that's this Indian's name—said it was good to eat. That's about all I could understand of what he said, but it looks like a vulture more than a turkey to me."
"It's a curassow," I told him, "a species of pheasant, and delicious eating. We'll have a feast now. Well, my boy, you certainly did have good luck. But how about that spectacled bear? Weren't you a bit nervous and excited when you found him?"
"I'll say I was," Bob grinned. "But I didn't have much time to realize how I felt. You see, we came on him so unexpectedly. We knew he was somewhere near by the tracks that Chespi showed me. And then, suddenly, the bear rose on his hind legs not more than fifty feet in front of me. Gosh, but he did look big! And savage, too, with those white places about his eyes and his open mouth and teeth, and almost before I knew it I had fired and he tumbled over backward. He was kicking and clawing and growling horribly, but Chespi sneaked up and looked at him and said 'muerto tucu' or something of the sort and in a minute he was dead."
"It's lucky you killed him with the first shot," I said. "These Andean bears are dangerous beasts when disturbed or wounded. They are as savage as a grizzly, and what they lack in weight and size they make up for in speed and agility. Any of the Chunchos will tell you they fear the bear more than the jaguar or puma."
"Who are the Chunchos?" Bob asked. "Wild or forest Indians," I told him. "It's a term applied to all the Indians of the Montaña. Even these Huancos would be included, but the majority of the Chunchos are Campas or Amuenshas, and some of them are head shrinkers."
"Did you see any other game?" Mr. Sheldon inquired.
"Oh, I almost forgot," exclaimed the boy. "I shot at a deer but missed him, and Chespi showed me a tapir's tracks—at least I guess that's what they were; and he showed me where he killed the jaguar and, only think, he's going to tan that skin and give it to me when I come back this way. And, oh, yes, I found the biggest turtle! He must have been three or four feet long and with a shell two feet above the ground. Seems to me everything grows big here. In one place where we stopped to listen, there was a sort of a grunt and roar, and I thought it must be some big animal and grabbed my gun. But Chespi grinned and sneaked into some thick bushes and brought out a toad as big as a hen. And lots of funny looking birds. There was one red and black bird that kept hopping from bush to bush and following us wherever we went that made a noise just like breaking a stick; and another that barked like a dog. I guess he was one of those big billed toucans, from the glimpse I had of him. Gee, I'd like to stay here a month and go hunting every day."
"Rather do that than dig up mummies?" his father asked with a twinkle in his eyes.
"No—o, I don't know that I'd rather," Bob declared somewhat hesitatingly. "But why can't I do both. Dad? We can stop off here when we come back from Macchu Picchu and stay a while, can't we?"
"I'm afraid not," I told him. "I'm anxious to get over to some unexplored ruins and burial mounds beyond
"Oh, I forgot to tell you!" Bob exclaimed. "There are some carved stones in the jungle at the bottom of a hill. I tried to ask Chespi about them, but he acted sort of scared and I couldn't make out what he was trying to say. I'll have to learn Quichua if I'm going hunting with Indians, I guess."
"Carved stone, in there!" I cried. Then, calling Chespi, I questioned him in Quichua.
"I'll have to investigate those stones," I announced when Chespi had somewhat reluctantly told me all he knew—or claimed to know. "He says they are tiapacha or sacred to the 'dead ones,' which really doesn't mean much of anything. But there are no known remains about here, so on our return I'll have a look at them—may be something new and very important. I guess you'll get your wish and have a chance to do some hunting here after all, Bob."
"Hurrahl" he cried. "And I hope you find such a lot of ruins that they'll keep us here for a month."
As we came within sight of Macchu Picchu, with its stupendous ruins covering the slopes and summit of the mountain that rose like a mighty pyramid in the forest-clothed amphitheater of the Sierras, we almost held our breaths at the impressive wonder of the place. For although I had visited Macchu Picchu several times, it invariably had the same effect upon me, and I could well imagine how Bob and his father must have felt at seeing the marvelous ruined city for the first time.
Mr. Sheldon was the first to speak. "It's the most amazing and wonderful sight I have ever seen," he declared.
"And to think that the people who built it and lived in it are all dead and no one even knows who they were," Bob said.
"Dead and forgotten before even the first Incas found it," I added. "But the Incas occupied it and added to it."
"It seems to me that I've read somewhere that this was a 'lost city' of the Incas," panted Mr. Sheldon, as we climbed up the steep slope following the remains of the ancient paved road that ascended by turns and flights of low steps toward the citadel.
"Yes, it has been described as such," I told him, "but as a matter of fact it never was lost. There are many stories and traditions connected with Macchu Picchu, most of which have little or no foundation in fact. There is one that has been published as true which tells how the Virgins of the Sun, fleeing from the Spaniards at Cuzco, took refuge here and lived here for years, until one by one all died, and the last aged and feeble virgin passed away with no one to bury her old body. A pretty story, but pure fiction, for Macchu Picchu was occupied at that time by Manko and many refugees who found this a safe hiding place from the Dons. It was in that sense only that Macchu Picchu was a 'lost' city—lost to the Spaniards."
"Why was it deserted?" Bob asked, as we stopped to get our breaths. "I mean by the people who built it and by the Incas. You said it was deserted before the Spaniards came."
"No one knows why the pre-Incas abandoned this or their other cities," I replied. "This is an unsolved mystery. But we know that Macchu Picchu was deserted by the Incas, who found and occupied it, because of the frequent raids by the Chunchos or savage jungle tribes. Impregnable as it may have been, yet the Chunchos managed to surprise the inhabitants, massacre the men and carry off the women more than once, just as our warlike North American tribes surprised our frontier posts and forts and killed their inhabitants. Probably the Incas decided that the game wasn't worth the candle, so to say—that the losses and costs of keeping the city were too great to warrant it— and so abandoned it."
"Those Chunchos must have been mountain goats to have taken the place," declared Mr. Sheldon. "But if you ask me, I'd say the Incas deserted the place rather than climb this road."
I laughed. "If you find it such a stiff climb, imagine what it must have meant to have brought all these enormous monoliths up here," I said.
"Jiminy, did they do that?" exclaimed Bob. "It doesn't seem possible. Why, some of these stones are almost as big as those we saw at the fort near
"Much larger," I told him. "Nevertheless, many if not all were quarried some distance away and were brought up here. By what means the immense masses of rock were transported, no one knows. But the same mystery faces us in many places. At Ollantaytambo, equally huge blocks of stone were carried across a river, overland for several miles, and up a precipitous mountain side. At
"Well, I can almost believe one of these stones might weep after being toted up here," declared Mr. Sheldon. "But now we're this far let's go on to the top. I'd rather like to have a closer look at that big fort or whatever it is."
"The temple," I told him. "That's the most interesting feature of the ancient city. That is where the sun is tied."
Bob's face wore a puzzled expression as he glanced at me, not quite certain whether I was serious or joking.
"How can the sun be tied?" he asked after a moment.
"You'll see when we arrive at the temple," I said.
"I'd find it easier to believe the sun was tired than tied," panted Mr. Sheldon as we climbed the last steps and stood beside the massive ruins of the temple. "But by the Lord Harry, the view from here is well worth that climb."
For a space we remained seated on a huge stone block, resting from our exertions and drinking in the scene spread before us—the deep cañons filled with a blue haze, the green-clad mountainside, the sheer red and orange cliffs, the clouds clinging to the peaks, and the countless buildings, the endless walls and the steep winding streets of the ruined city. Then, rising, I led the way to the summit of the temple.
"Here you are," I said, pointing to a conical piece of rock set upon a broad, carefully smoothed and surfaced block of stone bearing a number of deeply cut figures and symbols. "That's where the sun is tied."
Bob and his father stared at the arrangement blankly.
"What's the joke?" Mr. Sheldon asked at last.
"Not exactly a joke," I laughed. "That is the Intiuatana which translated literally means the place where Inti or the sun is tied. In plain English it is a gigantic sort of sundial. By means of the position of the shadow cast by the cone-shaped gnomon, the Incan astronomers or priests could determine the sun's course, the hours, and all important dates. In other words, the sun was thus made to serve the people or was 'tied.'"
"Hmm, rather a poetical way of describing it," muttered Mr. Sheldon as he examined the great stone dial. "I suppose," he added, "these hieroglyphs have their meanings."
"Yes, they are symbols of the sun's festivals, the months, etc. In a remote manner somewhat like the symbols on the Aztecs' calendar stone."
"I see," he said. "I can understand how the position, the declination of the sun, as indicated by the shadow, could be used to determine the hours of the day, just as our ancestors did the same thing with their sundials. And although I must hand it to the old Incas for having worked out such a complicated mathematical and astronomical problem, I can also understand how they could have calculated various periods of times, and could have checked on the calculations for accuracy. But I cannot understand how they could have done so, or could have calculated the time of eclipses, the solstices and such matters, as you stated they did, by means of this device alone."
"They didn't," I informed him. "If you will look across the valley to the ridge on your right you will see several stone columns. Some have fallen, but several remain standing. Originally there were eight of the monoliths arranged in four groups of two columns each; two groups being to the west and two to the east of the center columns. Those were the pachacta unanchac or sacred time-tellers. By means of marks which indicated the extreme variations of sunrise and sunset, the declination of the sun could be accurately measured whenever the sun passed beyond the central pair of columns, and thus the sun's orbit and the equinoxes or solstices were determined. As far as known the columns and the sundial were the only astronomical devices used by the Incas; but personally I have always believed that they possessed other instruments, perhaps a form of quadrant, which were destroyed by the Spanish priests as being devices of the devil."
"I suppose," mused Mr. Sheldon in an absent-minded tone of voice, "that if you could discover such an instrument it would be a really great find."
"An epochal discovery!" I declared. "But there's not one chance in a million that such a discovery will be made. A vast amount of material has been taken from excavations made here, yet no one has found a trace of such an astronomical device."
"As I understand it," he observed, as he picked up a bit of stone and tossed it over the brink of the cliff, "although mathematicians may calculate just how many chances there are that a certain card or a certain number may be drawn in a gambling game, yet there is no possibility of determining when the winning number or card may appear; in other words, even with a million chances to one, the one is just as likely to turn the trick at the first deal as at the nine hundred thousandth."
"Quite so," I agreed. "But I don't see—"
"If I am not mistaken," he interrupted, "this is such an occasion." As he spoke, he stepped forward, stooped down and lifted something from a heap of earth and bits of stone thrown out by a marmot who had burrowed under a fallen monolith. "Here, I think, is your 'epochal discovery,' " he chuckled, as he handed me the object he had found. "Don't thank me, thank the beast who dug that hole and tossed this out with the rest of the dirt. I merely chanced to see it lying there."
I almost gasped as I examined the find. Never had I or any other archaeologist seen anything like it—a slightly concave plate of silver attached to an ornamental handle and with four narrow slits in the center. "Man alive!" I exclaimed. "You don't realize what this means—what a discovery you have made. There isn't the least doubt in my mind that it is an astronomical device, although just what purpose it served or how it was used is a puzzle to me."
Mr. Sheldon chuckled. "Not much of a mystery," he declared. "Merely simple triangulation. The Incas knew enough of geometry to know that two sides of an equilateral triangle were equal, and worked out their observations on that basis with this simplified transit. It would have been a lot of trouble to have hiked across to that hill with the columns to watch the shadow cast by the sun, and a complex code of signals would have been required to have checked back and forth between the observer here and the one there. But by sighting through this dingus, and lining up the gnomon here with the columns over there, it would be a simple matter to calculate the position of the shadow on the columns in relation to the one cast on the dial. Of course—"
"Oh, Dad, I know how to do that!" cried Bob, breaking in on his father's words. "The Boy Scouts were taught how to measure the height of trees and things by lying down with a stick your own height at your feet and sighting over the top of a stick until it came in line with the top of the tree. Then, by measuring the distance to the bottom of the tree, and finding how far it was, we could tell how tall the tree was."
"Go to the head of the class. Son!" chuckled his father. "You've caught the idea. But the Incas had it down to a finer and more accurate system by using these fine slits to sight through. And I expect they 'shot' the sun or obtained its altitude by means of these transverse slits. Crude sort of sextant, but accurate enough for ordinary purposes."
"It's the most astonishing discovery of my lifetime," I assured him. "It explains a score of puzzles, and throws an entirely new light upon Incan astronomical achievements. I can't express my thanks that you should have discovered it. And what a whimsy of Fate that a marmot should have unearthed it, when all the scores of archaeologists had failed."
"Better catch that beast and carry him with you," suggested Mr. Sheldon with a grin. "Seems to me he's the prize archaeologist of you all."
When we stopped at the Indian village on our return from Macchu Picchu, the Huancos welcomed us like old friends. Bob was delighted at the opportunity to have another hunt, and was tremendously elated over the jaguar and bear skins which Chespi had prepared. Although the stolid-faced Indian hunter insisted that the jaguar hide was a present, Bob insisted upon paying him for his work on the skin of the bear, and handed the brown-faced Huanco more money than he had ever before seen at one time.
Early the next morning we started into the forest, Chespi leading the way, Bob carrying his gun, and I with pick and shovel; for, despite all my efforts, I had been unable to induce any of the Indians to accompany us and dig among the ancient stones. Even Chespi, who had declared himself Bob's brother and our slave, had refused to do more than show us the carved stones, and while this meant that I would be unable to accomplish much work, their superstitious fears convinced me that the ruins were of great interest and importance. Mr. Sheldon also accompanied us with an extra spade, and last of all came the Cholo chauffeur burdened with a basket of food, and odds and ends of equipment.
It would be difficult to say if Bob was more excited over the chances of unearthing some treasure or making some great discovery among the ruins, or at the prospect of finding big game. And as we picked our way among the trees and around areas of jungle, he kept up a perfect volley of questions. What was that bird? he wanted to know. Were there snakes in this forest? What was the name of that strange tree? What creature left those tracks? What bird uttered that peculiar cry? So intent was he on learning about everything that when, with a tremendous whirring of wings, a flock of pheasant-like guans rose from almost under his feet he was so surprised and startled that he forgot to shoot, which amused Chespi immensely and resulted in no end of "ragging" on the part of his father.
"You're a great hunter. Son," the latter exclaimed. "How on earth you managed to kill a bear, when a flock of pheasants frightens you, is a mystery to me. I guess your gun must have gone off accidentally and the bear happened to be in the path of the charge!"
The boy flushed and stammered, and then burst into a merry laugh at his own discomfiture. "I'll bet you would have been as startled as I was," he declared. "Why didn't you bring along the rifle, Dad? You— Say, what are you carrying that tin plate for?"
His father flushed. Then he, too, laughed. "Might as well confess," he said. "I had a hunch that there might be gold in some of the streams, and I thought I'd try my hand at panning while you're busy hunting and Doc's digging or fussing about the ruins."
At this instant Chespi suddenly halted. Then, moving slowly and noiselessly forward for a few paces, he turned and signaled for Bob to approach. With a grin and a nod towards us, the boy sneaked to the Indian's side, staring intently at a denser patch of jungle, with gun cocked and ready. The next moment he threw the weapon to his shoulder and fired. At the report of the gun pandemonium broke loose overhead. An instant before, only our own voices, the chirps of insects and the occasional notes of birds or the distant puppy-like yelp of a toucan had broken the silence. But now, screams, frightened cries, and a medley of barks, chatters and croaks came from the tree tops, while from ahead came snarls, growls, the sound of thrashing leaves, mingling with Bob's shouts. The next moment another shot roared out, and in the abrupt stillness that followed, came a triumphant yell from Bob. "I got him!" he cried. "Hurry up, Dad! Isn't he a beauty?"
Stretched upon the blood-spattered earth was a large ocelot, a magnificent beast with its striped and spotted coat of lustrous fur.
"By Jove, he is a handsome creature!" Mr. Sheldon exclaimed. "I guess I'll have to take back what I said, Son. You're a pretty good hunter after all. A bear and an ocelot in two days' hunting isn't so bad. But if you keep this up we'll have to add a trophy room or a museum to the house."
A short distance from where Bob had killed the ocelot, a small stream flowed through the forest, so while Chespi deftly removed the cat's hide, Mr. Sheldon strolled to the brook, and, digging a few spadefuls of earth, he squatted down and began to pan the sand and gravel.
"Seems like old times," he grunted as he twirled the improvised pan deftly back and forth, slopping the water and mud over the edge of the tin dish. "Been a long time since I handled a pan," he continued, as he removed several large stones and dipped more water from the stream. "How my back used to ache after a day's panning! And it seems like yesterday that I made my first strike. By Jove, Doc, the first time I saw a streak of color in the bottom of my pan I thought I'd struck a bonanza—danced and yelled like an Apache. Looked like a fortune in the pan, but"—he chuckled at the memory—"there wasn't a dollar's worth of gold there. All the same—" With a sudden twist of his wrist he threw the last of the water from the plate, and glanced at the streak of fine black sand that remained. "Color!" he cried, excitement in his voice. "Look there. Doc! Gold!"
I stepped forward and bent over the pan. At the edge of the crescent-shaped streak of sand was a line of dull yellow gold.
"No doubt of it," I agreed. "You seem to have luck in striking it rich, as they say."
He grinned, rose to his feet, stretched, and shrugged the cricks from his shoulders and back. "Looks like it, doesn't it?" he said. "But as a matter of fact there isn't over ten cents' worth of gold in that pan. By working hard, and with a good pan, a man might make five dollars a day here. Not much of a fortune, eh?"
I was astonished. "In that case," I told him, "I'm not surprised that you danced and shouted when you found ten times that amount in your pan. I would have been willing to wager there was several dollars' worth of gold in this plate."
"That's why men get gold-crazy," he said. "Just a flake of color is enough to start them going. Oh, Bob! Come over here a minute."
"Golly, you have found gold!" the boy exclaimed when his father showed him the pan. "Say, Dad, you are lucky! Now you've found a gold mine."
"Yes, if you call gravel carrying ten cents' worth of gold to a pan a mine," laughed his father. "That's why I wanted you to see it. It may prevent you from getting bitten by the gold bug some day."
"I'm being bitten by a lot of bugs that aren't gold," declared the boy, industriously scratching his legs. "Let's get out of here and hurry on to those old ruins. It's not much farther."
"Your bugs are ants," I told him, as I flicked several of the insects from his clothes. "You must have stepped on an ants' nest, Bob. Watch your step in the jungles or some fine day you'll put your foot in a column of army ants."
"Oh, I've read about those fellows," he exclaimed. "But, honestly, do they go in huge armies and kill animals and people and eat them up?"
"They certainly do," I assured him. "Sometimes the armies are a mile or more in width and extend for many miles. Everything living or dead, in the way of animal matter, that they find is devoured. On one occasion when I was in
"I'd hate to be caught by one of those armies," Bob declared.
"The strangest thing about the army ants is the fact that they are blind," I told him. "Moreover, they have scouts, engineers and a hospital or rather medical corps."
"Now I know you're joking," Bob said.
"On the contrary, I'm perfectly serious. The scouts go ahead and look over the ground and report obstructions, dangers and other matters. The engineers remove stones, twigs, etc. and form living bridges across small streams and gullies, and the medical corps run back and forth looking after the dead and wounded. If an ant has an injured leg, they bite it off. If slightly wounded, but unable to travel, he is carried by his comrades; but if badly injured or beyond help he is promptly put to death."
"That is wonderful," the boy exclaimed. "Maybe we'll see some army ants here."
"Not likely," I told him. "Farther inland, about the Amazon tributaries in the really tropical jungles we would see them; but this is a semi-tropical district—no monkeys or giant anacondas or truly tropical fauna. Perhaps—"
"Here they are!" Bob interrupted. "See, there's one of the stones right over there."
My first glance at the stones, half-hidden as they were in the weeds and undergrowth, convinced me that they were very ancient and of a type unlike anything else known in the district. And as I moved about, examining a fragment here, another there, and ascending the little hill, I soon discovered that the rise was not natural, but artificial; that it was, in fact, a mound very similar in shape and general character to the temple mounds of the Mayas in
"Oh, Doctor" he called. "Come up here. I've found some writing!"
Dropping everything, I hurried up the slope.
"See, there 'tis!" Bob pointed to an immense rectangular slab, one end of which was resting on a toppling stone column with the opposite end on the ground.
"Yes, it's an inscription. No doubt in my mind," declared Mr. Sheldon, who was busily scraping lichens and moss from the surface of the stone.
An exclamation of amazement burst from my lips. Deeply cut into the monolith were the following characters:
"What are they?" Mr. Sheldon asked, as I stood staring at the inscription. "Looks like Arabic or Hebraic to me," he added. "But of course they can't be."
I shook my head. "I can't tell you what they are or what they mean," I answered. "They are another of the unsolved mysteries of the ancient Americans. But they are not unique. Precisely the same symbols or letters, or whatever they may be, are known in several places in
"Then I haven't made a discovery, after all," lamented Bob.
"Indeed you have," I assured him. "A very important discovery, for this is the only known spot where the characters appear on the lintel of a doorway on the summit of an artificial mound. And excavations here may disclose material which will solve the puzzle as to who the people were who cut the inscriptions and left these ruins. I have always maintained that they were the most ancient traces of a civilized race in South America, and my theory has been, and still is, that they were the work of those unknown, ancient, bearded white men whose effigies appear on the Moujik pottery and whose presence gave rise to the traditions of the Plumed Serpent of the Aztecs, the Kukulcan of the Mayas and Wira Kocha of the Incas."
"Gosh, maybe we'll dig up one of their mummies here!" cried the boy excitedly. "And perhaps they buried treasure here."
"The treasure is more probable than the mummies," I told him. "Gold and silver remain unchanged through centuries, but in this warm damp climate human remains would have vanished ages ago. But the worst of it is we can't make sure what we might find, for we haven't the tools or the labor to make any worth-while excavations."
"We've picks, and a spade and a shovel," Bob reminded me. "Let's start digging anyway. We might find something."
I smiled at the boy's enthusiasm. "Yes, we can do some digging," I agreed. "But we must be careful. A little mistake on our part might dislodge some key stone and start the whole thing sliding or tumbling down upon us. And I don't wish to disturb the ruins. I prefer to leave them as they are, until some future time, when I can return with a gang of laborers and a full equipment."
"I'm willing to turn navvy," declared Mr. Sheldon, as he stripped off his coat, rolled up his sleeves and seized the pick. "Where do you want us to dig, boss?" he inquired with a grin.
Bob rested his gun against a sapling, and picked up a shovel.
"I'm ready," he announced.
Armed with the spade I moved about, studying the jumble of fallen stones, trying to select a spot where we might excavate without disturbing the ruins.
"I think this is the most promising place," I announced, driving my spade into the earth where there appeared to be no stones. "But go carefully. We don't want to deface anything or break any fragile objects that may be here."
For a time we dug silently, grunting and perspiring as we worked, for it was slow digging in the hard ground filled with bits of broken stones and the tough roots of the trees. Now and then we unearthed a fragment of carved or sculptured stone work, which I carefully put aside, and here and there we found bits of pottery; but to my disappointment all were so badly weathered and decomposed that the coloring and designs were obliterated. At last Bob straightened up with a deep breath and wiped the sweat from his eyes.
"A fellow deserves to find a treasure if he digs here," he declared.
"Take a rest," his father advised, stopping for a moment to fill and light his pipe. "It's hard work and hotter than blazes, I know. But it should take off some of my surplus weight. And besides," he added, "I've a hunch that we'll strike something. How about it, Doc, shall we carry on?"
"Might as well," I panted. "At least for a few feet deeper. We're barely beneath the layer of debris now."
Presently Mr. Sheldon's pick struck with a ringing sound upon some solid object, and, instantly, Bob forgot his weary muscles and sprang into the shallow excavation. ''You've found something! What is it?" he cried excitedly.
"That's what we'll find out—in a minute or two," his father answered, as we laid aside our tools and, dropping on all fours, began clearing away the earth with our hands.
"Stone!" he ejaculated a moment later. "Just carved stone. I guess—"
"But not solid," I declared, as I tapped the gray sculptured slab we had exposed. "I—"
"Maybe it's a chest!" cried Bob. "A chest full of gold or jewels or—"
"Old clothes," his father suggested sarcastically. "Can't you think of anything but treasure, my boy?"
"We might as well get it out, whatever it is," I said. "We can't dig deeper with it here, and it's not over two feet square. I think if we can get under the edges so as to get a grip on it we can lift it."
Very carefully, for fear of injuring or chipping the stone, which was elaborately and beautifully carved, we dug around the edges until at last it was free of dirt.
"Now then, let's see if it'll come up," said Mr. Sheldon. "I'll take a grip on this side. Doctor, you get ready on your side, and Bob, you take the end. When I say 'heave' we'll all three lift at once. All ready? Righto, one, two, three-HEAVE!"
For an instant the stone refused to budge, and then, so suddenly that we staggered backward against the sides of the hole, the slab came loose. Where it had been was a rectangular aperture, filled with what looked like packages done up in musty brown paper. For an instant I stared at it. Then it dawned upon me. "You were right, Bob!" I cried. "It is a chest. A stone chest. What a find!"
"And full of old rags," grinned Mr. Sheldon.
"Not a bit of it!" I shouted, as kneeling beside the chest I carefully examined the contents. "Not rags, but textiles—and magnificent. It's a wonderful discovery, almost identical with the stone chest containing ceremonial robes which was found at the Island of the Sun in
As I had been speaking, I had been carefully examining the contents of the chest, which was cut from a single block of rock. Wrapped in coverings of plain, dull-brownish, rather coarse cloth, were priceless ancient textiles. The first package that I opened contained a small but exquisitely woven poncho of dark green with an elaborate geometrical design in dull red, white, black and yellow. About the edges it was slightly discolored, but otherwise it was in perfect condition after the lapse of countless centuries. The next bundle contained a sleeveless, smock-like garment, and as I saw it I uttered an exclamation of delight, for the design of birds and human figures upon it were not woven in the cloth, but had been stamped with wood blocks. But even this was forgotten when I removed the wrapping from the third bundle. Mr. Sheldon and Bob exclaimed in admiration as they saw it.
"By Jove, that is a magnificent thing!" my friend cried.
"Oh, look at all those strange men and beasts on it!" exclaimed the boy.
For a moment I stared silently at the deep-crimson robe completely covered with conventionalized figures, and with a wide border of humanized animals and birds. Something about it seemed vaguely familiar, and yet I was positive I had never before seen a textile at all like it. Then, suddenly, it dawned upon me.
"It's a calendar!" I almost shouted. "These figures —I'll wager there are fifty-two of them—are symbols of years; and the border, I'm certain, indicates months, days and religious festivals. And"—I leaped up and executed an impromptu war dance—"it is the key to
"Perhaps you're right, for all I know," said Mr. Sheldon, "but it's all Greek to me. And—"
"Oh, Dad, Doctor—all these men have beards!" cried Bob who had been intently studying the robe.
"Of course they have!" I cried. "It's a sacred thing, probably used by the priests who officiated here, and who were of the Wira Kocha cult—the bearded god. What a discovery!"
"Here's something else!" exclaimed the boy, who had thrust his hand between the packages of cloth. "It's hard— Maybe it's gold!"
"Hold on. Bob!" I warned him. "Don't move those textiles, they're as delicate as old lace."
Very tenderly I removed the textiles concealing the object Bob had found.
"Hurrah, it is treasure!" cheered the delighted boy. Resting on a bed of cotton at the bottom of the chest was a gorgeous headdress or miter, a slender vaselike vessel, a carafe-shaped jar, a bowl, a mirror, two necklaces, a scapular and three plume-shaped ornaments. All were of metal, but dull and oxidized.
"An archaeological treasure, my boy," I agreed, "and ten times as valuable as their weight in solid gold."
"Oh, I thought they were gold," he lamented. "I—"
"They are—or at least this one is," I told him, as I scraped away a little patch of the oxidization. "Low grade gold to be sure—it contains a large proportion of silver and copper which is the reason it has become corroded—but gold nevertheless."
"This one, also," announced Mr. Sheldon who had been testing the vase-like utensil. "And an amazing example of the goldsmiths' art, too."
"They're all amazing," I declared. "See this scapular! Mosaic on silver, but the figures are the marvelous feature of it. A weird jaguar-headed warrior battling with a being with a condor's head, and flanked by two serpents. It—"
"Great Scott, that condor-headed chap looks like the old hawk-headed, what was his name, of the Egyptians!" exclaimed Mr. Sheldon breaking in upon my sentence.
"You mean Horus, but in all probability a mere coincidence," I said. "In Peruvian mythology Kuntur Ticsi, the Condor God, was supposed to carry the sun across the heavens, and these battling figures are symbolic of the eternal conflict between day and night, darkness being represented by the jaguar-headed warrior."
"What do the snakes mean, and these fishes?" inquired Bob who had been attentively listening while examining the priceless disk.
"The snakes are symbolic of the god's dominion over the heavens, and the fishes and pumas symbolize his power over the sea and earth."
"Hmm, I see," said Mr. Sheldon. "I take it this chest belonged to some old priest, and these clothes were his vestments so to say."
"Undoubtedly," I agreed. "That fact alone makes them thrice as interesting and valuable; but, more than that, they are the only known objects from a site bearing that mysterious inscription."
"Let's dig some more and maybe we'll find something else," suggested Bob. "It's early yet and we've plenty of time."
"Son, you're the most sensible member of the party!" declared his father, slapping Bob on the back. "Here we are, wasting time talking when we might be unearthing half a dozen more chests or who knows what."
"The first thing to be done is to get that chest out," I told them. "We can't very well take it with us, but we can conceal it—although that is scarcely necessary —and at some future time I'll return and secure it."
"I think we can manage to get it out now," declared Mr. Sheldon as we dug away the soil about the stone chest. "I don't imagine it weighs much over two hundred pounds, and by slinging it to a pole we should be able to carry it to where Chespi and that chauffeur of ours are waiting."
It was no easy matter to remove the chest from its bed where it had rested for so long. Roots had grown about it, binding it fast and blocks of stone, which originally had formed the niche or locker in which it had been kept, had fallen in, wedging it fast. Again and again we were forced to dig several feet to one side or the other to remove the rectangular stones, and we had to hack through the roots with our pocket knives. But at last the chest was free and we lifted it from the hole.
"No use trying to dig any deeper," Mr. Sheldon announced. "It's solid masonry under here."
"I expected as much," I said; "the chest rested upon the floor of the cupboard or recess where it was kept." By cutting a stout pole, and slinging the chest to it by means of tough vines, we had comparatively little trouble in getting our prize to the base of the hill. Chespi looked at it askance, but the Cholo chauffeur had neither reverance nor fear for the chest or its contents, and by dint of persuasion and promises of reward, in the shape of tobacco and ammunition, we managed to induce the Indian to give a hand.
"Won't the government claim these things?" inquired Mr. Sheldon as we moved slowly toward the Huanco village. "I understood you to say that even when archaeologists were granted permission to make their excavations and collect specimens the government always had the first choice, and could take anything they desired."
"Quite true," I answered. "But, thank heaven, I managed to secure a concession which permits me to export anything I find to the
"Then we don't really own anything we've found," Bob said in disappointed tones. "What's the sense in digging up things if we can't keep them?"
"Some of the things we've found we can keep," I told him. "The objects you found at
"You needn't worry, Son," said his father. "The government doesn't want your hunting trophies. Seems to me, you've rather lost your interest in hunting. Satisfied with one ocelot today, eh?"
Bob grinned. "No, I haven't lost interest," he declared, "but we're making such a racket there isn't any chance of finding game, and—"
As if to prove the fallacy of the boy's arguments a deer sprang from a clump of bamboo and dashed off among the trees. Bob recovered from his surprise in time to raise his gun and fire, but too late, and the deer vanished in the forest.
"So we're making too much racket, eh?" chuckled Mr. Sheldon. "Better go ahead, my boy, and be ready."
But no other game was seen, and we reached the Indian village without further incident.
"If that old chest was full of gold—or tobacco—it could be left here indefinitely without fear of being touched," said Mr. Sheldon, as the Indians shied off and gazed at the stone chest as though it were a bomb liable to explode at any instant.
"The old gods die hard," I reminded him. "I doubt if a single one of these people possesses the least knowledge of Wira Kocha or Kuntur Ticsi or even Inti, yet there is something in their blood, in their heritage, that makes them fear and reverence anything connected with the deities and religions of the ancients."
"You may be right," he agreed, "but somehow I've a hunch that these Indians still have faith in their old religion, even if they don't actually worship the old gods. I remember your telling us that in
"Maybe they do," I answered. "But in the first place they were never completely under Incan dominion, and merely had the Incas' religion forced upon them, and their own mythology was not that of the pre-Incan civilized races. However, whether they do or do not carry out their own religious beliefs we'll never know, for they'll keep it a profound secret."
"I don't see why they should be so afraid of these things if they don't believe in them," said Bob.
"Because the Bearded God was one deity or semi-deity who was common to the mythologies of practically every race in Central America and western
"Too bad we can't decipher that inscription," observed Mr. Sheldon. "It might throw some light on your Bearded God mystery."
"I'm convinced that it would," I declared. "If I could discover the key to those characters, and could thus translate that inscription, it would be the most momentous discovery made in
Bob stretched himself and yawned. He had put in a hard day's work and was dog tired.
"Maybe you will," he said sleepily. "Maybe we'll dig it up yet. Maybe it's over at
Although we had already traversed the same route, yet on our long journey back to
"There it is!" he shouted excitedly, as the train swung around a sharp curve, and, beyond the roof tops and church towers of the port, the lake shimmered in the golden light of the sinking sun. "Isn't it lovely!" he added. "I didn't know it was so big. It looks like the ocean."
"You're only looking at one corner of the lake," I told him. "Wait until you steam across it. And by tomorrow morning you'll see the really beautiful portion of the lake."
"Why, there's an ocean steamship at the dock!" he cried when, a few minutes later, we reached the station and left the train.
I laughed. "Not quite," I said, "but a lake steamship. She's one of the new steamers, and over two hundred feet in length. You'll find her quite as comfortable and well equipped as most ocean liners. But look there, Bob; what do you think of those boats?"
"Oh, they must be those reed boats I've read about," he exclaimed. "But, they're as big as schooners. I thought the reed boats were just little canoes."
"Balsas, as they are called, are of all sizes from tiny canoes to good-sized cargo boats," I told him.
"I never realized that fact myself," admitted Bob's father. "Like Bob I have always thought of them as crude, primitive, canoe-like craft."
"I don't see how they can weave reeds strongly enough to make a big boat," said Bob. "I should think they'd be torn to pieces if the water were rough or there was a strong wind."
"They are not woven," I told him, "but are built up of bundles of reeds tied tightly together, and all lashed with fiber ropes. As the reeds are hollow and contain air, the boats are buoyant and unsinkable. A single bundle will support a man almost indefinitely, so that the balsas are really giant life preservers. They may not be fast, but they are very safe, and they carry huge cargoes for their size."
"I'd like to take a sail in one," declared Bob, as we approached the ship's gangway.
"You will, before long," I assured him. "They are the only craft used on the lake, aside from the steamers."
"How did they build such a fine big ship way up here?" Bob exclaimed as he stared about the decks of the Guayqui.
"They didn't," I replied; "the steamers were built in
Bob laughed. "You don't expect me to swallow that, do you?" he said. "I know there's a catch in it, but what's the joke?"
"No joke at all," I assured him. "The ships were built in
"I think it's about the most wonderful stunt I ever heard of," he declared, as he stared at the old steamer which was still doing duty on the famous lake. Somehow," he laughed, "I feel as if I were in a sort of dream; I can't seem to believe I really am here on a big steamer on
"Well, we're off," announced Mr. Sheldon as the whistle blew, lines were cast off and a bell clanged from the depths of the engine room.
"I wish we didn't have to start so near nighttime," lamented Bob, as the Guayqui slipped from the dock and headed out into the lake. "I won't be able to see anything."
"You'll get a glimpse of the
"No scenery on earth could be finer than that sunset," declared Mr. Sheldon. "I've never seen anything to equal the gorgeousness of Peruvian sunsets, and this is the finest I've seen."
"I agree with you," I said, as we gazed at the glorious crimson, gold, purple and vermilion of the western sky with the Andean peaks silhouetted against the blaze of color, and the placid surface of the lake a sheet of gleaming molten copper. "And look at the hills over in the east, they appear as though they were made of red-hot lava."
"Why do you suppose the sunsets are so transcendingly beautiful down here?" he asked.
"Mainly the result of minute particles of desert dust in the air," I answered. "Yet there must be some other cause which no one can explain, for desert sunsets elsewhere, although always brilliant, do not compare with these."
By the time we came within sight of the
"What are all those little ridges, like shelves, covering the hillside?" Bob wanted to know. "Ancient garden terraces," I answered. "Pretty hopeless looking place, for gardening," said Mr. Sheldon. “It appears as barren as a desert."
"It is, today," I agreed, "but in pre-Incan days all this country was intensively cultivated and supported a teeming population, and these facts—the evidences of an immense number of inhabitants and the garden terraces on waterless hills and mountainsides, are conclusive evidence to my mind that in pre-Incan, and perhaps even in Incan, days there were abundant rains and plentiful crops here."
"I don't see how it could have been otherwise," he declared. "No sane person would build terraced gardens on a waterless hillside, and it would have been impossible to have irrigated the land up on these mountaintops."
"Oh, I see some ruins!" cried Bob, who had borrowed the friendly captain's binoculars and had been studying the land by their aid.
"Plenty of ruins there," I told him. "And plenty of treasure in the lake close to the shore. The inhabitants made sacrifices to the deities of the lake by casting great quantities of sacred gold and silver utensils, images and vessels into the water, and there must be a vast accumulation of these priceless offerings lying on the bottom close to shore; the accumulation of centuries of sacrifices."
"Whew, why doesn't someone go after that treasure?" cried the boy.
"Probably because the water is too deep," his father said. "I understand that the water in many places is thousands of feet in depth close to the shore."
"Yes, that is so," I said, "but the slopes are very rough, and a person standing upon the temple whence the offerings were made could not have tossed an object for any great distance from shore, so the heavy metal objects would have become lodged among the rocks in comparatively shallow water, I believe. In fact, I have often thought of coming down here with a diver and equipment and exploring the slopes beneath the surface of the lake below the temple."
"Oh, let's do that!" cried Bob. "I don't mean now," he added, "but when we get back from this trip."
"It might be a rather exciting and interesting undertaking," mused his father. "And not excessively costly, I suppose. Perhaps— But we'll talk about that when this expedition is over."
The dinner gong put an end to our conversation, and when we again went on deck Bob shrugged his shoulders and shivered.
"Golly, but it's cold!" he exclaimed. "I'm freezing. And I thought
His father laughed. "You forget that you're nearly three miles above sea level—almost up to the snow line. Better put on that poncho you bought at Sicuyani. I'm going to dig out a blanket and wrap myself up. Sorry I didn't invest in a poncho, also. How about you, Doctor?"
"It is pretty chilly," I admitted. "I always carry a heavy poncho—the best of all overcoats up here, and I have an extra one along if you care to use it."
"These Indians certainly know how to make warm cloth," observed Mr. Sheldon, as, draped in our ponchos of llama and alpaca wool, we sat on the afterdeck watching the silver moonlight gleaming on the wake of the steamer.
"There is nothing warmer than llama wool cloth when woven from the raw wool," I said. "As used by the Indians it is neither bleached nor cleansed by chemicals which remove the natural oil. You can actually feel the warmth of the material by grasping a handful in your fist."
"You're right!" exclaimed Bob. "It feels almost as if it was still on a live llama."
"Remarkable, it actually does seem to retain its animal warmth," declared his father. "But come. Son, it's time to turn in, if you're to be up at daybreak to see the sun rise over
Even when wearing our heavy ponchos we shivered as we stood watching the glory of the sunrise the following morning. The lake was as smooth as oil, several balsas with their ocher-colored matting sails were drifting idly close at hand, the scarlet ponchos of their Indian occupants reflected in splotches of brilliant color on the calm water that mirrored every rose-colored cloud, every delicate shade of saffron and mauve, lilac and gold that painted the eastern sky. Then, a dazzling, blinding orb of fire, the sun appeared suddenly to leap from behind the mountains.
"That's worth shivering for!" declared Mr. Sheldon. "I don't wonder the Indians thought their first Inca was born of the sun if they saw him appear on the lake at sunrise. Look at that balsa, directly in that shimmering golden light. One can almost believe it has just emerged from the sun itself!"
"Oh, but look at those mountains!" cried Bob, pointing to the magnificent array of snow-capped peaks tinted a delicate rose by the rising sun. "Golly, they must be high," he added. "And such a lot of them, and every one covered with snow!"
"The most marvelous bit of mountains I have ever seen," declared his father. "After seeing those, the Rockies or the
"They're unquestionably the greatest array of snow-capped mountains in the world," I said. "Over one hundred and twenty-five miles of peaks, not one of which is less than eighteen thousand feet high, with many over twenty thousand. They are wonderful from here, nearly one hundred miles away, but imagine what they are like when within a few miles."
"Possibly not so impressive as from a distance," said Mr. Sheldon. "I doubt if one could obtain such a panoramic view when nearer to them."
"You'll have an opportunity of judging," I told him. "If there's any truth in that yarn about the lost city, it's over there somewhere, and we'll be flying close to those mountains."
"I'll bet it's cold over there," said Bob.
"Not so cold as you might think," I told him. "That is, in the thin, rarefied air the sun's rays are so strong and warm that one doesn't feel the cold. On one of my expeditions I carried on a lot of work above the snow line on those peaks, and it was almost impossible to believe that the thermometer registered only eight or ten above zero when we were working in our shirt sleeves and were actually perspiring. And here's something that will interest you, Bob. One can stand on a snowfield on the eastern slopes of those mountains and look down upon a tropical jungle. In fact, it is quite possible to spend the day in a land of eternal snow and ice, with the temperature around zero, and camp at night beside a tropical river with the temperature in the eighties. But there's Guayqui ahead. We'll be stepping ashore in
"Great Scott, what color!" cried Mr. Sheldon, as we neared the dock with its little crowd of Indians. "Certainly Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed like one of those women. Look at that one-over to the right. Orange skirt, sky-blue blouse, and cerise shawl. And that one with the emerald-green skirt, scarlet waist and yellow shawl!"
"But you'll notice the colors don't clash," I said. "Let a white woman deck herself out in such hues and the combination would fairly shriek, yet by some occult means the Indian women manage to wear them in such a way that they appear to harmonize."
"You're right," he admitted. "I hadn't noticed it until you mentioned it, though. And it seems to me these Indians appear different from those at
"You're a keen observer and distinctly right," I said. "These are Aimaras and, as a race, they are far from being the brow-beaten, servile, almost groveling creatures the Quichuas have become through centuries of oppression. They are far more like the North American Indians in spirit—independent, brave, self-respecting, and even warlike when occasion demands. And a hard, tough, strong lot, capable of enduring hardships, cold, exposure and fatigue that would kill any other human beings. You'll see women seated in the fields tending their flocks, and with nursing infants at their breasts, in the midst of a howling blizzard, yet contentedly spinning wool. You'll see naked children frolicking and playing in puddles coated with thin ice. You'll see Indian porters at
At this juncture Bob appeared upon the scene, an oddly puzzled expression on his face.
"The cook just showed me the funniest trick," he exclaimed. "He put an egg in boiling water and boiled it for five minutes, and when he took it out and opened it it was as raw as ever. He said that you can boil a potato for a week and it won't be cooked. But of course that's nonsense, for we had potatoes for dinner last night and we had eggs this morning. But how does he do that trick, Doctor?"
I burst out laughing and Mr. Sheldon roared with merriment.
"It's no trick, my boy," I assured Bob at last. "And the cook was not talking nonsense when he told you about boiling potatoes. At this altitude there is so little atmospheric pressure that water boils long before it is hot enough to cook an egg or a potato. In fact, I'm surprised that he didn't astonish you by putting his hand into the boiling water. The only way in which food can be cooked is by roasting, frying, broiling, or by boiling it in pressure-cookers—closed utensils which confine the steam and thus create a pressure sufficient to bring the water to a temperature of 212 degrees or more. When we drive across the high tableland you will see the car's radiator steaming away like mad, but with the motor still running cool and smoothly. You're on the roof of
Out from the little Bolivian port, between fields of alfalfa, potatoes and barley, past tiny Indian villages and adobe huts, the motor-driven car trundled across the plain, with the sere red and black mountains on either side of the broad valley.
"Here we are," I announced, as the car came to a grinding stop. "Welcome to the oldest city in
Bob glanced about. Then: "Look there. Dad!" he exclaimed. "There are stone columns and idols right alongside the tracks."
"All that remain of hundreds that were broken up and used as ballast for the railway," I said. "But that was a small item in the crusade of ruthless destruction carried on at that time. Thousands of tons of beautifully sculptured stones, huge idols, monuments, stone facing from the mounds, and massive blocks from the buildings, were broken and crushed for ballast and for making concrete culverts and bridges. Let me see, I think our best plan is to visit the temple and the so-called fortress first. Then we'll go over to the ruins of the Place of the Ten Doors."
As we walked across the plain, that everywhere was littered with fragments of broken pottery, bits of carved stonework and the debris left from centuries of vandalism and wanton destruction, I turned from the direct route to show Bob and his father the one gigantic stone figure that remains standing at Tiahuanaco. "The last of a long line of equally huge statues," I said. "All facing the rising sun and of inestimable historic and scientific interest. But even this sole survivor has been scarred and mutilated by the Bolivian soldiers who have used its face as a target for their rifle practice."
"What vandalism!" ejaculated Mr. Sheldon, as he gazed at the chipped features of the monolith which, despite the mutilation, still wore a benign, calm expression reminding one of Buddha. "It would serve them right if someone were to use their faces for targets," he growled.
"Yet that is nothing compared to the destruction that has been wrought elsewhere," I informed him. "There is scarcely an Indian hut within miles of the ruins that does not have its dooryard paved with priceless carved stones from the ruins or does not have intricately sculptured columns for door posts or lintels. Every wall that you can see is built of stones filched from the ancient city, the village church is made of them, and just outside the church gates are the heads of two stupendous stone images, the bodies of which have long since been destroyed. Originally, the ruins covered an area of more than ten square miles, but, through the hundreds of years that have elapsed since it was abandoned, the greater portion of the stonework has been carried away or destroyed, until today only three small sections remain. The one we are approaching is known as Akapana or Fortress, but no one can say whether it was intended for that purpose or was used as a temple or a palace. Near this is the Kalasasaya or
"You say it is the oldest city in
"I'll answer both your questions at the same time," I told him. "In the first place we know that
"Astronomers, as you know, have calculated the minute amount that the earth shifts on its axis, thus altering the compass points, and by means of these calculations, Professor Mueller, who conducted a long series of observations at Tiahuanaco, estimated that the city was built between ten and fourteen thousand years ago!"
"Whew!" whistled Bob. "I didn't know there was anything on earth so old. Why, this place must be older than the pyramids, or than
"That must have been a most imposing structure in its day," declared Mr. Sheldon, as we stood at the base of the two-hundred-foot pyramidal hill, littered with the remains of gigantic stone stairways, carved monoliths, slabs of stone facing, and topped by the ruined buildings.
"Did these people really build that big hill?" asked Bob.
"That is hard to say," I answered. "Some archaeologists claim it is wholly artificial, but in my opinion it was a natural hill which was cut away and shaped to form this pyramid with its rectangular base, six hundred and fifty by five hundred feet, almost mathematically perfect and with the sides in absolutely perfect alignment with the four cardinal points of the compass. Originally, also, it was entirely faced with those immense, smoothly cut stones, a few of which are still in place. At the summit was an elaborate building containing an enormous stone basin or trough from which stone conduits led to the base of the pyramid. Why such an arrangement was built, for what purpose it was designed, no one can guess. One might even surmise that it was intended for a reservoir; but in that case how did the Tiahuanacans get the water to the top of the mound?"
"Possibly depended upon filling it with rain water from the roof of the temple.” suggested Mr. Sheldon.
"That theory has been advanced," I told him, "and if, as some surmise, it was a ceremonial tank or a bath reserved for the use of priests or royalty, it is a plausible theory. But, as it is, it is merely another of the unsolved mysteries of this immeasurably ancient city. Now we'll go across to the
"Gosh, what steps!" cried Bob as we reached the flight of short, stone stairs leading from the plain to the raised terrace of the temple.
"They must weigh twenty tons each," exclaimed his father. "Yes, by Jove," as he paced off their dimensions, "over twenty feet in length by ten in width and two feet thick, and one solid piece to a step! Why, man alive, these Tiahuanacans must have been a race of giants to have moved such blocks, and to have used them as steps. And those great stone columns on either side of the stairs!"
I laughed. "These are small, insignificant, as compared with some I will show you presently," I declared. "But here we are at the so-called temple."
"What a lot of stone columns!" Bob exclaimed, as we stood upon the terrace with its rows of twenty-foot stone shafts spaced sixteen feet apart along its five-hundred-foot sides. "What do you suppose they were for?"
I shook my head. "Another unsolved mystery," I replied. "But as most of them have notches cut into their tops, as if intended to support lintels, it is supposed that originally they formed a sort of colonnade around the terrace which was completely paved with cut stone. But look yonder, Bob. There is the famed Gateway of the Sun, the most remarkable feature of
"The most amazing thing I have seen yet!" exclaimed Bob's father as we stood before the immense gateway cut from a single block of hard arsenite rock. Then with a laugh, "I've made that remark about a dozen times already, but if you can show me anything else that will cause me to repeat it I'll eat crow, as the boys used to say."
"I don't think you'll be called upon to do so," I assured him. "If there is anything more amazing than this portal I haven't discovered it."
"Just how large is it?" he asked, as we moved about examining the gigantic object.
"Thirteen feet five inches in length, seven feet two inches in height and eighteen inches in thickness. The doorway, cut through the center, is four feet six inches in height by two feet nine inches in width."
"To my mind the most astonishing features arc the accuracy with which the sides and angles are cut, and the perfection of these niches cut into its surface," said Mr. Sheldon. "To cut such apparently mathematically true apertures in this hard rock would be a difficult feat for a modern stone cutter provided with the latest machinery."
"Exactly," I agreed, "and if you were to measure these niches, or in fact any of the carvings here at
"What are all those funny figures on the other side?" Bob asked. "And what did you mean when you found those things in the stone chest and said they were the key to the carvings on this stone?"
"The figures," I told him, "have always puzzled archaeologists. That large central figure is unquestionably the sun god, for the scepters or ceremonial staffs he holds indicate a ruler, and the rays about his head symbolize the sun, of course. You will also note that there are forty-eight squares—twenty-four on either side of the god, arranged in three rows of eight squares in each—and that the upper and lower rows contain sculptured semi-human figures with wings and crowns, all of which are identical, while the central rows are shown with condor heads. Then, beneath all of these, are twelve human heads flanked by two condor heads. Also, notice that in every case the figures on either side of the deity are shown running towards him. Many theories have been advanced as to the meaning of these sculptured figures, and it has been suggested that they represent the lesser deities of Tiahuanacan mythology hurrying to pay obeisance to the supreme god. But in that case it would seem that the various lesser gods would have been shown with distinctive characters in order to render their identities recognizable. But when I glanced at that textile I found in the stone chest, I felt certain that it would solve the puzzle of this stone carving, for upon it I instantly recognized figures identical with these."
"Ah, I see!" ejaculated Bob's father. "You think, I suppose, that the sculptures upon this amazing stone portal are in reality a calendar."
"Absolutely!" I declared. "I have had no opportunity of working it out, of course, but I think I can make a fairly accurate guess at it. And my conviction is strengthened by the fact that Professor Mueller and others have suggested that the portal was never intended as a doorway, but was designed as an astronomical device. That when in its original position—for it had been thrown down, cracked and moved about before being again placed upright as you see it—it was erected with mathematical and astronomical accuracy in relation to the rows of columns and the base lines of the Akapana; and by sighting through this opening, probably from a fixed point, the angles of shadows cast by the sun in relation to the known angles formed by the portal, columns and pyramid, could be obtained, and thus time could be computed."
"I think I get the idea," said Mr. Sheldon. "In a way, it was very similar to squinting through that primitive theodolite at the columns up at Macchu Picchu."
"Precisely," I affirmed. "And if this so-called portal was in reality used for making calendrical observations, what more logical than to have calendrical symbols, perhaps a sort of astronomical table or 'key' cut into the stone of the observatory?"
"But what did the figures mean?" persisted Bob. "Are all those men with wings supposed to be days or weeks or months or something?"
"That I cannot say until I have a chance to examine the textile and study the relationship of the symbols, and work out some mathematical problems. But I am quite sure that the lower line of twelve figures is symbolic of the twelve months of a year, with the condor heads symbolizing the equinoxes or solstices. As we do not know how many days the Tiahuanacans had in their months, or the number of months in their year, anything else would be guesswork. But I have the greatest hope of being able to learn just what the Tiahuanacan calendar was when I have an opportunity of studying the textile I found."
"I hope you succeed," declared Bob's father, "but I can't say that I envy you the job. I never was good at crossword puzzles, and I should imagine that trying to interpret that bit of cloth would tax one's patience and perseverance more than all the crossword puzzles ever invented. It's bad enough to rack one's brains trying to think of a word of a certain number of letters meaning a certain thing that will dovetail in with the words surrounding it. But to 'find the number of the month represented by a man with whiskers that combined with a condor will mean a year,' is too much to ask any human being, I say.”
I laughed. "I'd rather do that than try to interpret the stock market reports," I said. "Everyone to his trade, you know, and when one's trade is also ones hobby it's all the easier. It puts me in mind of a conversation I once heard at a little
" 'Reckon that boss o' yourn'll have kinder hard work haulin' that load up Pike's Hill,' he observed presently. ‘I dunno, but sometimes I'm a wonderin' how folks'd like it if they was to shift places with their bosses an' critters for a spell. Bet yer they wouldn't be makin' of 'em work so dumb hard arterwards.'
"The graybeard laid down his paper and glanced at the speaker over his spectacles. 'I dunno, Hiram,' he opined, 'I calc'late ef ye asked that there hoss, an' he could answer ye, he'd a sight rather haul that there load up Pike's Hill than to try to read this here paper.’ "
Bob laughed and his father chuckled. "I guess the old fellows who built this place would have found it easier to cut that big Gateway of the Sun than to drive an automobile," Bob remarked. "But where are we going now?"
"Over to the Place of the Ten Doors," I told him. "There you will see some of the most astounding features of this most astounding old city."
As we reached the ruins of the mysterious building, which ages ago stood on the summit of the fifty-foot-high mound, Bob's eyes opened wide in amazement and his father uttered a sharp ejaculation of wonder.
"I'm afraid I'll be obliged to eat that crow, after all!" he announced. "And," he added, "I'm beginning to believe in the fairy tales of my youth—in Aladdin's lamp and genii and giants. Unless these Tiahuanacans possessed a knowledge of magic, or were giants, I don't see how on earth they handled blocks of stone the size of these. Why, that one"—he indicated a stupendous cut and sculptured slab— "must be nearly forty feet long by six or seven feet in width and four feet thick. I don't know how many pounds this stone weighs to the cubic foot, but I'll wager that big block tips the scales at nearly two hundred tons."
"Not bad for a guess," I said. "That particular slab is thirty-seven, by seven and a half, by four feet three inches, and weighs about one hundred and eighty tons!"
"Whew!" Bob whistled. "And some of them are even bigger. But how could the place fall down of its own accord?"
"It didn't," I told him. "See here, notice these holes drilled in the edges of the stones and connected by deep T-shaped grooves. Originally these held metal keys or staples which locked the blocks together. But when the Spaniards arrived here, and found the stones keyed together with huge silver staples, they pried the metal loose, and with nothing to hold the stones in position the walls fell apart."
"There must have been an awful lot of silver," exclaimed the boy. "There are hundreds of these holes, and they're nearly two inches in diameter."
"Yes, and I haven't any doubt that there are many of them still buried under these ruins," I said.
"I'm going to hunt for them," he declared.
"Go to it, Bob," I laughed, "but there isn't any chance of finding one. This place has been searched by untold numbers of Spanish soldiers, achaeologists, Bolivian troops, curio seekers, tourists, Indians, and laborers on the railway; and as far as I know only two of the staples have ever been found during scores of years."
"Just the same I'm going to search, too," he declared. "Even if I don't find a silver staple I may find something among all these stones."
Bob's father had been minutely examining some of the fragments of beautifully cut stonework. "I'm beginning to understand something of the mystery surrounding this place," he said as I joined him.
"I've been studying these geometrical designs cut in the stone—especially these where the angles and planes are repeated, one within another, to a depth of eight or ten inches, the outer design a foot or more across and the innermost barely three inches in diameter. Do you know, I don't believe that any modern stone cutter, provided with steel tools, could possibly duplicate these. I have never seen anything to equal the regularity and precision with which they are cut, and this is darned hard stone, too."
"One of the hardest of rocks," I agreed. "But see here, if you examine this rectangular block you will discover that one end has been cut to fit into one of these deeply incised crosses. In other words, the stones were mortised together, but instead of using plain squared tenons and mortises the Tiahuanacans cut them in elaborate forms. That doesn't look as if they found it much of a task carving this arsenite rock, does it?"
"That's a fact!" he ejaculated. "And by the way, can you tell me anything about those curious seatlike forms cut in those stone platforms yonder?"
"Another puzzle that has not been solved," I said. "One theory is that they were thrones, or that thrones were placed in them, but I think it far more likely that they were designed to hold statues or idols. If we could be certain what purpose this immense structure served, we might be able to deduce the purpose of these so-called thrones. But as it is we cannot be sure whether it was a temple, a council hall, a palace or a sort of pantheon."
"It's a mystery to me why the city was built in this situation in the first place," he remarked, as we wandered about the ruins. "No water near, a barren, desert-like area—nothing that might reasonably lead to the erection of a great city."
"When the city was built conditions and surroundings were probably quite different," I said. "There is every reason to think that at that time the city was at the edge of Lake Titicaca, although thirteen miles from it now. Just to the north—where you see those stone blocks on the plain—there are the remains of what appears to have been docks or wharves, and there is abundant geological evidence to prove that the lake at one time covered most of this plain. It has even been claimed that, when built, Tiahuanaco was a sort of
"Hasn't anyone ever found a Tiahuanacan mummy, or anything to give an idea of what the people looked like, how they dressed and lived and so on?" he asked.
"Yes and no," I told him. "A number of skeletons have been found here, but it is doubtful if a single Tiahuanacan skull has been unearthed. In fact, there is evidence to show that the majority of the human remains are those of a much later race, while many are plainly Incan. But the Tiahuanacan pottery gives us a fairly good idea of the physical appearance of the people, their arts and industries and home life. Many of the vessels are of the effigy or portrait type and in every case these show the inhabitants of the city to have been very similar in features to the living Indians of the district. A very few show oblique eyes and flat faces of the Mongolian type, just as such types are seen today, but the majority have straight eyes, broad high foreheads, well-formed, slightly aquiline noses, and a calm, intelligent expression. Many of the heads are shown with tightly fitting caps with ear tabs, exactly like those worn by the present-day Indians, while the full-length figures show that the Tiahuanacans wore loose short trousers, loose tunics, ponchos, sandals, and ear-plugs; and many of the effigy jars might have been modeled from some of the living Indians. Yet it is inconceivable that the present-day Aimaras, even if trained and directed by the most expert masters, could produce stone work in any way comparable to this; and it is almost equally incredible that a race capable of such feats, and as highly civilized as they must have been, should have degenerated to the mental status of the living Indians. The—"
A shout from Bob interrupted my words. "Oh, come here, Doctor! Come here, Dad!" he yelled. "I've found something!"
We glanced about but could see no sign of the boy. "Where are you, Son?" his father shouted.
"Here, under the stone," came the reply.
"Under what stone?" I demanded. "And how did you get there?"
"I got in through a hole by the stone steps," the invisible boy informed us. "I've found something, but I don't know what 'tis; it's kind of dark in here."
Hurrying to the immense blocks of stone which formed the steps to the raised terrace, we searched about and discovered a small aperture among the stones.
"If this is your burrow, we can't get in," Mr. Sheldon cried, thrusting his head into the opening. "Bring out whatever you've found. Good heavens. Bob, you must have burrowed in there like a woodchuck."
"There's lots of room, once you're in here," came Bob's muffled voice. "I guess I can bring out some of the things I've found, but there's something here that's so heavy I can't move it."
A moment later, Bob's head appeared at the opening. "Guess I'd better pass these out first," he said. As he spoke he withdrew his head and thrust out a grimy hand grasping a corroded metal figure.
"You're about the luckiest youngster I've ever known," I exclaimed, as I examined the little idol.
"There arc only about a dozen of these silver figures known—that is, genuine ones," I told him. "There are thousands of counterfeits—every shop in
"Yes, here's something else," he replied, as he passed out another figure, this time a recumbent lionlike creature.
"The lion of
"Anything more in the way of treasure-trove?" his father asked.
"Only that thing I can't get out," the boy told him. "It's made of metal and is buried in the sand and it's big. If—"
"Can you fasten a rope to it?" I asked him.
"Why, yes, I think so," he declared. "It's a sort of hook or something, and I guess I could tie a rope round the part that sticks up. Feels to me like the handle of some sort of dish or kettle or something."
"All right, unless it's wedged under a block of stone I guess we can get it out," I said. "There's a rope in the car and I'll run over and get it. Then you can fasten one end to your find, and with all three of us hauling I think we'll wrench the object free."
In five minutes I was back with the rope, and a few moments later Bob wormed his way from the crevice between the stones and announced that the line was made fast. With our united strength we hauled and tugged, but nothing moved. "Now then, all together!" exclaimed Mr. Sheldon. "One, two, three!" Again we threw our weight upon the rope, and, so suddenly that we fell backward over one another, the rope gave. Picking ourselves up, a trifle shaken but unhurt, we hauled in the slack of the line.
"Something's on the end of it," I announced as we felt the drag of some heavy object, "whatever it is, we've got it."
"It must be pretty near the opening of the hole," grunted Bob's father when, for at least the tenth time, the unknown object caught on some stone or other obstacle and strenuous efforts were needed to dislodge it.
Hardly had he spoken when, with a metallic clink, Bob's find was dragged from the hole.
"Hurrah, it's one of those big staples!" shouted the excited and delighted boy.
I dropped to a seat on a sculptured column and mopped my forehead. "I'm beginning to wonder if we won't wake up and find this is all a dream," I said. "Every time Bob goes poking about he stumbles upon some amazing discovery or some equally amazing specimen. To have found either one of those silver images would have more than satisfied any archaeologist, yet you crawl underneath the stones and come out with two of the rarest specimens and one of these silver keys. I can't really believe it, but there are the things before my eyes. How you do it, my boy, is a greater mystery than anything about
Bob grinned. "Maybe there are lots more under there," he suggested. "Maybe, if archaeologists had crawled in there, they'd have found a lot more than I did."
"Yes, maybe," I agreed, "but more probably maybe not. If I were the least bit superstitious I'd think you possessed some uncanny supernatural power that told you just where to search. But I guess it's merely pure luck."
"Isn't it just possible that it is because Bob doesn't know where to search?" said Mr. Sheldon. "I mean, not being an archaeologist, he looks in spots which an archaeologist would consider hopeless. I'm not casting any reflections on you scientific chaps, but sometimes too great a technical knowledge of a subject leads one to erroneous conclusions, if you know what I mean. I once lost the chance of making millions by knowing too much." He chuckled at the memory. "That was in
" 'I'm not so sure of that,' he said, rubbing his chin reflectively. 'Just because it's close to town doesn't prove anything. Maybe everyone else has taken for granted it has been prospected by someone else, just as you do. Maybe I'll go over and have a look at it myself.'
"I laughed and rode off. For two months I prospected the Pecora district and never struck a thing worth staking out. But while I'd been away that tenderfoot had struck the richest thing in
I nodded. "I see your point," I told him. "Perhaps you're right. I admit I never would have dreamed of looking for specimens where Bob has found them."
"I'll bet there's treasure under here," the boy declared. "You said yourself, Doctor, that there must be a lot of those silver staples."
"If there are they'll have to remain there," I declared. "It's time to be on our way if we're to reach
"I see you got one like mine,” remarked Mr. Arkwright, the official who had charge of the motor-driven car which the company had placed at our service.
"Oh, have you got a silver staple, too?" cried Bob. "Where did you find yours?"
"I didn't find it," the official told him. "An Indian brought it to me—plowed it up in his field alongside the ruins. But when they were building the fill for the line here, and were breaking up stones from the ruins, they found two or three of the staples."
"And melted them down as bullion," I said. "The destruction wrought by the construction gangs was downright criminal. Absolutely priceless objects were broken up ruthlessly."
"Right you are," Mr. Arkwright agreed. "I wasn't here at that time, but I've heard the men tell how they used to dig out skulls, and pots and big jars—some of them full of human bones, they say—and used to stick them up and use them for targets for revolver practice. And Archibald—he was construction foreman on the job—told me that in one day they broke up and crushed ten of those big stone idols like the one over there."
"Why was such vandalism permitted?" Mr. Sheldon asked.
"Because no one—no one in authority, that is, cared a whoop for archaeological treasures or for antiquities," I told him. "But now the government has gone to the other extreme. No one is permitted to excavate at
As we had been talking, the little car had been trundling rapidly away from Tiahuanaco and was now speeding across the broad plains toward distant
"You'll see a strange sight when we reach the edge of the alto," Mr. Arkwright told Bob.
Bob looked puzzled. "What's the alto?" he asked, "and what is the strange sight I'll see?"
"This high plain is called the alto," Mr. Arkwright explained. "But I'm not telling you what you'll see, that would spoil the surprise, you know."
The boy's curiosity was thoroughly aroused, and as the car sped on across the desert-plain he craned his neck and peered ahead, anxious to see what strange sight was in store for him.
"Looks like snow," observed Mr. Arkwright, as at a tiny station we waited on a siding for a train to pass. "Been clouding up fast, and there's the feel of snow in the air. Shouldn't wonder if we run into a blizzard before we reach
A moment later, the passenger train from
"I guess you're right," I said. "There was snow on those cars. Well, Bob, it looks as if you would have another new experience, a desert snowstorm."
"Make that strange sight stranger still," chuckled Mr. Arkwright as we rumbled from the side track onto the main line, and resumed our journey.
"Golly, I didn't know it snowed down here," said Bob. "And it's summer time, too."
His father laughed. "Not here," he reminded the boy. "You forget you're south of the equator, Bob, and seasons are reversed."
Before we had gone five miles the first few big damp flakes came drifting down, and a few moments later we were in a blinding snowstorm, and huddled, shivering, in our heavy ponchos. Driven by the chill wind sweeping down from the ice-sheathed mountaintops, the flakes swirled and drifted, shutting out the surrounding plain, isolating us in a sea of white, and forcing us to slow down until we were barely crawling along.
"I—I do-don't call this mu-much fun," declared Bob, his teeth chattering.
"Have to take the rough with the smooth, you know," Mr. Arkwright chirruped. "And you won't have to shiver much longer. We're nearly there. In about ten minutes you'll see the sight I promised you."
Presently we swung around a sharp curve, a big windowless building loomed faintly through the snow, and we caught a momentary glimpse of an automobile.
"Here you are!" exclaimed Mr. Arkwright. "Look there. What do you think of that, my lad?"
An exclamation of amazement came from Bob as he gazed in the direction indicated. A few yards from the railway track the plain ended in a steep precipitous slope, and, peering from the window of the car, Bob looked down upon the bowl-like valley and the roof tops of
"That is a wonderful sight!" Bob exclaimed. "But how can it be so sunny and warm there when it's cold and there's a regular blizzard here?"
"Just a matter of altitude," I told him. "The result of a difference of four thousand feet between the alto and the valley."
"It's a most amazing effect," declared Mr. Sheldon. "I've read about it, but I never imagined what it actually is."
The car had now left the alto and was speeding down grade. The snow had been left behind, the sun was shining, vegetable gardens, hillside pastures, orange trees and hedges of oleanders flashed past. Indian women, fairly blazing with color, and men in gaudy ponchos gazed at us as we sped through clusters of adobe huts. We roared over bridges and culverts, spanning brawling streams, and whirled about sharp zigzag turns, every moment dropping deeper and deeper into the depths of the valley, within the ramparts of the mountains rising in tier after tier to mighty snow-clad Iliamani dominating all. At last, with a squealing of brakes, the car came to a stop at the railway company's offices in the suburbs.
"Here we are!" Mr. Arkwright announced. "Welcome to
Our two days' stay in
"I've traveled some in my time,” declared Mr. Sheldon, as we sat in the plaza and watched the colorful procession of men and women parading on their evening pasear. ''But I don't think I've ever seen anything to equal these Chola girls for striking get-up. And they're mighty pretty, too. But how do they manage to dress as they do? I imagine those clothes are pretty expensive."
I laughed. "You've no idea how costly they are," I told him. "It is not unusual for a high-class Chola girl to wear a costume worth several hundred dollars. Their jewelry alone—those big silver pins, their silver necklaces and bangles—may represent an outlay of two or three hundred, and a really fine shawl such as they wear costs another hundred, while a pair of those kid boots costs thirty or forty dollars. But don't think these high-class Cholas are poor. They are the smartest, keenest business people in
"I hadn't noticed it, I admit," he said. "But what determines the women's status—the amount of white or Indian blood?"
"Not entirely," I told him. "Although very few of those with a large percentage of Indian blood belong to the highest class of Cholas, there are many almost pure white Cholas who belong to the lower classes. It's largely a matter of money and occupation; and as only the more intelligent and ambitious make money and have businesses of their own, it resolves itself into a question of intelligence, business acumen and ambition. But the most interesting feature of the matter is the fact that the custom of wearing garments which mark a person's social status is of Incan origin. Under the Incas, the natives of each village and district, as well as the members of the various classes, were compelled to wear distinctive apparel, and as the most conspicuous portion of the costume of a poncho-draped person is the hat, the head gear was adopted as the identifying mark. Possibly you noticed, on the way to
Mr. Sheldon chuckled. "In other words—by their hats shall ye know them," he remarked. "Do you know," he added, "the more I see of these people, and the more I learn about the Incas, the more I'm convinced that the old Incas had a lot of good ideas that we might do well to follow. It seems to me that when it comes to law and order and industry and organization we're not much more than semi-civilized by comparison with the ancient Americans."
The street lights were still burning, and the silent, seemingly deserted city was shrouded in darkness when the sleepy-eyed porter of the hotel notified us that the automobile was waiting, and, stifling a prodigious yawn, shouldered the few light pieces of luggage we had prepared for our flight in search of the lost city. But above the surrounding walls of the deep valley the sky was pale with coming dawn, the snow-shroud on Iliamani glowed faintly pink, and by the time the laboring car had climbed the winding zigzag road to the alto the plain was bathed in sunlight.
"Gosh, this feels goodl" exclaimed Bob as, shedding the heavy robes and rubbing chilled hands, we luxuriated in the warm rays of the sun. "It's funny," he added, "that when we came here it was sunny and warm down there and cold and snowing up here, and now it's sunny and warm up here and cold down there."
His father laughed. "You forget that 'down there' and 'up here' are merely relative terms, Son," he reminded the boy. "When you were 'down there' as you express it, you were still over two miles 'up.' That means thin cold air except when the sun shines. And because the air is so rarefied, it warms up quickly, especially in a spot like
A moment later we were roaring through the air high above the vast level alto with the distant range of snow-capped peaks gleaming on the eastern horizon.
"Only way to travel, down here," I shouted in Mr. Sheldon's ear. "The last time I was up here it took me a week to travel the same distance we cover in an hour."
"I wouldn't have missed this for anything," declared Bob as we flew smoothly and evenly through the clear air with the glistening expanse of Lake Titicaca shimmering in the distance and the dull-brown plain, like a map, beneath us; with here and there a tiny village or a squat church in a little oasis of green, with the irrigation ditches like silver ribbons forming geometrical patterns across the sere desert, and with the stupendous rugged mountains, thrusting jagged black crags through vast glaciers and snow fields, ever looming nearer and higher as we sped onward.
"By Jove, that's a sight such as a man sees but once in a lifetime!" declared Mr. Sheldon, as we watched the awe-inspiring panorama of mountains unfold. "I'll take back what I said about their being less impressive at close range. Why, you could drop the whole of the Alps into one of those cañons and never know it; and if Mount Hood or
I grinned. "If there is such a place it won't be there," I said. "Can you imagine any sane race building a city in such a situation?"
"I can believe anything—almost," he replied. "After what I've seen, I'm beginning to think that the more impossible a thing appears the more probable it is. Hello! We're coming down."
"Stopping for breakfast," I told him. "I've an old friend here a strange character—and if anyone in the district has definite knowledge of our goal he will."
"What a funny looking place!" exclaimed Bob, as the plane bumped to a standstill and we clambered out.
Close to where we had landed was a vast rambling building enclosed within immensely high, thick walls of adobe and stone, pierced by tiny slit-like windows high up, and with a great arched entrance with huge, massive iron-studded doors sagging on corroded hinges. Already a small crowd of Indians of all ages had appeared as if by magic, and were gazing with fascinated and awed faces at the plane, discussing it in lowered voices, and staring at us as if we had been beings from another world.
"Bob," I said, "take a good look at this place. It's historic ground. At the present time it's a sort of trading post and wayside inn combined—the Fonda de Santa Mercedes de la Vega, but it was built as a fort and outpost by Almagro during the days of the conquest. Ah, here comes the proprietor, my friend, Don Alesandro Sebastian Luis Gonzales y Ybarra de
From the arched entrance, Don Alesandro had appeared, a queer looking figure. Short, bow-legged and paunchy, with gray stubble covering his wrinkled leather-like cheeks, with an enormous gray moustache and bushy, gray eyebrows, he was clad in patched and soiled trousers of heavy Indian woven woolen cloth, a faded cerise shirt, a tattered, long-tailed military coat that had once been blue, and a brown vicuna wool scarf wound like a stock about his neck. Upon his feet were rawhide sandals and a tightly fitting, ear-tabbed Indian cap was pulled over his unkempt gray hair. Hanging from a vivid crimson sash about his fat middle was an ancient basket-hilted rapier.
Drawing himself up stiffly, he bowed from the waist —a difficult feat which was accompanied by an audible grunt. "Welcome, caballeros.'" he exclaimed in perfect Castilian. "Though"—with a sly wink—"the term scarcely befits those who arrive, not astride horses, but within the body of a mechanical bird. Welcome to the Fonda de Santa Mercedes de la Vega. I, Don Alesandro Sebastian Luis Gonzales y Ybarra de
Then, suddenly casting off his pompous, dignified manner, he rushed—or rather waddled—forward, seized my hand, and, patting me on the back, exclaimed: "Ah, amigo mio! So it is thee, thee, the Señor Doctor; my compadre, my so-very-good friend. And with an Americano señor—a famous, a great, a wealthy compatriot, no? And with a so-fine a joven, so-fine a youth. Your son, Señor Doctor, no? Or perhaps the millionaire Americano señor's son! But, caramba, I forget myself, I forget my manners, the courtesies of this momentous occasion. I forget, in my great joy at again seeing you, that you weary, that you would eat and drink, that you would rest. Caramba, I am lacking in hospitality. Come within, amigos. Do me the honor to enter my miserable home. Partake of my poor food. I am desolated that I can offer so little. But—in this spot, in this remote desert—we are forced to live as we may, to subsist like savages. But"—clapping his hands he shouted: "Manuelita! Carmen! Maria! Busy yourselves, lazy ones. Prepare food and coffee for my three illustrious guests. And be quick about it!"
Bob had hard work to suppress a burst of merriment, and his father bit his lips to hide a grin, as the old Spaniard rattled on while he led the way into the patio of the ancient fortress-inn. To me it was all familiar, but to my companions it was all new, and they gazed about with interest. The big courtyard was littered with rubbish. Several pigs rooted and grunted in the mud between the broken paving stones, and ran squealing frantically when our host —without interrupting his steady flow of sonorous Spanish—stopped, and picking up a stick, shied it at the swine. A couple of burros, with long ears waving drowsily, dozed in the sun in one corner of the patio.
Near them several llamas reclined on a litter of wilted alfalfa and gazed at us superciliously as we picked our way across the courtyard toward a doorway of the living quarters. At one side were two ramshackle cubicles of adobe brick, roofed with poles and straw blackened with smoke, and within which frowsy Indian women were busy with pots and pans over smouldering fires of greasewood and yaretta.
"Behold!" exclaimed the old Don. "Behold how Carmen and Maria are preparing a repast for my distinguished guests! And while Manuelita—God bless the Little One—prepares the table, let us be seated, let us refresh ourselves and converse. And if it molests you not too greatly, tell me, I beseech you, the news of the world. Ah"—as an enormously fat Indian woman rolled rather than walked toward us—"here is Manuelita, the blessed Little One, now. Bring wine, my Little One."
By now we had passed through the door and found ourselves in a huge room with massive timbers and with walls covered with the faded, tattered remnants of what once had been beautiful hangings and tapestries. The Don waved a hand grandiloquently and invited us to be seated. Mr. Sheldon looked somewhat dubious as he gingerly lowered himself into a scarred and battered rocker of the "bow" type. I found a seat on an upturned packing box and the Don dragged a sweat-cracked saddle forward and perched himself upon it. Bob, too interested in a couple of ancient flintlock guns in a corner to sit down, was examining the rusted old weapons.
"Ah!" exclaimed Don Alesandro. "The guns, to be sure! Very old, señor, older than I, myself, Don Alesandro Sebastian Luis Gonzales y Ybarra de
"Don Alesandro has some most interesting relics," I told Bob. "He'll show them to you before we go." Then, turning to the old Spaniard, I asked him if he had ever heard of the reputed lost city back in the interior.
For a moment he was silent, his brows puckered as if striving to recollect something. "Si, señor" he announced at last. "Many years; all, so many years ago, when I, a young man, came to this accursed land, I heard strange tales. But— Poof! Perhaps they were but tales, these Indios are full of such. It was a tale, Señor Doctor, of a city they called Urkon. And, so the tale ran, when the great, the illustrious General, Francisco Pizarro, held the Inca prisoner, and Atahualpa ordered vast riches to be brought for his ransom, and when, having had word of the Inca's death, those who brought the treasures concealed the gold that it might not fall into Pizarro's hands—then, so the tale ran, those who carried the gold turned back and hid it within this city of Urkon. Ah, I had dreams then, señor! Dreams of making my way to that city and finding that vast treasure. But, caramba! When I came to ask more of the Indios, when I strove to learn where the city might be, none could say. Of a truth, no! Caramba, yes, they were afraid; upon the place was a curse; it was sacred. But this much did I learn. That the city lies on a mountain side; that none may enter it and live, for it is guarded by evil spirits and the Inca's curse; that it looks down upon a secret valley and"—he lowered his voice and glanced nervously about—"so the legend runs, those who took to Urkon the treasure of the Inca never returned. There they dwelt and there unto this day dwell their childrens' childrens' children. And there they are ruled by a woman who is of Incan blood. Si, señor, a woman red of hair, for, so the tale runs, thus the gods have set their seal upon all of Incan blood—the red hair, senor—that all Indios may recognize them. But what would you?" He shrugged. "It is but a tale, a fable. Surely the señor— Ah, but here is the wine. We will drink. We will drink a toast to the health of the most distinguished, the most illustrious, the most simpatico of señores Americanos."
A moment later the "Little One" rolled in and announced that breakfast was served, and the old Don, standing aside and bowing, waved us to the "dining room." It was a cell-like room within the massive walls, evidently intended originally as a storeroom for supplies or ammunition and with two slits high up near the ceiling. Piled about the walls, and obviously hastily put aside to accommodate us, were pack saddles, rawhide ropes, half-cured llama skins, empty oil tins, packing cases and sacks of corn and beans. In the center of the room, rough planks had been laid on upturned boxes, and covering the extemporized table was a much darned but immaculately clean cloth so elaborately embroidered and adorned with lace that I strongly suspected it had been filched from the altar of the little chapel that was included within the walls of the old fortress. With profuse apologies for the lack of chairs, Don Alesandro provided roughly made wooden benches and stools, and begged us to be seated. But despite the surroundings, and the fact that a brooding hen in one corner kept a baleful suspicious eye upon us as we ate, as if challenging us to disturb her, and a family of guinea pigs scampered about in a pen in another corner, we found the food excellent and the coffee all that could be desired.
The meal over, I suggested that the Don should show Bob his museo, and at mention of the word the old Spaniard fairly beamed.
"To be sure!" he exclaimed. "It is unique, colossal, unlike anything in the land. But of course"—he shrugged deprecatingly—"it is nothing, a most unworthy matter to the American señores who have seen such wonders in their own great land. But permit me; such as it is, it is an honor, a pleasure, to show to you."
Leading the way through a dark corridor, he opened a sagging door that gave onto a small courtyard, and pointed dramatically to the farther wall. Something between a gasp of astonishment and a burst of laughter came from Bob's lips, and no wonder. From top to bottom and from end to end the wall was covered with the wings, heads, feet and portions of the skins of birds, and the paws, hoofs, scalps, ears, tails, antlers and teeth of quadrupeds. The remains of herons and ibis, pelicans and ducks, Andean geese and grouse, doves and parrots, hawks and owls, brilliantly colored song birds and dingy black vultures decorated the wall side by side with deer antlers and hoofs, the jaws and tails of puma and jaguar, the moth-eaten skins of foxes and viscachas, a shriveled snake and dried toad, and the tails and fins of several fish.
"Golly, it must be good hunting here!" exclaimed Bob, his amusement at the astonishing collection of trophies forgotten.
"Of a truth, yes," declared Don Alesandro when I translated Bob's words. "Good hunting—of a truth, but"—with a wink and a grimace—"the killing is not so good. One may hunt long and kill little. Before you, señores, you see the proof of many years of hunting. But the young señor desires to see my greatest curio, no?"
Climbing a flight of rickety stairs, the Don led us to the top of the walls and to the ruins of what once had been an embrasure. There, still mounted on a cumberstone, rotting carriage, was an ancient bronze cannon with ornate breech and wide bell-mouth.
"Observe!" exclaimed the old Spaniard. "It is the cannon brought hither from
"Whew, but that's old!" exclaimed Bob, who had been examining the gun. "It's dated 1513."
"That's pretty young compared to the things you've been seeing," his father reminded him. "But I guess it establishes the Don's claim that it was brought here by Almagro."
"There's no doubt about that," I declared. "The two guns are mentioned in the old records. But come, we must be getting on." Then, turning to Don Alesandro, "For how much are we indebted to you for the breakfasts, señor?" I asked him.
He drew himself up proudly. "Señor Doctor," he announced. "There is no debt. Would an Ybarra de Cordoba accept gold for his hospitality? Never, señor! It has been my privilege, my honor, to have served the illustrious Americanos, and my heart is desolated that I have been forced to serve them so unworthily. No, Señor Doctor, my house and all within it is yours, always. I am your servant who kisses your hands, señor." Then, with a sly wink and bending forward, he whispered: "But Carmen and Maria and the Little One, Manuelita; if the Señor Doctor pleases, they have been put to some trouble; perhaps—"
"Of a truth, yes!" I replied as I slipped some silver coins into his hand. "For Maria and Carmen and the Little One, Don Alesandro."
"And, in their names, a thousand thanks, Señor Doctor!" he beamed, bowing low. "May you go with God, Señores and may you find the city of
"I'll warrant the women never see a cent of that money," chuckled Mr, Sheldon, as we climbed into the plane. "But he's certainly a weird and interesting character. A little touched, of course, and imagines himself a grandee."
"Weird and interesting, I admit," I said, "but not touched, as you express it. He's as keen and sharp and canny as anyone. And he doesn't imagine himself a grandee—he is one. He belongs to the Spanish nobility and has a perfect right to call himself the Marquis of Cordoba if he wishes. Did you notice the sword he wore when he first greeted us? That rapier has been handed down in his family for nearly four hundred years. It's the one thing he keeps in good condition—as clean and bright and keen as the day it was forged in Toledo—and it bears the Cordoba family crest on the blade in gold damascening."
"I'll bet he could tell some interesting yarns," declared Bob. "But how did he get here and how on earth does he manage to make a living?"
"He was forced to flee from
"By Jove, what a pity!" ejaculated Bob's father. "I mean, what a pity that such invaluable records should be lost or destroyed—as they must be some day when the old Don dies."
I smiled— "Why worry over that?" I asked. "As Don Alesandro observed: Quien sabe? It is enough to converse of the present, no?"
Far below us the Fonda de Santa Mercedes de la Vega looked like a toy building with tiny red ants marking the group of staring, wondering Indians. Leaning from the plane's window I waved a handkerchief.
"Adios, Don Alesandro!" I shouted. "May you go with God—always!"
"Do you really believe there is any truth in that old legend of the lost city, the hidden treasure and the red-headed queen?" Mr. Sheldon asked as we sped swiftly toward the towering mountains to the east.
"In the city, yes," I told him. "As for the treasure—well, it was hidden somewhere and it is as liable to be in one place as another. But I certainly do not believe in the red-haired queen story, nor do I have any faith in the legend of the city being inhabited by descendants of the Incas who still live as they did before the Spaniards came."
"Golly, if we could find that city we might find Atahualpa's treasure!" exclaimed Bob.
"What do you think the chances are—of finding the city?" his father inquired.
"About one in ten thousand," I answered. "I was in hopes that Don Alesandro might have learned something definite in regard to its general location. But he doesn't know anything more about it than I learned on my last expedition. If it is anywhere it will be in some remote valley among the ranges ahead. If we had a week or a month in which to search I should say our chances of locating it were good. But as it is, we will have but a few hours. To fly for long over the district would be most dangerous. Out here we can make a landing almost anywhere upon the alto, but among the mountains it would be impossible."
"Couldn't we fly out and land on the alto and stay there overnight and then search again the next day," Bob wanted to know.
I shook my head. "You forget there are no gasoline stations here," I reminded him. "If we should run out of fuel or anything should happen to disable the plane or the engine we would certainly be out of luck. A fifty-mile hike over the alto would be no joke, my boy."
"Then your idea is that if we do not spot the ruins or the city on one flight over the district we might as well give up the search," said Mr. Sheldon.
I smiled. "Not necessarily," I told him. "Even if we see nothing in the shape of ruins we can obtain a good idea of the country—the terrain—and if it appears passable for a fully equipped expedition I may decide to search for the city by way of the earth instead of by way of the air."
By now the mountains were only a few miles distant and their details were clear and distinct. Terrific chasms and dark abysmal cañons cut into their rugged bare heights. Pinnacles, turrets, spires, fang-shaped crags and a labyrinth of upflung rock masses reared themselves above the steep slopes of debris. Sheer precipices thousands of feet in height soared upward from purple-shadowed depths to where endless ridges and isolated peaks rose tier on tier to the feet of enormous blue-white glaciers and vast fields of dazzling white snow pierced by the needle-pointed topmost crags. No longer did the mountains appear a neutral gray-brown as from a distance. Everywhere was color. Dull ocher, sulphur yellow, deepest orange, dull green, jetty black, purple and blue, flaming red and white painted the strata with the oxides of countless minerals and ores.
"By Jove, what mountains!" ejaculated Mr. Sheldon as we gazed fascinated at the panorama unfolding before our speeding plane as it skirted the ramparts of the range while the pilot searched for some pass, some broad cañon or valley where he could safely guide the plane through the stupendous barrier. "I've seen mountains," he continued. "The Himalayas, the Rockies, the Atlas, the Alps—practically all the great mountain ranges of the world—but never anything to touch this. And"—with a chuckle—"it looks as if Nature had gone mad and had thrown all her paint pots at those rocks. Do you know, if I were a young man, you couldn't keep me from taking an expedition into these mountains. Not on a search for any lost cities, but on a search for unfound ores. Those colors tell the story. Those rocks fairly reek with mineralization—that glaring red spells lead-silver; the greens and blues, copper, the purple, manganese or tungsten —and I'll wager there's gold, too."
"Maybe that's where the old Incas got all their gold," suggested Bob.
"Not there," I assured him, "but not very far from here. On the farther side of these mountains are some very rich gold placers, and it would not be surprising if the lost city of Urkon—if there is such a city—owed its existence to the nearby gold-bearing streams. But—"
"There's a break ahead there,” shouted the pilot. "Shall I make a try for it, sir?"
I nodded, and the next moment the plane shot into a wide defile with the precipitous slopes shutting us in on either side. From the glaciers and snow fields far above us, countless tiny streams trickled down the mountain slopes or fell in silvery, scimiter-shaped cataracts from ledge to ledge, all joining to form a good-sized stream that flowed, white and tumbling, down the rock-strewn bottom of the mountain valley where patches of green showed beside the stream. Ahead the pass suddenly opened out and disclosed two narrower cañons leading to right and left. "Which one, sir?" the pilot shouted.
For an instant I hesitated, but one was as good as the other, and I indicated the right-hand pass. For perhaps five minutes we followed the cañon and then our hearts seemed to skip a beat as, swinging around an outjutting spur of the mountain side, a vast rock wall loomed dead ahead. Each second we expected to crash into that towering rampart; then the plane seemed to stand on end; we shot skyward like a rocket, and, before we realized that we were saved, the summit of the wall was passed and we were again on a level keel and flashing across a broad level plateau with the main ranges of the mountains behind us. Ahead rose rounded, eroded foothills with here and there a loftier peak, and beyond the plateau a broad valley lay, luxuriantly green with the silvery thread of a river winding through its center. A moment more and we were above the valley, a great bowl of emerald set in the heart of the mountains.
"There might be ruins here,” I remarked. Then, to the pilot: "Fly as low as you can safely and circle the valley."
Dropping to within a few hundred feet of the verdure, he swung to the left following the curve of the cliffs that enclosed the valley. Suddenly Bob grasped my arm.
"Oh, look!" he shouted excitedly. "There are some ruins!"
Half hidden amid the greenery was a rectangular mass of rocks, too regular and symmetrical to have been a natural formation.
"You're right, my boy!" I cried. "Those are ruins, but ruins of a small—" Speechless with amazement I stared with incredulous eyes at the section of the cliffs that had flashed into view.
"Jove!" ejaculated Mr. Sheldon as he followed the direction of my pointing finger. "What ruins!" cried Bob.
"The lost city!" I stammered, still doubting the evidence of my eyes. Then, as the onrushing plane carried us past the amazing sight, I fairly screamed at the pilot to turn back on his course. A moment later and we were again gazing incredulously at the astounding sight we had glimpsed. And astounding it was. Rising in tier after tier above the valley were massive walls, reaching upward, like a titanic stairway, to a vast cavernous recess in the cliff. From the surface of the valley a zigzagging pathway led between high walls with round stone towers placed at each angle, and with immensely heavy gates barring the way at every turn. But it was neither the stairs, the walls, the terraces nor the enormous size of the stone blocks used in their construction that held us spellbound while the plane circled back and forth above the ancient ruins. The floor of the cavern was as level and smooth as though laid in concrete, and deep within the recess, dimly visible in the shadows, was an enormous structure seeming to fill the entire interior.
"Do you see, do you realize the marvel of it?" I cried, gripping Mr. Sheldon's arm. "That cavern, that stupendous hollow, was cut, hewn from the living rock!"
"I believe you are right!" he exclaimed. "And— Hang it all, man, it isn't possible; but—" He was peering through the pilot's powerful binoculars; "that building in there—whatever it is—is not built of masonry. It's actually carved out of the mountain side!"
"Oh, can't we land and get to it?" cried Bob. "That valley looks nice and level and covered with short grass"
"Not a chance," I declared. "It looks smooth and as if covered with turf from here. But we are fully three hundred feet above it and looking down upon it. If you were to go down there you would find that what looks like grass is really brush and trees—a miniature jungle. But— Do you think you can land on top of the cliff—on the plateau?" I shouted to the pilot. He nodded. "Seemed all right, I'll have another look at it."
For a few moments we coursed back and forth above the plateau. Then, so abruptly that the silence seemed ominous, the roar of the engines and propellers ceased and the plane floated downward and with scarcely a jar came to rest on the level rocky plateau.
Hastily we scrambled out. "Hurrah, now we can explore the old city," cried Bob jubilantly.
"I'm not so sure of that," I said. "We may not be able to climb down those cliffs. I didn't see any spot where they are not precipitous." I turned to the pilot who was nonchalantly lighting a cigarette. "Did you spot any defile, any entrance to the valley?" I asked him.
"No, sir," he replied. "But I wasn't looking for any."
"But there must be some way of getting down there," argued Bob. "The people who built the city must have got there from somewhere else, and when they deserted it they must have gone out of the valley somehow."
"Excellent logic. Son," laughed his father. "I haven't a doubt that there is a way in—and out. But we're on top of a young mountain, and to hike over these rocks and hills for twenty miles or more to the end of the valley, and perhaps as far back on the other side, searching for a place to climb down, is more of a job than I want."
"Exactly," I agreed. "And there may not be any place where an ordinary human being can descend. I shall be surprised if there is. It seems to me that city was constructed here for the very reason that it is inaccessible except by some one opening in the surrounding cliffs, some narrow pass or cañon which could be easily barred if occasion arose."
"By Jupiter, you're right!" cried Mr. Sheldon, "and that explains that hollow in the cliff and that building deep within it. It is to prevent an enemy from attacking the place from above—from the cliff tops. Come on, let's see if we can't get near enough to examine the ruins, even if we can't reach them."
Keeping as close to the verge of the cliffs as possible without danger we walked towards a projecting portion of the palisades that commanded a view of the ancient city where, lying flat on our stomachs, we gazed at the amazing ruins. From so near at hand they were far more impressive and marvelous than when viewed from the plane. The walls, composed of enormous many-angled blocks of stone, had withstood the lapse of countless centuries and were almost as perfect as when first built, and to my joy and surprise I noted that in the uppermost tier the stones were evenly faced and covered with elaborate sculptures.
"Strange that those gates haven't gone to pieces," Mr. Sheldon remarked as we studied the ruined city. "I should have supposed that timber would have rotted away ages ago."
"I've been wondering about that, myself," I answered. "Either they are not wood or else—"
"You mean that the city is inhabited?" he exclaimed.
"Not now," I replied. "At least there are no indications of any living beings there. But it may have been occupied until comparatively recent times."
"Then perhaps the treasure is there!" cried Bob excitedly. "Oh, can't we get down there and search for it?"
"Just about as much chance of the treasure as of the red-headed queen," his father declared. "But"— addressing me—"did you ever see anything to equal that stupendous piece of rock cutting? Why, carving General Lee on a mountain side was childs' play compared to hewing out that great cavern and the fortress within it."
"Do you notice the way the builders arranged to secure a supply of water?" I asked him. "The leveled floor is crisscrossed with gutters, all leading from the outer edge, where rain might fall, to that immense hole or well almost invisible in the shadows."
"That's so, although I hadn't noticed it," he replied. "Why, man alive, an army, even if equipped with artillery, couldn't take that place."
"But we're just wasting time here instead of searching for some way to get down there," Bob complained. "There must be a way."
"I think you're right, my boy," I said, rising to my feet. "I've been studying the valley, and if I'm not mistaken there are traces of a paved road leading from the gateway of the city down the valley. That means that there is an entrance. But whether it is possible to reach it from up here is another matter. However, we might explore a little. There is enough food and water aboard the plane to supply us all for at least twenty-four hours, so if we have to spend the night here we'll be all right."
Retracing our steps, we followed the verge of the cliffs down the valley, stopping now and then and striving to locate the ancient road which showed here and there amid the rank growth of brush, weeds and trees.
"You see now how impossible it would be for a plane to land in here," I said to Bob. "Not a spot where there is turf or that is free from trees."
"Yes, sir, I see you were right," he agreed. "But— Oh, look, isn't that a stairway up the cliff?"
We stared in the direction he pointed. "Well, I'll be hanged if it doesn't look like it!" exclaimed his father.
"Either that or some sort of a ruin," I agreed. "But we'll soon find out."
Hurrying on, we soon reached the spot, and to our delight discovered that what Bob's keen eyes had seen was indeed a flight of stone steps leading from the valley to the summit of the plateau. Partially, the stairs had been carved from the solid rock itself, while in other places they were formed of blocks of stone resting on masonry supports cemented to the cliff-side or built up in pillars from the bottom of the valley. But they appeared to be in good shape and solid, although in a few places the stones sagged slightly.
"It's a bit risky, going down there," I announced. "But I think we'll be safe enough if we go one at a time and hug the cliff. I'll go first, and if I find any weak spot I'll shout a warning."
"Nice fix we'd be in if we got down and the old steps fell in and we couldn't get back," suggested Bob's father.
I grinned. "We might have to spend a few days here," I said, "but we could shout to the pilot of the plane and he could fly to the settlements or to Don Alesandro's and bring back some ropes," I reminded him. "Well, here I go!"
Proceeding cautiously, and picking my way, I slowly descended the stairway. Reaching the bottom, I shouted back that it was all right, and a few moments later all three of us stood in the valley.
"Those old chaps didn't intend to have enemies surprise them by coming down the stairs," observed Mr. Sheldon as we stared at the massively constructed building through which the exit led.
"No," I assented, "a few bowmen or men armed with slings stationed in this fort could pick off anyone coming down the stairs, and even if a number of men managed to survive and reached the bottom they would be compelled to capture the fort before they could reach the valley itself."
Passing through the cleverly designed defence constructed of great monolithic stones fully as large as those at Sacsahuaman, we entered the valley.
"It's not all plain sailing yet," remarked Mr. Sheldon. "If we had machetes we might cut our way through this jungle, but as it is I guess the only way is to follow the stream. It's shallow and we can wade easier than to push through the bush."
I nodded. "That's the only road for us."
Splashing through the shoal water we waded upstream, and had covered about half the distance to the ancient city when Mr. Sheldon suddenly stopped, stared fixedly into the water for an instant, and then, stooping quickly, thrust his arms up to the elbows into the stream. As he straightened up, with water and sand dripping from his cupped hands, he uttered a surprised exclamation.
"I expect you were right about the reason for the city being here," he said, with a chuckle as he splashed to where I stood. "And here's that reason," he added, as he extended his hand. Resting upon his palm were three irregular, brownish-yellow lumps.
"Gold nuggets!" I cried.
"Right you are!" he said. "And where nuggets the size of these are lying around loose for anyone to pick them up, you can bet your last dollar there's plenty of gold to be had for the sluicing. By Jove, why didn't I bring a pan along? This stream must be a regular bonanza."
"Whew!" whistled Bob as he examined the nuggets. "Gosh, Dad, you have struck it rich, as you say. Now aren't you glad we came here?"
His father chuckled. "Son," he said, "twenty five years ago I'd have whooped like an Indian at a war dance if I'd found these. But now—well, with all the money any man can need or use, legitimately, I've lost— No, by Jupiter, I haven't! It'll be good fun, financing a company to come up here and work this valley. I'll tell you what, Doc, I'll turn in all the profits to pay for your expeditions—to carry on a thorough exploration of this old city. How does that strike you?"
I grinned. "Couldn't put it to a better use," I declared. "But it appears to me that before we begin spending the money it would be wise to make certain that the gold is here."
"I'm sure of that," he said. "If I had a pan and a shovel I could prove it soon enough. But without them I—"
"Hurrah, I've found another nugget!" yelled Bob who had been pawing about in the bed of the stream. "So you have!" exclaimed his father as the boy exhibited his prize.
"Three nuggets, or four, don't make a paying mine," I reminded them. "And if you ask me, I'd say that the fact that this city is here would be a decidedly strong argument against any large amount of gold being here. Whoever the people were, there were a lot of them, and I cannot conceive of their dwelling for ages here without discovering that there was gold in this stream. And if they did discover it you may be sure they worked it thoroughly."
"There's a heap of sense in that," Mr. Sheldon admitted.
"But how did these nuggets get here, then?" Bob wanted to know.
"Might have been overlooked, or dropped, or maybe washed out of the bank or some pocket," his father replied. "I guess I got a touch of the old gold fever for a minute. I'm afraid the doctor's right. Still—"
"Let me see those nuggets a moment," I said, interrupting his words. Rubbing the lumps of gold in the water and washing away their coating of mud and iron oxide I examined them with my pocket lens. "I thought so," I announced. "The solution of their presence occurred to me when Bob asked how they could be here if the inhabitants of the city had worked this stream. Here, take a squint at them through the lens."
"By the Lord Harry, they're pierced!" exclaimed Mr. Sheldon as he focused the lens on the dull-yellow lumps. "Every one has a hole through it. Beads! That's what they are—gold beads."
"And if you look carefully you can detect traces of engraving or carving upon them. They've been knocking about among the stones and pebbles in the stream for centuries and have become pretty well worn. Some prehistoric young lady, or possibly a man, lost her or his necklace here once upon a time. Very possibly the string broke and the owner recovered most of the beads, or on the other hand, the stream may have changed its course and cut through a burying ground or mound, just as had taken place at Manabi in Ecuador where those microscopic gold beads in the New York museum were found."
Bob sighed. "Then I guess Dad's mine's a dud," he observed. "But maybe the treasure is up there in the city just the same. If these people had gold beads they must have had other things made of gold."
A few rods beyond the spot where Mr. Sheldon had found the gold beads, a section of the old paved road led from the bank of the stream, and as it appeared fairly free from brush and afforded a far easier footpath than the bed of the stream, which had become rough, uneven and full of slippery round stones, we decided to follow it. Here and there good-sized trees had sprouted from the crevices between the stones, in many places it was overgrown with weeds and thorny bushes, but it offered no serious obstacles to our progress, and presently we came within sight of the ruins straight ahead. A moment later we came to a massive stone wall extending completely across the valley. Once it had effectually barred the way, for no human being could have scaled its forty-foot, smooth face; and half a dozen armed men, protected by the ramparts on the summit, could have held the one narrow gateway against an army. But there was no gate blocking the entrance and as we passed through I halted and gazed transfixed at the lintel above my head. Deeply cut into the broad stone were the same mysterious characters we had found on the ruins where we had found the stone chest.
"So there they are again!" exclaimed Mr. Sheldon. "By Jove, old man, I'll bet they say: 'Welcome to our City!”
I laughed. "Might as well let it go at that," I said. "But it proves one thing. This city is old—perhaps even older than
"Maybe you'll find that key that'll solve all the mysteries!" cried Bob.
I smiled at his optimism. "Maybe we will, my boy," I said, "and," I added, "I'd rather find that than Atahualpa's treasure."
Beyond the great protective wall we were in the midst of the ruins. Here, standing amid them, the inroads of time and the elements were obvious, and structures which had appeared intact from the summit of the plateau proved to be in a sad state of disrepair. But many were still solid and entire, and I gazed about with fascinated, marveling eyes at the wealth of carving, sculptured façades and traces of colored fresco work that were everywhere in evidence.
But all this, all these wonders of the hitherto unknown and lost city, paled to insignificance by comparison with what we saw ahead: the stupendous fortress with walls, battlements and ramparts cut from the solid living rock, and which completely filled the enormous niche cut into the mountainside.
"What a piece of engineering!" cried Mr. Sheldon. "But why on earth did they devote such an incalculable amount of time and labor to protecting and fortifying this place?"
"I know!" Bob fairly yelled. "It was because that treasure was hidden here."
"Maybe you're right," I told him. "But if it was— and is still here, you'd have some search to find it. I'll wager that the cliff is honeycombed with rooms and passageways. All of these old buildings and walls are full of passages and chambers, and for all anyone knows there may be secret subterranean vaults. The treasure—if here—might be concealed anywhere. To make certain it is or is not here it would be necessary to raze the city, dynamite the fort and tear up the valley with steam shovels."
Bob's face fell. "Well, maybe we might be lucky enough to find it," he persisted.
"You were right about these gates," Mr. Sheldon announced as we reached the opening in a second great wall. "See, the wood is still in good shape."
"Not over four or five hundred years old at any rate," I stated as I examined it. "No question but the city was inhabited at the time of the conquest. And— here's proof—that wall has been repaired by Incan masonry work."
"Then I'll bet the treasure is here," Bob cried. "I'll bet they brought it here just as Don Alesandro said, and put in these new gates and things at that time."
I smiled. "I don't doubt that Incas did come here at the time of the conquest," I said, "but they may have used it merely as a safe refuge from the Spaniards, just as Manko retired to Macchu Picchu."
Just beyond this point a steep pathway zigzagged upward, scarcely more than a groove cut in the solid rock, and at each abrupt turn guarded by a sentry-tower-like fort and a gate barely wide enough to permit one man to pass at a time. Climbing up the path, that was partly blocked by fallen masonry which made progress both slow and difficult, we at last reached the great stone platform beneath the overhanging curtain of the mountain side fully sixty feet above our heads.
"What a view!" cried Mr. Sheldon as we stopped to regain our breaths and gazed out across the valley with the endless ranges rising to the snow-clad summits of the lofty mountains twenty miles away.
"And what a fortress!" I exclaimed as I gazed at the marvel of rock cutting beside us.
"Let's hunt for the treasure," suggested the boy. "It's getting late and it's a long way back to the plane."
"You've a lot of common sense, Son," chuckled his father. "I don't mean about hunting for treasure— you've got treasure on the brain in my opinion—but about it's getting late."
"Yes, we'll have to start back very soon," I said, "but I must look about first."
"I suppose you'll be coming back here with a properly equipped expedition," said Mr. Sheldon as we rose, and, circling about the fort, sought for an entrance or opening.
"I most assuredly shall," I declared. "Just as soon as I get back to
"Looks as if we'd have to get scaling ladders and climb those walls," said Bob's father as we came to the blank wall of rock without finding a door anywhere.
"Rather, we'll have to explore the city below and find a subterranean passageway, I expect," I answered. "At Chavin—I'm sorry we won't have a chance to go there if I am to return here before the rainy season sets in— At Chavin, as I was about to say, there is a somewhat similar fort—although constructed of blocks of stone—which can be entered only by means of a tunnel. From what I have seen I feel sure that Chavin and this city were built by the same race."
"Like as not, for all I know," he said. "But we haven't any time to go poking around in the ruins today. It will be dark before we get out of the valley if we don't start right away."
"That's a darned shame," growled Bob. "Here we come and find the place and don't have time to hunt for anything. Even if the treasure is right here in this fort we can't get it."
"If you saw it there you'd be more disappointed than you are now," said his father. "You couldn't take it with you. Just imagine how you'd feel if you found that gold chain, or the gold statues of the Incas or a big gold sun, and had to go off and leave them here."
"Well, if we knew the treasure was here we could come back and get it," he argued as we started down the pathway.
"I'll come back, never fear, Bob." I told him. "And perhaps—who knows—you may have a chance to come with me. I'm beginning to think you're a real mascot, you know. And if the treasure is here—"
Bob stumbled, and with a sharp cry plunged forward, to bring up against the wall of one of the little towers. He had saved himself from falling by clutching at the edge of a narrow slit-like opening, and was staring fixedly into it.
"Are you hurt, Son?" queried his rather anxiously.
"Not a bit," the boy assured him, "but— Oh, look here! There are a lot of funny looking pots in here."
I dashed to his side and peered into the sentry box.
"Bob, my boy, that settles it!" I exclaimed. "You are a mascot, and you're coming back with me. You can't even stub your toe and fall without stumbling onto some discovery."
"What have you two found?" demanded Mr. Sheldon who came hurrying back to where we stood.
"I haven't found anything," I told him. "But Bob's good luck is still with him. He's found half a dozen of the finest specimens of ancient pre-Incan black pottery I've ever seen."
Carefully carrying the precious vessels, we moved cautiously down the slope, stopping to peer into every sentry box and ruined building we passed. But no other finds rewarded us, and at last we passed through the outer walls and into the valley.
The sun was sinking when we finally reached the plane, but the pilot assured us he could reach Aichekafíhe before dark by flying high. A moment later we were off, rising like a giant bird above the valley, with the silent ancient city already darkened by the shadow of the overhanging mountainside.
For a long time Bob gazed back until the valley was lost to sight among the ranges.
"Still thinking about Atahualpa's treasure, Son?" his father asked with a smile.
"Yes, and I'll bet it is there," the boy declared.
I laughed. "If it is, and anyone finds it, I'll wager it will be you, Bob," I told him. "Come to think of it, pretty nearly everything worth while that we've found on this trip has been found by you."
Mr. Sheldon winked at me. "What will you do with all those millions—when you get them, Son?" he asked Bob.
Bob grinned. "Buy out your gold mine in the valley," he said.
- ► 2014 (52)
- ► 2013 (41)
- ► 2012 (88)
- ► 2011 (104)
- ► 2010 (43)
- ▼ 2009 (40)
- ► 2008 (48)
- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.