Monday, 25 November 2013

They Found Gold -Chs 11 and 12







THEY FOUND GOLD
The Story of SUCCESSFUL TREASURE HUNTS
By A HYATT VERRILL


Chapter XI.
DREDGING THE TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN HIND. 150
How the depression led to a fortune.

Chapter XII.
DIGGING TREASURES FROM ANCIENT GRAVES. 160
Millions from tombs. The author's royal mummy. The tale of a golden hoard.

This chapter relates some of the author’s exploits in Panama and Peru

CHAPTER XI

Dredging the Treasure of The GOLDEN HIND

THE name of Sir Francis Drake is familiar to every one, and every school child has read in histories of the famous British sea-fighter and his deeds, such as the destruction of the Invincible Armada, and how he insisted upon finishing a game of bowls as the Spanish fleet sailed up the Channel; how he harassed the Spaniards in the New World, and sailing through the Straits of Magellan explored and mapped the Pacific and the islands of the South Seas and was the first to enter the Golden Gate and explore the coasts of California. But comparatively few persons know of red-bearded Sir Francis Drake's exploits as a pirate, or are aware of the fact that "El Draco," as the Spaniards called him, accumulated an enormous amount of loot, such a vast amount in fact, that his famous Golden Hind could not carry it all in safety and Drake was forced to throw a good-sized fortune into the sea.
History holds few characters as fascinatingly adventurous, daring and romantic as Sir Francis Drake, and regardless of whether he was a privateer, as the British claimed, or a pirate as the Spaniards considered him, his exploits went far to break the power of Spain and to establish British Dominion in the New World. A marvelous seaman and navigator, as fiery and tempestuous by nature as his ruddy hair and beard would indicate, absolutely fearless, and a born fighter through and through, Drake and his men "synged ye bearde of ye Kynge of Spaine," with right good will and complete success, and in the doing of it proved himself as great a treasure gatherer as he was a fighter.
On the Isthmus of Panama he and his men held up a mule train of bullion, as well as the retinue of the Treasurer of Peru with all the family fortune and jewels, and secured thirty tons of silver, in addition to a large amount of gold and jewels. But, unfortunately for the British, the Spaniards rallied; a large force from Panama was dispatched to attack the raiders and recover the booty, and Drake and his men were compelled to beat a hasty retreat after hurriedly burying fully half of their loot, most of which was dug up by the Spaniards.
Even fifteen tons of silver, not counting a large quantity of gold and jewels, was quite a haul, amounting as it did in Drake's time to nearly half a million dollars, yet it was nothing compared to the treasures which Sir Francis took from the Spaniards a few years later.
Sailing from England with the avowed purpose of seeking a northwest passage around America, and mapping the Pacific islands and the coast of North America, Drake in the Golden Hind circumnavigated the world, and as a side line to his explorations made fame and fortune for himself and others by robbing the Dons of the greatest single treasure ever taken by any one ship, either privateer or pirate.
Sailing leisurely up the west coast of South America, Drake quite casually attacked and looted one Spanish town after another. It was really a simple matter, for the Spaniards never dreamed of "El Draco" being in the Pacific and were too amazed and terrified when he suddenly appeared off their shores to offer any great resistance.
The sack of Coquimbo yielded many tons of silver; several Spanish galleons were taken and their cargoes of precious metals were transferred to the hold of the Golden Hind, and Drake decided to have a try at Callao, the port of Lima, and the richest town in all Spanish America. It was a lucky day for Drake, for swinging at anchors in the harbor was a fleet of plate ships. No sooner did the Spaniards recognize the Golden Hind than they scrambled into their boats and pulled frantically for shore, leaving Sir Francis to help himself to the treasures in the deserted ships.
Picking and choosing while the terrified Dons looked on helplessly from the shore, El Draco transferred the rich cargoes of the vessels to the Golden Hind; and a worth-while booty it proved. There were tons of silver bars, hundreds of golden ingots, boxes of specie and chests of plate, gems and pearls, linens and velvets, silks, wines, and a vast store of powder and ball. By the time the entire treasure had been loaded onto the Golden Hind she was low in the water, but Drake was not yet satisfied. From a captured Spaniard he learned that the Cacafuego, carrying the most valuable of all the plate ships' cargoes, had sailed for Panama two days before his arrival, and hastily cutting the cables of the vessels he had robbed, and setting them adrift, he clapped on sail and started in chase of the treasure ship.
To any one but Drake that long stern chase would have seemed a hopeless undertaking; but Sir Francis knew no such word as fail, and day after day the heavily laden Golden Hind sped northward. And as from time to time small coasting craft were overhauled, and by threat of death or worse the British forced their skippers to give information of the Cacafuego, they knew that they were steadily gaining on her. At last one day, just as the sun rose over the crests of the distant Andean peaks, Sir Francis's brother, John, aloft at the masthead, sighted the Spanish ship and won El Draco's golden chain as a reward for having first sighted the Cacajuego.
At six o'clock that morning the two ships were within cannon range, and as the guns of the Golden Hind thundered the Spaniards' mizzenmast came crashing to the deck with all the tangled rigging.
Not a shot was fired in return, not the least resistance was offered by the Spaniards who, no doubt, felt that to sacrifice their lives to protect the King's riches was a tactless thing to do and would avail nothing in the end as Drake was certain to take the ship anyway. Moreover, the captain of the plate ship had never imagined danger near, his guns were lashed fast and not even loaded, and long before they could have been charged and manned the British would have swarmed aboard like fiends from hell and would have spared none.
Drake had expected to find the Cacajuego carrying a rich cargo; but even he was amazed to find what a stupendous treasure was within her hold and strong-room. There were tons of precious metals; eighty pounds of gold dust, thirteen cases of royal plate, nearly forty tons of silver bullion, three hundred bars of silver and forty-four chests of vessels, Incan images and other objects of gold and silver, In addition to innumerable jewels, the whole amounting to the stupendous value of more than a million and a half dollars.
No doubt the Spaniards were sick at heart as they watched this enormous treasure being transferred from the crippled ship to the Golden Hind. But despite their chagrin and their hard luck the Spanish captain still possessed a keen sense of humor. When at length the transfer of the cargo had been completed, and Drake magnanimously released the Spanish crew and their officers and gave them permission to continue on their voyage, the navigator, Nufio de Silva, grinned. "Your Excellency," he remarked, addressing Sir Francis, "I see now that my ship was improperly named. Rather than the Cacajuego (Spitfire) she should have been christened the Cacaplata (Spit silver)."
Although by now the Golden Hind was so low in the water that the seas broke over her midships decks, yet Drake must needs have another fling at collecting treasure, and being conveniently near the town of Guatulco he paid a visit to the port, gathered in a few hundred pounds of currency and a goodly quantity of jewelry and golden ornaments from the citizens, and sailed away for the Island of Cano.
Here he landed his immense treasure, and careened, cleaned and refitted the Golden Hind, work which was badly needed before the vessel was in fit condition to proceed on her interrupted voyage around the world.
Perhaps Drake felt that this was as good an opportunity as any to divide the vast loot he had taken, or possibly the men insisted upon seeing their shares doled out and thus learning how rich they had become. At all events, Sir Francis apportioned the currency, using a wash bowl as a measure, and giving each member of his ship's company sixteen bowls-full of coins; and as he could not well hand over silver bars and golden ingots, or the tons of gold for the men to carry in their pockets or pack in their sea-chests, he made a list of all the loot, and duly credited each man with his proper share.
Probably no other ship ever sailed the seas with such a wealthy crew, for every man-jack aboard the Golden Hind possessed a fortune. In fact they were altogether too rich, the treasure aboard the ship being far too weighty a cargo for the vessel to carry safely on the long voyage ahead. A portion of it had to be left behind, and although it would have been a simple matter to have buried the excess booty upon the island, the men had become so drunk with riches that money meant nothing to them, and with a glorious disregard for treasure they hoisted forty-five tons of silver and plate from the hold and dumped it into the sea, bellowing with delight and shouting ribald oaths as they watched the shining metal gleam in the clear water as it sank to the bottom of the little bay.
Then off they sailed for home by the longest way around, arriving safely in England in September, 1580.
No doubt, within a few months, the sailors were as poor as ever and were thinking most regretfully of the tons of treasure lying on the bottom of the ocean at far off Cano Island. But as far as they were concerned it might as well have been on the moon.
Even in those days a man could not throw away forty-five tons of precious metal without causing comment, and word of Drake's exploit was spread far and wide, until mariners on every sea had heard of it and Cano Island was rechristened the Island of Plate, as it has remained ever since.
But it was not until a century had passed that any one thought of trying to recover any of El Draco's jettisoned treasure. It happened that Captain Davis in the Bachelor's Delight, was cruising in the vicinity, and it Being Christmas Day, the famous buccaneer decided to celebrate the holiday by dropping in at the Island of Plate and letting his men skylark and enjoy themselves ashore, hunting the wild goats and gathering coconuts. But a heavy swell was running, the small boats could not land, and in lieu of shore leave the crew spent the day fishing for the submerged bullion by means of tallowed leads. Naturally this crude hit-or-miss method of salvaging treasure did not yield very large returns, but it must have been quite thrilling and exciting to drop a line over the ship's side and haul it in with a silver piece of eight or a golden doubloon sticking to the tallow on the lead. Altogether, some fifteen hundred coins were thus salvaged before the Bachelor's Delight hove up anchor and sailed away on more profitable business.
As far as known no one ever attempted to recover the fortune in bullion that still rested on the bottom of the sea during the three centuries that followed. Every treasure-seeking enthusiast was familiar with the presence of the treasure and its history, but somehow a mere forty-five tons of silver, worth considerably over half a million dollars even at the depreciated value of the metal, did not appeal as strongly to the imagination as sunken treasure galleons or buried chests of gold. Yet the chances in favor of recovering the Plate Island treasure were a thousand times greater than the chances of finding buried hoards or salvaging wrecked plate ships. In fact as a salvaging job it was very simple. The exact spot where Drake had jettisoned his superfluous riches was known. It had been confirmed by Davis and his jolly buccaneers who had fished up some of the coins. The water was comparatively shoal, and the bottom hard sand, and, as one of my divers expressed it: "a guy could scoop it up with a garden rake," once it was located.
Yet for some reason or another no treasure hunting expedition sailed for the Island of Plate. Cocos Island, the legendary treasures of Old Panama, long lost ships in the Caribbean, mythical hoards in the Bahamas and elsewhere held their lure, and the jettisoned bullion of the Golden Hind was passed by.
And then, when the world-wide depression sharpened men's wits and caused them to rack their brains for means of garnering every stray dollar, the owner of a rattletrap little towboat thought of Drake's treasure reposing on the bottom of the ocean, and only awaiting some one to fish it up. He was an Englishman, but had lived long in Spanish America and had made a fairly good living lightering and towing in various ports on the west coast of South America. But his finances were at a low ebb, he had no money available for the purchase of diving gear and equipment, and he had no experience in salvaging. But he was a resourceful chap, and with odds and ends of junk and the aid of his engineer, a crude sort of dredge was contrived and off he sailed for the Island of Plate.
We can imagine with what suppressed excitement and expectation the owner and crew of the little towboat peered over the side as the winches wheezed and rattled and the dripping cable came reeling in and the clumsy makeshift dredge broke the surface of the water.
Swinging it inboard, the men dumped the load of sand, shells and writhing sea-worms upon the decks, and the next instant wild shouts, hurrahs and hysterical laughter startled the dozing sea birds on the island's shores. Embedded in the sand, blackened with age and salt water or green with verdigris, were scores, hundreds, of metal disks; roughly octagonal heavy slugs, irregularly round pieces-of-eight, with here and there a golden doubloon or onza, brown and discolored, but gleaming dull yellow when the patina of centuries was scraped away.
And as the excited men pawed over the mass of sand and muck from the bottom of the sea they disclosed more and more old coins, with an ingot or two of silver and a couple of wrought silver candlesticks.
Again and again the home-made dredge was dragged along the ocean's floor, and each time it brought up silver and bullion, coins and objects of precious metal, until eighteen tons of treasure had been salvaged.
Then, as the steam winch strained and panted and the sheaves squealed and the cable came protesting in, something went wrong. Perchance the dredge caught on one of the heavy silver bars which Sir Francis had cast overboard centuries earlier, perhaps it fouled a rock or a portion of some ancient forgotten wreck. At all events, the cable tautened and strained, the winch groaned and slowed down, and then, with a report like a pistol, the cable parted.
The glorious fishing was at an end. Without the dredge no more of the treasure could be salvaged, and, as all knew, by the time they could reach port and purchase a proper dredge and equipment and return to the island, the officials would have heard of their haul and would have a gunboat on hand to take possession of any further treasure that might be salvaged.
It was a bitter disappointment to be forced to steam away leaving over twenty-five tons of bullion still on the bottom of the sea. Yet no one complained, for after all it is seldom indeed that a towboat crew earns nearly two hundred thousand dollars for a few days' work!

CHAPTER XII
Digging Treasures from Ancient Graves

ALTHOUGH the conquering Spaniards secured enormous amounts of gold, silver and precious stones by looting the temples and palaces of the Aztecs, the Mayas, the Chibchas and the Incas, and obtained millions by their treacherous seizure and murder of Atahualpa, yet they actually walked over and erected buildings above far greater treasures than they won by fire and sword and unspeakable cruelties.
Rich as were the living inhabitants of Peru, to whom, however, gold had no intrinsic value, far greater riches had been interred with their dead through countless centuries. As is customary with many races, the Incas and their predecessors, the pre-Incan people, interred a person's most cherished possessions, his regalia and ornaments, his ceremonial objects and his insignia with his body, for they believed in a bodily resurrection and that when the dead rose from their graves they would desire all their earthly possessions. No one can say with any degree of certainty how many thousands of years have passed since the earliest of pre-Incan civilizations existed in Peru. But everywhere, throughout the Andes, on the high plateaus or "punas," in the trans-Andean valleys, on the coastal deserts and the foothills are countless tombs, burial mounds, graves and cemeteries containing incalculable millions in precious metals.
That Peru and the adjacent territories were densely inhabited in pre-Columbian days is proved by the vast numbers of burials of every period or era, and in many places there are layers or strata of graves thirty to fifty feet deep. There are pantheons covering hundreds of acres, large areas of deserts where tens of thousands of bodies were buried, and huge mounds, some several miles in length, over one hundred feet in height and several hundred yards in width which are composed entirely of little cubicles of adobe bricks, each containing a dried and desiccated body or mummy in its burial wrappings. Of course a very large proportion of these ancient mummies are those of the peasantry, the farmers, artisans, fisherfolk, laborers and porters who owned little or no objects of gold or silver, no valuable gems, and whose garments were coarse, plain and poor. But princes and priests, nobles and kings, governors and generals—even the Incans themselves, were mortal and died and were buried in the same cemeteries and mounds as the common people. And in the graves and tombs of these elect are marvelous objects wrought in gold and silver, with here and there a huge emerald, a blazing sapphire, a roughly-cut diamond or a string of priceless pearls.
No one can even guess at the extent of these ancient buried treasures. For hundreds of years the huacas* as the graves and mounds are called, have been a source of revenue to the huaqueros or grave robbers, and millions of dollars' worth of treasures have been taken from them. Yet the huaqueros have made but little visible impression, and for every grave that has been rifled, hundreds remain untouched.

* In colloquial Spanish any object, such as pottery, vessels, weapons, ornaments, etc., other than textiles, gold and silver and human remains, is called a HUACO. Hence the graves or mounds are HUACAS, literally the Mothers of huacos, and men who dig for huacos are Huaqueros.

Unfortunately, the grave robbers work secretly and do not broadcast details of their "finds," for theirs is an illegal profession, and in the old days the Crown demanded a quinta or fifth of all valuables found; and as a result, priceless works of art and museum specimens have been destroyed or disposed of as bullion. As there are no records of how much treasure has been taken from the burial places in recent years it would be hopeless even to guess at the total value. But in the days of the Viceroys it was a different matter, and in the musty old records and documents we may find entries of the quintas paid to the Crown by the more honest huaqueros, and in this way we know what amazing fortunes have been obtained from some graves. Thus the one-time Treasurer of Trujillo, Don Miguel Feyjoo de Sosa, in his VERDAD HISTORIA DE TRUJILLO, records the amounts paid into the Royal Treasury as the King's quinta or fifth of treasures found in the burial places of Chan-Chan, the ancient ruined capital of the Chimu civilization. Don Miguel says: "In the Royal Account Books it is recorded that Garcia Gutierrez de Toledo, paid, as His Majesty's fifths, on various occasions during the year 1576, fifty-eight thousand five hundred and twenty-seven castellanos in gold from one Huaca not a league from the city dose to the road that leads to Guanchaco (Salavery). And in the year 1592, he paid Quintas amounting to twenty-seven thousand and twenty castellanos in gold on various figures of fishes, animals, etc. that were taken from the same spot (now known as the Huaca de Toledo). And it is popularly reported, and common knowledge, that what was taken was much in excess of that for which the quintas were paid. In the year 1550, the Cacique of Maniciche, Don Antonio Chayuac, who had been baptized a Christian, and was a legitimate descendant of the Chimu king, told the Spaniards of a Huaca near the ruined palace called Regulo, on the condition they would give him a portion of any treasures found, in order that he might use it to alleviate the lot of the aborigines. The sum he received for the treasure was twenty-five thousand pesos, the whole amount being forty-two thousand one hundred and eighty-seven pesos."
As the gold castellano was equal to about five dollars in our currency, lucky Don Garcia must have found treasure amounting to at least $1,213,175 during the year 1576, and $675,550 in 1592, while the treasure disclosed by the heir to the Chimu throne netted the finders the goodly sum of $210,935. And, as the historian observed, we may be quite certain that the finders did not report all that they obtained. When we remember that the above records were for but three years out of centuries, and that only a small portion of the graves about Chan Chan have been excavated, we can obtain some idea of the vast treasures that the burial places in this one vicinity must contain. Ever since the Conquest there have been traditions of two vast treasures buried in the Chan Chan mounds; one known as the Peje grande or big fish, the other as the Peje chico or little fish, and as SeƱor Gutierrez hit upon the latter we may imagine the stupendous value of the still undiscovered "big fish" treasure.
These and many other treasures buried in the deserts and the mountains of Peru were overlooked by the conquerors, which is fortunate for modern scientists and museums, for the present day huaqueros have learned that gold, silver and precious gems are not the only contents of the graves which have a market value. A very large portion of the wonderful pottery and textiles, the ceremonial objects and weapons, as well as the gold and silver ornaments and utensils in the great museums, or owned by private collectors, have been obtained from the huaqueros. In their search for treasure in the graves, these men annually excavate many hundreds of burials, often without finding a single mummy with anything of intrinsic value. But a large percentage have beautiful textiles, rare or lovely pottery, bronze or wooden weapons, feather ornaments, cloaks or head-dresses; tools and implements, or necklets and bracelets of shells, stone beads or carved mother-of-pearl, all of which are readily sold to the curio shops in Lima and to collectors and museums. But as bootlegging huacos is somewhat risky, even if a very remunerative business, many thousands of scientifically valuable specimens are cast aside and left to the mercy of the elements. At practically every mound and in every ancient cemetery in Peru one may see hundreds, thousands, of skulls and dismembered skeletons littering the earth, many with the desiccated skin and flesh still adhering to the bones, and with the hair still attached to the skulls, while everywhere are the fragments of textiles, the broken pottery, the sandals and garments, the mummy-wrappings, slings, pouches and other objects taken from the mummies and cast away by the huaqueros in their search for gold and silver. Even in and about Lima it is not unusual to see a modern residence with scattered skulls, scalps, mummy-wrappings and bones within a few feet of the front door, and in cultivating their gardens the residents are as likely to dig up skulls as stones. I doubt if there is another country on earth where the inhabitants dwell happily and contentedly in the midst of countless dead. But no one gives the matter a passing thought, and the people do not appear to regard bodies and bones of men and women a thousand or more years old in the same way as they would regard the cadavers of persons who have died and been buried recently.
Roughly, I should say that not one grave in a thousand contains any precious metal. When, a few years ago, the Avenida Progreso, which connects Lima with Callao, was built, it cut through an immense mound, and for months after the highway was completed the roadsides were littered with human skulls, human bones, mummy-wrappings, broken pottery, wooden implements and other artifacts ruthlessly torn from the tombs and dumped aside by the steam shovels. Fully a thousand of the tombs or cubicles, built of adobe bricks, were thus destroyed, yet in all the work and among all the ancient mummy bundles unearthed, only one or two small objects of gold and silver were found.
Even the most expert and experienced huaquero, or the most learned archaeologist, is at a complete loss when it comes to knowing beforehand where a worth-while mummy is to be found. It is all a matter of chance or luck, for the graves of the nobility and the priests are outwardly indistinguishable from those of the husbandmen and fisher-folk; but in certain areas and among certain cultural strata, richly adorned and valuable mummies are more numerous than in others. Thus, in the Lima Valley district, it is rare indeed to find a body with anything of value buried with it, whereas at Nasca, and more particularly at Parakas, nearly every body is wrapped in wonderful robes and cloaks of marvelous textiles and feathers, and is surrounded with beautiful pottery and often with numerous objects of precious metals. On San Lorenzo Island, silver utensils, vessels and ornaments are found in more than half of the graves, while richest of all in gold objects are the graves of the Chimus and Chavins in northern Peru.
Still it is all a gamble when it comes to digging treasures from these ancient graves. And because it is a gamble it is fascinating, exciting work, even when one is searching for archaeological treasures and gold and silver are of secondary consideration. As an illustration of how much of a gamble it is, take my own experiences in Panama. I had discovered the remains of an unknown prehistoric civilization and for over a year I had excavated the site of the long-forgotten temple.
Dozens of graves had been opened, hundreds of sculptured stone altars and monuments and thousands of specimens of pottery had been secured, and over ten acres of the area had been dug and examined foot by foot, yet the only gold I had found was on the tips of a beautifully-made nose-ring of bloodstone. Then, when the funds for the work had been exhausted and the museum abandoned the site, another institution despatched an expedition to carry on excavations where I had left off. And almost the first grave they opened with many more thereafter, was literally filled with golden objects! Never, probably, in the whole history of archaeological excavations in America, have such rich burials been found. There were golden breast-plates, arm-bands, leg-guards, shields, helmets and images; beads and ornaments of gold, carved bones covered with gold; gold wrought into endless forms and designs. The spot was a veritable treasure house, and I had missed it by a few hundred feet! Had I continued with my work for another week I would have found those wonderful graves so replete with golden objects. But such is luck, Fate or whatever you choose to call it. Neither should I complain, for on another occasion Lady Luck played into my hands in much the same manner.
For nearly five years I had been digging and delving in the prehistoric ruins and cities of Peru that were old before the first Pharaoh was born. I had mined mummies in the desert sands, had burrowed deeply into burial mounds and had opened the strange bottle-shaped graves on rock-strewn punas. I had been more fortunate than most. I had secured feather robes and head-dresses from long dead Moujik chieftains, truly marvelous ceramics from the mummy-bundles of the Nascan graves, wonderful portrait jars from the cell-like niches of the Chimu burial mounds; copper, bronze and silver ornaments, with here and there a bit of gold—in fact nearly every object known to or used by the Incan and pre-Incan races.
But never had I disinterred a mummy rich in gold and silver objects, and never had I found the mummy of a royal Inca. By that I do not mean the mummy of an Incan emperor, one of the true "Incas" or rulers, but the body of a person of royal blood a noble, prince or general, a priest or the governor of a province; and for that matter I never expected to find one. Still, somewhere, buried in some tomb or grave or mound, there must be mummies of Incan nobility even the mummies of the supreme reigning emperors themselves. And as the Incan nobility, and practically all officials, were members of the royal family and were most gloriously adorned and arrayed in the finest products of Incan looms, and decked with insignia and ornaments of precious metals, one of their mummies would have been an archaeological treasure-trove. No one, however, had ever found one—unless some huaquero had brought one to light and had stripped the mummy and said nothing, and there was little really first-hand information as to just how the Incan nobles were attired, the old Spanish chroniclers having disagreed lamentably on such matters. Why no one had ever found a royal mummy was a mystery. But the fact remained, and it would have been a hopeless undertaking to have dug all or even a small portion of the Incan graves in the faint hopes of finding a noble's body—one of the "golden ears" as the Spaniards called them, because of the gold shells or ear-coverings worn by them. This custom, I might add, had a most curious origin. One of the sons of the Inca, Pacha-Kutik, lost an ear in battle, and to conceal the mutilation he wore shell-shaped gold coverings over his ears. In order that he might not be conspicuous, and to commemorate his bravery, the Incan princes all followed his example and wore the huancos which in time became the recognized insignia of the royal family. But as I said above, I never dreamed that I would be so supremely fortunate as to find a mummy with the golden ears. And then Lady Luck stepped in and played her little joke.
Hyatt Verrill's Find
I had ceased field work and I was packing up my collections preparatory to shipping them to New York, when a friend arrived from Cuba. He was fascinated with the specimens and was most anxious to be present when a mummy was disinterred and unwrapped, and to please him I offered to dig up a mummy or two for his especial benefit. Near at hand, all about Lima and its suburbs, were numerous mounds. Many, I might almost say all, had been dug into more or less, yet so universally worthless were their contents that the huaqueros had long since abandoned all hopes of finding treasure in these burial places. However, my friend wished merely to help disinter a deceased member of the Incan race; one mound was as good as another for all contained mummies, and for his satisfaction the dried and shriveled body of a farmer, wrapped in the cheapest and coarsest of textiles, would answer all requirements. So for convenience I selected a small, obscure mound actually within the city limits. It was barely ten feet in height and not over fifty feet in diameter, and the few torn fragments of textiles and scattered bones, disinterred in years past, indicated that it was the burial place of the humblest caste of husbandmen.
Selecting a spot which looked promising and had not been disturbed, we set to work with picks and shovels. Dust flew in clouds, under the blazing sun perspiration ran in streams, and our nostrils, mouths and eyes were filled with the pulverized detritus of dead bodies, bones, earth, decayed textiles and the other ingredients of the mound. But presently a human skull was unearthed. There was no sign of a mummy or even a wrapping, and it was obvious that the cranium had fallen from some body that had been buried near the surface and had weathered away during the course of centuries. Then, a few inches deeper down, we came upon a layer of leaves and reeds sure indications of a burial beneath.
Carefully this was removed, revealing a few fragments of animals' skeletons, some bits of cloth and two or three pottery jars. Then two more skulls—one a woman's, the other an infant's and a few bones. I was, as the children say in Hunt the Thimble, "getting warm." Somewhere below this stratum of leaves and trash was a mummy; but whether that of a man or a woman, a farmer or a person of high station, was impossible to guess.
To proceed farther with pick and shovel would have been to court disaster, so on hands and knees I commenced digging carefully with a trowel. Presently I came upon a small, tightly-wrapped bundle containing the mummified body of a little Incan dog. The next instant my trowel struck wood, and carefully scraping away the sand and dirt, I discovered four upright wooden stakes with carved tops, that were lashed together with fiber ropes to form a quadrangle packed tightly with fine dry fibers.
My interest was now thoroughly aroused. No ordinary peasant would have been buried so carefully and elaborately, I knew, yet never had I found a burial of the same sort, and with the utmost care I lifted out the fiber. A cry of delight and amazement escaped my lips. Beneath the fiber were brilliant yellow and scarlet feathers, and very cautiously and gently I lifted a gorgeous crown from its resting place on the mass of hair that covered the skull beneath. It was a regal head-dress and in a perfect state of preservation. But even greater surprises were in store. Beside one of the upright posts was a carved and painted wooden shield; beside another a bronze-headed spear, while a magnificent bronze battle-ax with staff intact was beside a third post. Little by little I removed the masses of fiber that filled the grave, until at last the mummy could be seen—a shapeless bundle wrapped in heavy striped cloth.
But it scarcely could be called a mummy. Practically no skin or dried flesh adhered to the bones, and despite every care the skeleton dropped apart when the bundle was lifted from the grave. But the wrappings were intact and as I commenced unwrapping the bundle I hardly could believe my own eyes. Never had I seen such a mummy! There were textiles of the rarest and finest weaves and patterns; ornate pouches, bundles of quipos, woven sashes and belts. And as each strip of cloth or each garment was removed, more and finer objects were disclosed. There were implements of bronze and of wood, charms or amulets, a carved wooden scepter or staff, tipped and ornamented with gold, and about the bony wrists were wide golden bands with raised figures of birds and the sun god. Below the knees were golden bands or garters from which hung little silver jinglers tipped with scarlet feathers, and upon the skeleton's chest were three gold disks each embossed with the tiger-faced, bearded god or Wira Kocha. At the front of the headdress of golden-yellow feathers, attached to a gorgeous llantu or head-band, was the golden symbol of the rainbow, the royal Incan standard, topped by a pompom of scarlet and black feathers, with a little gold sun hanging over the forehead—the symbol of the borla or fringe worn only by the royal Incas. All or any of these objects and insignia would have proved the mummy that of a noble or a prince, but, best of all, there were the gold huancos that in life had covered the ears of the deceased. Their presence left no doubt of my astounding luck. I had actually unearthed the mummy of an Inca! And I had found him in a small insignificant mound which I had passed by scores of times and had not thought worth the digging.
To a professional huaquero, perhaps, my royal mummy would not have proved a great treasure, for like most Incan gold work, his ornaments were of thin beaten metal worth probably not more than a few hundred dollars as bullion. But scientifically speaking, he was a real treasure-trove and of far greater value archaeologically than dozens of ingots or bars of solid gold.
Yet in some ways my gold-decked mummy was not so remarkable a find as the magnificent gold jars, carafes, plumes, pins and head ornaments on exhibition in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Several years ago a Peruvian visited the museum and offered for sale a collection of ancient gold objects, which, according to his story, were unique and not only of great intrinsic value but of the greatest archaeological interest. As the exportation of antiquities from Peru was prohibited, and as the government claims all gold taken from the graves, the Peruvian naturally was somewhat secretive and loath to divulge the manner in which the alleged collection had come into his possession. But finding that the museum authorities were not at all interested unless they learned the origin and history of the objects, he at last told them his story which, it must be confessed, sounded like some wild fictional tale.
Among the army of natives employed upon his hacienda there had been an old Indian who for many years had been a trusted retainer and was regarded more like a member of the family than a servant. And when the aged aborigine had been dying he had told his employer of a golden treasure in the distant hills and had given him minute directions as to how to find it.
The planter and his sons were not, however, in need of riches, they were far too wealthy to bother over hidden Inca treasures and, moreover, they felt that in all probability the old Indian had been wandering in his mind and that the treasure, if ever it had existed, had long since been found. So they paid no heed to the fellow's tale and forgot all about it.
Then, several years later, their fortunes took a sudden change. A new political party had arisen, rebellion had broken out, a new executive occupied the presidential chair in the ancient Pizarro Palace in Lima, and, almost overnight, the wealthy planter and his sons found themselves stripped of lands and almost penniless. It was then that they recalled the dying henchman's story and decided to search for the hoard of ancient gold whose hiding place he had revealed.
According to the Peruvian's story, the spot was a bare sandy hillside and there, protruding from the surface or half-covered with sand were golden jars, and vessels, plumes and gorgets of gold. But even with the gold in their possession the three were scarcely better off than before. They could not dispose of it in Peru. If it became known that they had it the government would seize it, and their only hope of profiting by their find was to smuggle their treasure out of the country and sell it to some museum or scientific institution, for they realized that its archaeological value would be four or five times as great as its value for bullion.
The amount asked for the collection was, however, far in excess of its real value, and the tale seemed much too romantic and far-fetched to be true, so the curator made a fair offer for the specimens on the condition that a representative of the museum should return to Peru and accompany the treasure finder to the spot and verify his story.
Arriving at the locality where the Peruvian claimed the golden objects had been obtained, the scientist found a bare sandy hillside, with here and there little piles of charcoal, but no signs of a former settlement, village, or even traces of burials. But as the party spread out and walked slowly along, one of the men discovered the edge of a gold plate protruding from the soil, and within a short time half a dozen golden objects had been picked up. Why the treasure should have been in such an unusual location was a puzzle. No one could offer a plausible theory to fit the case, and the matter remained an unsolved mystery. But several years later, while examining old documents in the archives of Peru I came upon an entry which, I am convinced, explained the presence of the Chimus' golden vessels. At the time when Pizarro and his men were ravishing the coastwise districts of Peru, a party of Spaniards looted a Chimu temple of its golden ceremonial objects, and while returning to the coast were attacked by a large party of the infuriated Indians. Realizing that hampered with their loot they could not escape, the Dons buried the treasure on a wooded hillside. But only a few of the raiders survived, and I could find no record of any having returned to disinter the golden vessels they had hidden.
No doubt, years later, the trees upon the hill were burned leaving the piles of charcoal marking their stumps, and the surface of the earth, thus exposed to sun and wind, drifted away to reveal the buried gold. And as the locality where the little party of Spaniards concealed their booty agreed with that where the old Indian's tale revealed the hoard, I feel that there is little doubt that the golden vessels and ornaments in the New York museum are those filched from the Chimu temple centuries ago, and which were hastily buried by the Spaniards in a vain attempt to save their lives.

No comments:

Blog Archive

Countries we have visited

About Me

My photo

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.