Skip to comments.Machete-Wielding Team Discover Inca Fastness Lost For Four Centuries
Posted on 06/05/2002 5:26:53 PM PDT by blam
Machete-wielding team discover Inca fastness lost for four centuries
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
One of the last Inca strongholds against the conquering Spanish has been uncovered in cloud-forest by a British and American expedition investigating a rumour of lost ruins, the Royal Geographical Society will announce today.
Called Cota Coca, after the coca grown there, the site is more than 6,000ft up in a valley near the junction of the Yanama and Blanco rivers in Vilcabamba, one of the least understood and most significant areas in the history of the Incas, rulers of the last great empire in the Americas.
The Spanish went there in search of gold, plundering the region and waging war against the Inca. Their leader, Manco Inca, led a rebellion in 1536 that nearly overthrew the Spanish before he and his followers fled to Vilcabamba.
At Cota Coca, which provided a strategic link between the interior and the coast, they fought a guerrilla campaign and defied the invaders for almost four decades.
Valley walls cut off the riverside plateau that holds a settlement of almost 40 structures, including a 75ft-long kallanka (meeting hall) grouped around a major plaza, low walls that might have supported wooden-sided houses, a huaca (small shrine) and walled enclosures.
The layout appears functional rather than ceremonial: the inner part is thought to have provided lodgings for high status visitors to the exiled Inca court, and the outlying parts may have housed bureaucrats and imported workers.
The discovery of Cota Coca comes just months after the National Geographic announced another "lost city", consisting of scattered settlements. However, the constructed area of this new site is more than twice as big and far better preserved, though it has yet to be excavated.
John Hemming, author of The Conquest of The Incas and the Director of the Royal Geographical Society from 1975 to 1996, said: "This is an important discovery because it is a sizeable centre of good quality late-Inca masonry."
Gary Ziegler, an American archaeologist, and Hugh Thomson, a British writer and explorer, led a team of specialists, field helpers, eight mule handlers, 16 mules and seven horses into the Peruvian Vilcabamba beyond Machu Picchu.
Acting on a rumour from a previous trip, they made the difficult journey into some of the most remote territory in this part of the Andes, where the mountains slope down towards the Amazon cloud-forest.
"We did not know what we would find. It could have been a 20-year-old corrugated shack," said Mr Thomson.
Instead, what emerged was a substantial and completely unknown site, covered by dense forestation.
"It was an amazing feeling to cut our way through the cloud-forest to suddenly see this site," said Mr Thomson.
The team used machetes to clear the many stone buildings arranged around a central plaza, so that they could be mapped and studied.
The isolated location has kept the Inca site at Cota Coca concealed for hundreds of years. Erosion by the Yanama river over the centuries since the time of the Incas has created a steep river canyon, which is impassable along the valley bottom; the only way the team could reach it was to descend from the mountain above, cutting a trail down though the dense cloud-forest with their machetes.
"It is some of the most difficult terrain anywhere in the world," said Mr Thomson.
The site is on an isolated bench or mesa just over a mile long, an eroded remnant left after the Rio Yanama river cut a chasm near its intersection with the Rio Blanco. The valley bottom is hot and semi-tropical, with a micro-climate environment.
Before the erosion of the valley walls, it appears that there may have been an Inca road along the river linking the settlement with another of the great Inca cities, Choquequirao. It is likely that the Incas would have used the site in their period of retreat from the Spanish after the Conquest of Peru in 1532, when they were hiding in the mountains until their capitulation in 1572.
"There are no records of the Spanish ever having found this site," said Mr Thomson.
He added: "It's only once in a lifetime that one's likely to be present at the discovery of a genuine new Inca site - with so much of the world discovered and mapped, it's reassuring to feel that there are still places we don't know about.
"The physical geography of South-east Peru is so wild that it is possible that there are even more ruins waiting to be found."
It is unlikely that the site was visited or known of following the fall of the last Inca emperor, Tupac Amaru, in 1572.
However, one early explorer, the Comte de Sartiges, passed nearby in order to reach Choquequirao in 1834. He refers in his writing to the lower Yanama Valley "being known as Cotacoca", although he did not find the ruins.
He commented at the time that he thought it "unlikely anyone could have inhabited this narrow valley because of the numerous and voracious mosquitoes that have taken possession of it. It was impossible to breathe, drink or eat without absorbing quantities of these insufferable creatures".
It is unlikely that any of the early visitors to Choquequirao found Cota Coca. Although the sites are only a few miles apart, they are across a deep canyon whose connecting Inca routes have long been lost and severed. The new site of Cota Coca has never been documented, reported or known to the outside world until the current investigation.
Mr Ziegler and Mr Thomson are planning to return to the Vilcabamba area next year to look for further ruins.
Score: Spanish, 1; Incas, 0.
Well, it's worse than that. Essentially everyone I've known from South or Central America has a Spanish surname...
All the Proud Aztecas, Incas and other Indiginous Peoples are named Arovola, Consteneda, Gonzalez, Gonsolvez, Reyes, Rodriguez, and on and on...
But the Incas had some nice pottery ... And their ruins make great tourist attractions.
I think if you talked to the Moche they might have a few choice words about the sweet kind Inca. Of course, the Moche were not the kind of people you would want for neighbors either.
Still a new city is neat. It has probably been stripped already but you never know what you might find.
Actually, I saw a video in a Native American (?) Art class once that included clips of Aztec ceremonies. I don't know how they re-created them since they condemned the Spanish (and the Catholic Church) for destroying all written records... They were pretty graphic with the genital piercing, slicing, bloodletting, sacrifices, etc.
It just strikes me as funny when someone named Gonzalez is the big MEChA de Tejaztlan man, or Santos is the ¡INMORTAL RAZA INCA! cheerleader
See something new every day, I suppose...
That was the Aztecs, not the Incas. The Incas were peaceful and civilized.
If not for one particular surviving scrap, they barely would have been able to trace the origins of the term "Inca".
Once upon a time
they sang the vodee-o do.
But that was long ago.
Then they started in
to boop boop adoop.
They got tired of that, you know.
But the tune for you and me
is that swingin symphony --
Ink a dink a dink a dinkadink a dinkadoo
Since they weren't European, they had to be pure and unsullied, the very essence of the Noble Primitive. They were Eloi, rent asunder by the horrible European Morlocks.
Of course, the record shows a disturbingly different reality, but today's PC revisionists will "correct" it, ne'er you fret.
These people were savages, period. And their "civlizations" were exterminated or absorbed, in a never-ending Circle of Life.
I wonder how many million
civilized Americans will be
eating their God this Sunday?
How many will be tearing the hearts from their victims so that their blood runs down the gutters in rivers? How many will be burning virgins alive so that the Sun God will make the maize grow tall? How many will be making whoopee cushions from slave bladders, or garden hoses from the descending colons of their prisoners?
Bzzzzzzzt! Moral equivalency argument overruled.
Aw, it's probably just gas. Lie down till the feeling passes.
I feel very sorry for you.
Save your pity for the victims. Unless your compassion moves you to send me money ...
No, no. Transubstantiation says it is
real flesh and real blood. Ask any
Catholic. (As if symbolically
weren't amply revolting.)
The Eucharist celebrates the Resurrection, the body of Christ broken on the cross as redemption for the sins of Man. What exactly did the blood of thousands celebrate in Machu Pichu? And in any case, the Christians didn't slaughter Christ so they could eat his flesh and drink his blood. The Romans took care of the slaughter, and the Christians recall Christ's sacrifice by continuing to partake of its redemptive power. They don't kill a new victim every week to keep the parish wine bill down.
Not much comparison there, I'm afraid.
Theophage vs cannibalism. Who are
you to throw stones?
Go to any Catholic mass. Observe carefully when the priest raises the Eucharist. Note that you do NOT see thousands of torn bodies. Even if you choose to believe in transubstantiation, the body being consumed was given willingly, and for the sake of redemption.
Contrast this with the savages who captured prisoners then led them to the top of their pyramids where their chests were hacked open with obsidian hatchets and their blood drained into scuppers. The resultant lakes of human gore were a propitiation to the Sun God.
In Christianity, God sacrificed Himself to redeem Man's sins. In these murderous cults, Man sacrifices himself to appease God.
Now is that difference really so hard to understand? Any resemblance is purely superficial. And there is no body to dispose of when Mass is over.
Who am I to throw stones? There are no Olmecs around today to throw them at ME.
I SMELL REPERATIONS!
I suppose the main difference would be that the village maiden actually is butchered. No-one dies at Mass.
I realize these distinctions are all so very subtle.
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I don't know about the surnames. Over four centuries of Catholicism and over two of Spanish rule did leave a mark, so it's not surprising that Spanish names are common.
But close to half the population of Peru today is Indian and over a third is mestizo, or mixed European and Indian.
The upper classes still tend to be Spanish or European in ancestry. Those of European or Mestizo background are more apt to travel outside the country, but the Indian presence is very strong.
You know you're not in Europe or North America or Argentina in Peru. And the descendants of the Incas and other native peoples are very aware of that as well.
The Indians are still there and the Spanish crown no longer rules over them. Western civilization is there as well, but you find Western science and ideas wherever people live in modern cities.
In a way, the natives did win in the end, though it's no comfort to Atahualpa or Tupac Amaru.