During the 1970s, Marina and I took a three-month voyage to Latin America. Our travels brought us to Peru, and in particular to Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. Upon arriving, we started our journey by resting in the airport for a few hours to acclimate to the altitude. We then made our way to the hotel, the only decent one around at the time. The director was waiting for us. He was a young man, quite tall, and clearly not Peruvian. He introduced himself as “Schliemann”. I thought I misheard him, and asked him to repeat his name. “Schliemann”, he said once more, with a smile. Anticipating my next question, he confirmed that he was the grandson of the great Schliemann, the most celebrated archeologist of the 19th century, a true giant of archeology, responsible for discovering Troy and its treasure, Mycenae, and Tiryns. He was close to my grandfather, King George I of Greece. Of course, we spoke at great length. He talked to me about his grandfather, as well as his own adventures that had brought him so far from home, to this prized location for archeology.
Our conversation then turned to the Incas. The young Schliemann told me a story about the Grand Inca of Cusco, who had fresh oysters waiting for him at breakfast daily, even though Cusco was hundreds of miles from the sea. The oysters were brought straight from the sea by couriers who ran the entire distance.
We also spoke of the treasure of Cajamarca. The Spanish conqueror Pizarro had locked the last Grand Inca, Atahualpa, in one of the rooms of the palace, and told him he would only be freed after he filled the room with gold. From his prison, the Grand Inca sent out instructions. Caravans left from all corners of the country, making their way towards Cajamarca carrying mountains of gold. When the gold in the room piled nearly three feet high, Pizarro, on an incomprehensible whim, strangled Atahaulpa. With the Grand Inca dead, the gold that was on its way to Cajamarca disappeared overnight. There was no sign of the caravans, nor what they were transporting. Where did they go? Where did they put the gold? Nobody knows.
“But the most interesting part,” Schliemann added, “is that the sacred city of the Incas has yet to be found.”
“How do you mean?” I asked. “We are here, in Cusco.”
“Cusco was the administrative and political capital of the empire, but there was a sacred city. The accounts describe a city of marvels, including a life-sized statue of a god in gold. That city has never been found.”
Where is this city? Lost in the inaccessible mountainside, or the impenetrable jungles of the East? In any case, an unimaginable richness and wealth remains somewhere hidden in Peru.