Conquering South America's western edge, the Incas ruled three distintic geographic  regions that Spanish soldier-chronicler Pedro Cieza de León termed uninhabitable : rainless coastal deserts, mountain ranges towering more than  22,000 feet, and steamy rain forests. On slopes rising four vertical miles, climates in the empires varied from tropical to polar. In scattered areas on this slopes, at both high and low elevation, the Incas terraced and irrigated the land and produced abundant food for the twelve million or more subjects.  A 10,000-mile network of roads, some as  wide as  24 feet, knitted together the Incas' domain.  Paralel trunk lines-connected by lateral roads tracing  river valleys-followed coast and highlands.  Four main highways entered Cuzco, the heart of the empire.

GOLD, to the Incas, was "the sweat of the sun," and   SILVER " the tears of the moon."

Their love for precious metals was esthetic, for neither Incas nor their subjects needed to buy anything.  Twelvw million or more worshipful people rendered abundant tribute to the Incas and paid their taxes in work: a billion man-hours a year to build temples, fortresses, agricultural terraces, and roads- all for the grandeur of the realm.

" The riches that were gathered in  the city of Cuzco alone, as capital and court of the Empire, were amazing and incredible," a priest penned more than four centuries ago, " for  therein were many big gold houses and enormous palaces  of dead kings with all the inmaginable treasure  that each amased in life; and he who began to reign did not touch the state and wealth of his predecessor but... built a new palace and acquired for himself silver and gold and all the rest...."

  Cuzco  became the richest city in the New World. Chiefs and governors , made presents to the Inca, when they visited his court and when he went to their lands, while touring his kingdom. This wealth grew daily, for provinces were many   and  others were continually being brought to obedience.

  It was prohibited to remove silver and gold from Cuzco. " Nor was it spent, in things that are consumed with use,"  but for idols, goblets, and ornaments for the temples, the king, and great nobles.  As money did not exist, rulers paid their retainers  in clothing and food. Author William H. Prescott's  account of imperial splendor ,persuad us, that life among the Incas - even to taking a bath -  was the epitome of pleasure.

   The Incas, "loved to retreat, and solace themselves with the society of their favorite concubines, wandering amidst groves and airy gardens, that shed around their soft, intoxicating odors and lulled the senses to voluptuous repose.  Here, too, they loved to indulge in the luxury of their baths, replenished by streams of crystal water which were conducted through subterraneous silver channels into basins of gold."

GOLD: fiery metal esteemed by the Incas for its beauty and sought by the Spaniards for its worth. Exciting the greed of conquistadors, it brought an empire to ruin. To Incas, gold was "the sweat of the sun ," and it reflected the glory of their Sun God who, they believed, had entrusted them with its safekeeping. Gold took on value only when crafted into ceremonial articles - vessels, jewelry, figurines - or adornments for tombs and temples,. By law, all gold and silver of the realm belonged to the emperor, who used it to bedeck his palace,beautify temples, and reward loyalty. Most gold - in the form of nuggets and flakes - came from mountain rivers; Incas smelted the ore with charcoal and bellows. They learned much of the craft from artisans of the Chimu Kingdom, who created countless vessels and ornaments. Spaniards reduced such works of art into ingots, easy to transport and exchange.

From the left and down:  a) Deer adorn, a Chimu religious vessel.   b) Inca jug, possibly held holy drink.  c)  Chimu necklace, of gold and pearl.     d) Rare Inca solid gold figurine - 11 inches high.    e) Gold  hand and arms sheathed Chimu mummy.