The mystery surrounding the tomb of the last inca emperor, and its famous treasure, could be solved shortly. If the Ecuadorian historian Tamara Estupinan is right, the mummified body of the emperor Atahualpa stayed in lush, mountainous lowlands a six-hour drive southwest of Ecuador's capital Quito.
- Possible location of the tomb of Atahualpa
Although it is still too early to confirm the Estupinan theory, this discovery could shed light on the tumultuous historical period that marked the beginning of the Spanish colonial era in the Americas.
At its peak early 1500, the Inca empire covered most of the Andes, from southern Colombia to central Chile as well as some parts of Argentina.
The Inca emperors they were mummified because it was believed that their powers rested with their bodies, which were guarded by guards and family members. Atahualpa ruled in Quito during the civil war against his brother, based in Cuzco, the seat of the inca empire.
Shortly after defeating his brother, Atahualpa was captured by Spanish troops under the command of Francisco Pizarro. It is believed that Atahualpa offered him a large room filled with gold and silver in exchange for his life. The offer didn't work out was executed in 1533.
The end of an era.
The Inca empire began to fall apart after your death, leaving only resistance groups against the Spanish conquerors. Archaeologists and historians wonder if his body was kept in Cajamarca, the city in northern Peru where he died. The grave was never found.
But Estupinan, a researcher at the French Institute for Andean Studies (IFEA), says that the historical texts contain clues that the place where the Inca emperor finally rested was in what is now Ecuadorian territory. The historian's work focuses on Ruminahui, one of the generals most loyal to Atahualpa who led the revolt against the Spanish conquerors after the death of the emperor.
During your investigation, which has led you more than a decade, Estupinan found evidence to suggest that the Sigchos area in the Andes of Ecuador was a base for Ruminahui and his men.He started looking for locations whose names connected with sacred rituals.
- Pizarro and Atahualpa
In 2004 he found a little farm called Malqui, a word that means'mummy’In Quechua, the language spoken by the Incas. Polished stone walls and underground water channels indicate the Inca origin of the place.
Six years later, Estupinan led a new expedition about 4 kilometers from Malqui. "When we got there, I couldn't believe itEstupinan says during a recent visit to the place, known as Machay(a Quechua word that means burial).
A trapezoidal enclosure leading to rectangular rooms that were built with polished stone allowed Estupinan to think that I had reached an Inca monument. The presence of trapezoidal water channels underground was confirmation. "I started running around", He says. "I was tremendously excited”.
Estupinan believes that Malqui and Machay They were part of an Inca settlement built to hide the mummy of Atahualpa and his possessions, which were buried according to tradition together with the emperor, of the Spanish conquerors.
Machay is aligned with other Inca holy sites, like the Quilotoa lagoon, and is next to the Machay river. Running water it was important for the Inca holy places. The place is one kilometer above sea level, in the subtropical lowlands on the western ledge of the Andes.
Considering the humidity, it is unlikely that the remains of the mummy are intact some 500 years later. Excavation work is expected start in june, partly funded by the ecuadorian government It plans to invest $ 97,500 in marking and protecting the site.
- Possible Inca sacred place
“For now the government still cannot say where the tomb of Atahualpa is”, Says Joaquín Moscoso, from the Ministry of Heritage. "If the historians' hypothesis is confirmed, we will find one of the largest and most unusual discoveries of the last decades”.
Unlike in Peru, where Inca sites attract a lot of attention, such as the world-famous Machu Picchu, the archaeological ruins of Ecuador attract a limited number of tourists and public spending is limited.
So far, a police officer has been assigned to protect Machay from potential looters attracted by the legend of the treasure of Atahualpa. According to Estupinan, it is improbable riches to be found. “For the last Incas, the true treasure was the mummy itself", He says.
Estupinan also points out that attention should be on conservation of the place. Photos of Machay from 1960 show a clear deterioration of many walls. The site was used for cockfighting and for raising fish. This year's heavy rains have done miles with the destruction of much of the wallsays Estupinan.
Francisco Moncayo, owner of the place of Machay, says he is waiting for money from the municipality to keep the place in order. It says the cost of maintaining the ruins is $ 3,000 a year.
Jorge Yarad, one of the two owners in Malqui, says that he feels honored that it is an Inca place, but he's worried about looters. "It is a huge responsibility", He says.
Yarad hopes that the government will be able to buy the place to build an archaeological site to become world famous. “We have been dreaming of history”Says Yarad. "Only now have we awakened”.
With a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was a child I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.