Finding gold in Peru

It was Francisco Pizarro who conquered the Incas in what is now modern-day Peru.

The were less than 200 Spaniards, some on horse and others by foot, and they captured the Inca leader Atahualpa, who had an army of thousands, and the rest is history.

There have been many legends about Incan riches glamorized and distorted in films like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. There are various theories that the Incas buried their treasures in secret cities.

It actually is quite rare for an average person, a Peruvian or a tourist, to see some of their precious gold work up close.

While walking through downtown Lima, Peru, with a group of my Columbia College Chicago students here for a travel writing course, we ran across an amazing exhibit titled "Goldwork in Ancient Peru."
The exhibit itself was in a wing of the country's presidential palace, which is rarely open to the public. We had to show IDs and go through metal detectors but it was worth it to see the collection of gold masks, cups and other decorative pieces.

Actually, most of the advanced gold work was developed by the Nazca, Lambayeque and Chimú

- cultures that preceded the Incas.

Are there more lost treasures out there? Who knows?

But the treasures on display today in Lima from the Central Bank of Peru and the Hugo Cohen collection were dazzling.

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