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OPEC bulletin 2–3/14
be a perfect location to hide Atahualpa’s hoard, that
Inca ruins of temples and roads have been discovered
in the same area, and that the site we found is natural,
but could have been a perfect place to create a mauso-
leum, and that many legends also locate the tomb in the
Llanganates,” summarized Duverneuil.
TheTreasure of the Llanganates, as the gold is called,
has remained one of the world’s greatest undiscovered
treasures. However, many believe the horde comes with
an ancient curse and many have died in their attempts
to find it.
The legendsays that somedecadesafter thedeath
of Atahualpa, a poor Spanish adventurer known
as Valverde married an Inca princess from
the area. Supposedly she told him where
the treasure was and Valverde returned
to Spain a rich man, having only taken
a small part of the treasure.
On his death bed, he wrote
Valverde’sPath(Valverde’sDerrotero),
which lays out the way to the treasure
viavariouslandmarks. Hebequeathed
thedocumenttoKingCharlesVofSpain
upon his death.
An expedition was set up at the time,
and promising evidence found, but the
Franciscan monk organizing the expedition,
Father Longo, mysteriously disappeared one night
and the search was abandoned for a further 100 years.
Exploring fact and fiction
In the late 1700s, Don Guzmán, a local miner, completed
a detailed treasure map, then also disappeared. Many
years later, in 1860, a British botanist, Richard Spruce,
stumbleduponValverde’sDerrotero, aswell asGuzmán’s
map, while investigating rare plants in the region and
published it in a well-known journal, setting off a treas-
ure-hunt fever.
Captain Barth Blake and Lieutenant George Edwin
Chapman joined Spruce and seem to have uncovered
the lost stash. They wrote a letter describing the riches
… but both men died before they could claim their stake.
And so it has been withmany explorers who followed the
same dire fate over the years in search of the gold.
A recent article in an Ecuadorian newspaper
stated that some researchers who had studied the
case of Atahualpa were skeptical of the latest discov-
ery. Meanwhile, medical historian and journalist, Mark
Honigsbaum, author of the book Valverde’s Gold, In Search of the Last
Great Inca Treasure, stated: “Certainly, this looks like a genuine site, but
without knowing the provenance of the story and the precise location of
the ruins I would be loath to comment — other than to say that the history
of the Llanganti treasure is littered with claims that on closer inspection
have turned out to be spurious.
“We are dealing with the frontier land between fact and fiction,”
Honigsbaum admitted in an earlier article. “We know Atahualpa’s gold
existed because it is recorded in the Spanish chronicle and it is recorded
that a large convoy of gold was on its way from Ecuador. After that, the
best and most persistent stories revolve around
the Llanganates.”
After Fenton showed local preser-
vation authorities his visual evi-
dence at the end of 2013, “we
havebeenable to convince
local authorities toorganize
an official inspection of the
site,” commented Duverneuil.
Duverneuil’s team — composed
of Ecuadorians, French, British and
Americanmembers—wasdue to travel to
Peru to look at other archaeological sites, start-
ing inmid-February. A stopwas then planned for Cajamarca, the citywhere
Atahualpa was executed by the Spaniards, with the goal to then return
to the Llanganates and complete the non-invasive survey they started.
For themission inEcuador, theywouldbeaccompaniedbyanAmerican
anthropologist andwith the help of local authorities they planned to docu-
ment a new site.
“We will try to map the entire area and use georadar technologies to
determine if there are any cavities behind the rocks. We will also try to
explore and map the Inca road that passes near the site.”
Duverneuil’s team is connectedwith theAerial Digital Archaeology and
Preservation research group, whose goal is to provide non-invasive tech-
nology and expertise to archaeologists, anthropologists and local authori-
ties. “We use technologies such as drones, LIDAR and ground-penetrating
radars.”
Somearchaeologistsbelieve the sitemaybeevenolder thanAtahualpa
— perhaps a remnant of little-known pre-Inca cultures from before 500 BC
— based on rudimentary tools found there.
In any case, the upcoming research is sure to be exciting and may
facilitate the parting — if only to a small degree — of the curtain obscur-
ing one of history’s major riddles.
The team will try to map the entire area
and use georadar technologies to
determine if there are any cavities behind
the rocks (image: A.D.A.P).
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