Gold, silver and treasures beyond your wildest dreams were found in the ancient Incas civilizations. Unfortunately over the history of time much of the treasures were stolen and transported far across the world. Do you know where all the plundered Incas gold jewelry and treasures go?
Spain conquered Peru in 1516 and devastated the ancient Incas civilization. Gold, silver jewelry, ingots and coins were shipped out by hundreds of ships across the sea to Spain. An incredible wealth was transported across the oceans and today many shipwrecks still contain immense wealth that we find hard to comprehend.
It is almost impossible to relate to how much gold Spain plundered from Peru in just over 40 years starting in 1531. Estimates are over 100 million gold items and over 200 million silver items. One of the Spanish ships that sunk in 1804 was found by the Odyssey marine exploration and inside was $500 million dollars’ worth of gold and silver coins. Yes that’s half billion dollars just from one ship and over 300 ships crossed the oceans to Spain each year. They were known as the Spanish Treasure Fleet and were constantly attacked by British war ships or pirates.
Why wasn’t Spain a super power if it had all this incredible wealth? Basically they squandered these valuable Incas treasures. So much gold arrived that they built beautiful buildings for the church with gold and silver decorations from the Incas lost treasures. Spain indulged in importing exotic spices and would trade 1 pound of spices for an ounce of gold. They also imported the most beautiful silks and porcelain pottery.
Spain also traded with the Middle Eastern, Indian and Chinese traders and today these countries have the Eldorado gold of Peru. Spain never started factories to create wealth, they just kept spending and ended up with nothing, but the countries they traded with did not sell the traded valuable items but kept them.
It is interesting to note that the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) was at its’ peak in the 16th century, this was due to the Spanish looting gold that made the country strong. The Incas gold was melted into gold coins during the Ottoman Empire’s rein. The ladies would wear gold coins around their necks to show their wealth. These coins all had holes drilled in them. Venice also did extremely well from being a trading port.
China had factories which mass produced porcelain pottery for Spain’s appetite and painters would hand paint the pottery and sell it to Spain. The Incas gold was also melted into ancient Chinese gold jewelry and coins which can be found today.
India also grew strong from Spain’s gold and even today India is one of the world’s greatest importers of gold as they make gold bangles to store their wealth rather than placing their money in a bank. This tradition started after the Spanish looted gold in this part of the world.
In 2007 I visited Peru and went to the famous Machu Picchu. Arriving in the capital city of Lima I headed for the local gold and history museum. Each room was devoted to one gold product each like gold earrings, gold headbands, gold necklaces and gold decorations for ceremonies. One could immediately understand how the Spanish troops were mesmerized by seeing so much gold. The Incas made many gold sheets which they used to create impressive head dresses. They were enormous in size but were very thin.
The most memorable room in the museum for me was one room which was filled with hundreds of pairs of gold earrings. It was incredible and I highly recommend anyone to visit this museum if they get the chance to visit Lima.
I was also lucky enough to see a room full hundreds of gun pairs for duelling and the workmanship was incredible with detailed carvings on the gun handles. There was another room full of spears and it is was amazing how heavy and how long they are, the atmosphere was incredible.
We took a tour up to the Sacred Valley and experienced firsthand the beauty of this country. Historically the mountains contained silver so the Spanish made everyone work in the silver mines, unfortunately they all died from hard work and diseases the Spanish bought with them.
Once the locals had died, they bought in Africans to work these silver mines. You can check out more details of my trip to Machu Picchu.
One silver mine of Potosí in Bolivia alone produced 41,000 metric tons of silver coins known as Pieces of eight. The Lima mint opened in 1568 to make silver Pieces of eight coins but was not till 1696 that the mint started to make gold coins known as cobs and were minted in Cuzco also and are now highly collectible. Most gold was shipped out to Spain who shipped it to Turkey and Asia.
Spanish ships sailed endlessly carrying coins and treasures from the new world to Spain and there were many shipwrecks full treasures and of Spanish shipwreck coins. Many archaeologists equivalent the amount to GDP of many countries and some consider these coins and treasures to be priceless.
From the 16th century Spanish Galleons dominated the seas. Crossing the Atlantic was extremely dangerous due to storms and uncharted rocks with many shipwrecks occurring. Shipwrecks were not the only worry for the Spanish Galleons ships from England and France would also attack them. Many of the Caribbean islands also had pirates.
Archaeologists estimate that up to 400 Spanish ships were sunk off Puerto Rico alone and maybe thousand ships sunk off South America. Spanish stories about Eldorado were prevalent and many businessmen hired pirates hoping to hit and attack a Spanish galleon loaded with coins and treasures. Disappointingly many Spanish ships only carried tobacco and perishable foods and many pirates had poor results by attacking these ships.
Spain also had a good reputation for tradable silver coins. These silver coins were of a high standard of purity and weight which was rare in those days. One of Spain’s most famous Shipwreck coins is the 8 Reales silver coin. It weighed 27.47 grams and was .9305 purity.
Spain opened major mints in Mexico City in 1535, Peru, Lima in 1568, Potosi in Bolivia in 1575, and Santa Fe De Bogotá, Columbia in 1620. Later additional mints were located in Guatemala City (from 1733), Santiago, Chile (from 1750), and Popayan, Columbia (from 1758). These mints produced millions of exact silver Reale coins for around 100 years.
The silver Reale coins were so popular that many English colonies adopted them into their currency as even England didn’t have such high standard of silver coins for trade.
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