It is one of the most fascinating stories of the Inca mythology. And it is so today the biggest archaeological enigma of South America. An enigma which we are maybe about to drill.
From what one knows thanks to the chronicles and to the old legendary traditions, Païtiti would have been an immense city that would be buried somewhere in the Peruvian Amazon Rain Forest. It is a city for which one looked in all the South America. But since about fifty years, the research focused toward the southeast of Peru, in Peruvian Amazonia. What appears logical, because Païtiti is bound at the empire inca. And the modern Peru constitutes what was the center of this empire: the Tawantinsuyu.
The point of departure of the legend is situated after the death of Atawualpa, the Inca reigning upon the arrival of the Spaniards (1532). The Empire was then for its peak, but torn by a civil war between Huascar, the heir legitimizes of the throne of the Incas, and his half brother Atawualpa. It is then that appears Francisco Pizarro. This one taking advantage of the state of civil war in which was the Empire, captures Atawualpa. Prisoner of the Spaniards, the Inca proposes, in exchange for his freedom, the payment of a fabulous treasure. He makes a commitment to fill of gold the room of the palace where he is held, until the height of the raised hand, and to fill of silver two other similar rooms, and in one month. Pizarro, which was dazzled by the wealth of Peru, accepts obviously the market. The ransom of the emperor begins then to stream in the Spanish camp of all the provinces of Tawantinsuyu. The commentators of this time speak about real golden mountains ! We say that at the same time a part of the Inca nobility, taking a system of secret cities, would have found refuge in the forest, on the Amazonian hillside of Peru. And it is on this matter that we pronounce, from the first years of the conquest, a mysterious word : that of Paititi.
Was it about the hidden face of the Inca Empire, from the secret fief of the Incas ? Nobody knows it. Because nobody has still ever found this mysterious lost city. It is there also that would have been hidden as a matter of urgency all the treasures of the Empire. At least those of the region of Cusco, the imperial capital. Tons of gold and magnificent precious objects would have passed in transit so hurriedly towards the jungle. Certain commentators speak about twenty thousand llamas loaded with gold, driven eastward, for an unknown destination, by the Coya, the wife of the Inca.
Several chronicles speak in particular about a wonderful "gold chain" which the Inca Huayna Capac had made execute to commemorate the birth of Huascar, the heir legitimizes of the Incas, which Atawualpa, his half brother, will make murder. This yahuirka, the length of which was at least two hundred meters, had, as it is said, links so big as the inch of a man. Garcilaso of Vega, a half-blood who spent his youth to Cusco, claims that his weight was such as two hundred Indians succeeded hardly in lifting it. It was covered with articulated golden plaques which, feigning the scales of the skin of a snake, sparkled in the Sun. The conquistadors tried vainly to seize it. But the legend tells that this inestimable golden chain would have secretly been returned, by the very Indians, up to the kingdom of Grán Païtiti and thrown in a lagoon, accompanied with quantities of objects of a priceless value.
We also speak of a fabulous golden solar disk, the Punchao, which throned formerly in the main room of the Qorikancha, the Golden Wall, the Big Temple of Cusco. Height about four meters, this anthropomorphic idol representing Inti, the god Sun, based on a base which contained, as it is said, hearts pulverized of the Inca emperors. It was the Holy of Holies, the most precious object of the Empire. We lose its track after 1572.
The legend of Paititi, we see it, is thus very close in this history of ransom and gold. And it is moreover all the drama of Paititi. Because most of those who had respite, through the history, to look for this lost city, were livened up, for the greater part, only by the bait of the gold. But Paititi is above all... an archaeological treasure ! It is the Graal of the modern Peru. And it is a big world heritage.
For more details : Thierry Jamin, Pierre-Albert Ruquier, « L’Eldorado inca. A la recherche de Païtiti », éditions Hugo & Cie, Paris, novembre 2006. Buy the book on-line : click here.