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According to one story, four brothers emerged from Lake Titicaca. Manco Capac survived to plunge a golden staff into the ground where the Rios Tullamayo and Huantanay meet. Cuzco is nestled in a mountain valley 10,000 feet above sea level. The first emperor, Pachacuti transformed it from a modest village to a great city laid out in the shape of a puma.
He also installed Inti, the Sun God, as the Incas' official patron, building him a wondrous temple.
Festivities continued for days on end, sometimes lasting a month.
Dignitaries were fed, and given gifts of gold, jewels, and textiles.
Constructed without mortar, the joins between them are so tight as to deny a knife-blade entry. There are records of 20 men working on a single stone, chipping away, hoisting and lowering, polishing it with sand, hour-by-hour for an entire year.
A network of highways allowed Inca emperors to control their sprawling empire.
Every mile and a half they built way stations as resting points. Tax collectors and bureaucrats kept track of things with quipu, knotted strings.
When Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro landed in Peru in 1532, he found unimaginable riches. The streets may not have been paved with gold — but their temples were.
The Coricancha, or Temple of Gold, boasted an ornamental garden where the clods of earth, maize plants complete with leaves and corn cobs, were fashioned from silver and gold.