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It is easy to portray the Spanish as cruel, pitiless warriors who showed no mercy or compassion to their Indian subjects, but one should remember the sanguinary nature of the Inca empire. Atahualpa himself made no attempt to conceal his intentions towards the Spanish. Having invited him for talks at dinner in Cajamarca, a town situated in the Andes mountains at an altitude of 9, feet, they prepared an ambush in which 7, Incas were killed.

Atahualpa himself was captured. It was at this point that the Inca leader offered his notorious ransom. Pizarro asked Atahualpa how much treasure he would give the Spanish to buy his liberty. Atahualpa , seemingly nonchalant, answered that he would give a room full of gold. All of this, he promised, would be delivered in two months. Within eighty days, , inhabitants of the city starved to death.

By , just two years after Cortes first laid eyes on Tenochtitlan, the entire Aztec empire—a civilization that traced its roots to centuries before the time of Christ—had collapsed. The Aztecs weren't alone. A similar fate befell the Incas. A year later, with all the Inca gold in hand, the Spanish executed Atahuallpa and appointed a puppet ruler.

Again, the annihilation of an entire society took only two years. These monumental events eventually gave the Spanish control of the continent.

Stolen Child

By the s, the Spanish forces seemed unstoppable. With the winds of victory at their backs, they headed north and encountered the Apaches. This meeting—in the deserts of present-day New Mexico—is crucially linked with the music industry's fight against the P2P sites. Since the death of the Inca Huayna Capac, his sons Atahualpa and Huascar had been battling for the succession, while subject tribes scented a chance to throw off the Inca yoke.

The Battle of Cajamarca 14 November was thus scarcely a battle at all.

Long Live Atahualpa

The friar then told Atahualpa that he was a priest, and that he was sent there to teach the things of the faith if they should desire to be Christians. He showed Atahualpa a book which he carried in his hands [the Bible], and told him that that book contained the things of God. I know well who you are and what you have come for.

The friar went to the Governor and reported what was being done and that no time was to be lost. The Governor sent to me; and I had arranged with the captain of the artillery that, when a sign was given, he should discharge his pieces, and that, on hearing the reports, all the troops should come forth at once.

This was done, and as the Indians were unarmed they were defeated without danger to any Christian. One strong possibility is that epidemic disease arrived there from Hispaniola the island which is today divided between the Dominican Republic and Haiti ahead of the conquistadors, killing the population and leaving Machu Picchu a ghost town. The pretext for the initial Spanish assault at Cajamarca was that the Incas refused to convert to Christianity.

But it was not God but gold that really interested Pizarro. The 13, pounds of carat gold and 26, pounds of pure silver that were duly piled up made every man in the expedition rich at a stroke. But there was more — much more. De Soto sealed his fortune by joining in the conquest of Peru, where Pizarro dispatched him as an emissary to Atahualpa. With characteristic bravura, De Soto rode straight into the Incan camp and reared his foaming steed before the emperor.

He bought a palace in Seville, acquired pages, footmen, an equerry, and a majordomo, adorned himself in velvet and satin, and married into a distinguished noble family. But at Cofitachequi it became clear that De Soto had his eyes on a much greater prize. He held the ruler hostage to guarantee safe passage through her land, and to assure he could collect corn and porters from her subjects.

It took the would-be conquerors just under two years to achieve their objective: a confrontation with Atahuallpa , one of the two feuding sons of the recently deceased Incan emperor Huayna Capac. Given how outnumbered they were, it was a truly astonishing coup. In all, in the subsequent months the Incas collected 13, pounds of 22 carat gold and 26, pounds of pure silver. Using the Inca roads leading to the mountains—these were several, and excellent—the Spaniards invaded Cuzco and later Cajamarca, where they captured the Incan emperor, Atahualpa.

Instead of simply killing Atahualpa outright, they ransomed him, holding out the prospect of his eventual release as a means to summon gold and silver from all over the empire. The Incas used the metals not as currency but as decoration for shrines and public buildings. Except for a few decorative pieces to intrigue King Carlos V, Pizarro wanted it all in the form of bullion he could most efficiently export to Spain. So the same Inca craftsmen who had worked the metal into fine shapes were now compelled to melt it back down.

The object, according to legend, was to fill a room in Cajamarca, where Atahualpa was being held hostage, up to the top, at which point his freedom would be won. In parts of the Andes some stone paths are nearly one hundred feet wide. These were apparently not for common passage; they crossed lands that had been conquered by the Inca tribe and were a symbol of the Incan state, their use apparently restricted to those on state business. Commonly, local people were forced to do road work as part of the mita system of forced communal labor.


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That response was predictable, because human explorers who discovered technically less advanced humans also regularly responded by shooting them, decimating their populations with new diseases, and destroying or taking over their habitat. Any advanced extraterrestrials who discovered us would surely treat us in the same way.

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Think again of those astronomers who beamed radio signals into space from Arecibo, describing Earth's location and its inhabitants. In its suicidal folly that act rivalled the folly of the last Inca emperor, Atahuallpa , who described to his gold-crazy Spanish captors the wealth of his capital and provided them with guides for the journey. If there really are any radio civilizations within listening distance of us, then for heaven's sake let's turn off our own transmitters and try to escape detection, or we are doomed.

Fortunately for us, the silence from outer space is deafening. Yes, out there are billions of galaxies with billions of stars. A few dozen horses helped Cortes and Pizarro, leading only a few hundred Spaniards each, to overthrow the two most populous and advanced New World states, the Aztec and Inca empires.

With futile Polish cavalry charges against Hitler's invading armies in September , the military importance of this most universally prized of all domestic animals finally came to an end after 6, years. Ironically, relatives of the horses that Cortes and Pizarro rode had formerly been native to the New World. Had those horses survived, Montezuma and Atahuallpa might have shattered the conquistadores with cavalry charges of their own.

But, in a cruel twist of fate, America's horses had become extinct long before that, along with eighty or ninety per cent of the other large animal species of the Americas and Australia. It happened around the time that the first human settlers—ancestors of modern Indians and native Australians—reached those continents. Not until around AD—thousands of years after corn had emerged in Mexico—did corn become a staple food in the Mississippi Valley, thereby triggering the belated rise of the mysterious mound-building civilization of the American Midwest.

Thus, if the Old and New Worlds had each been rotated ninety degrees about their axes, the spread of crops and domestic animals would have been slower in the Old World, faster in the New World. The rates of rise of civilization would have been correspondingly different. Who knows whether that difference would have sufficed to let Montezuma or Atahuallpa invade Europe, despite their lack of horses? I have argued, then, that continental differences in the rates of rise of civilization were not an accident caused by a few individual geniuses.

They were not produced by the biological differences determining the outcome of competition among animal populations—for example, some populations being able to run faster or digest food more efficiently than others. The Inca Empire stretched from Ecuador to northern Chile and encompassed as many as ten million inhabitants.

The Spanish located their two viceroyalties in Mexico and Peru precisely because they found precious gold and silver there and because they could draw on dense populations as sources of servile labor. The Spaniards enriched themselves at first by simply plundering the wealth of their conquered kingdoms. The Inca ruler Atahualpa was told to fill a large room with gold and silver to ransom his life, which he did, whereupon the Spanish killed him anyway. Legally, indigenous people were considered to be full subjects of the Crown, with their property protected by the same legal rights as that of Europeans.

In contrast to the nomadic tribal societies that existed in North America, or groups like the Mapuches who resisted white settlers in Argentina and Chile, the Aztecs and Incas were organized into complex, state-level societies and projected centralized authority over tremendous distances.

And yet the speed and completeness with which their power collapsed—as told by authors from William Prescott to Jared Diamond—is astonishing. Diamond attributes this success to a number of technological factors, such as the Spanish use of horses, muskets, and steel swords, none of which were possessed by the Incas, as well as a healthy dose of tactical surprise. The Spanish brought with them Old World diseases, as is well known, which devastated native populations and eventually killed as many as 90 percent of the local inhabitants.