Inca art forms had a tendency towards austerity. Weaving, especially in vicuña wool, was of the highest quality, but it lacked the inventiveness of the weaving of coastal peoples. The cutting of semiprecious stones was a widely practiced art, although the Inca stone-cutters depended on the coastal trade for shell and stones. Goldsmithing was an Inca specialty. Almost all the gold mines worked in historical times had been previously mined by the Incas. Smiths who worked gold and silver lived in a special district and were exempt from taxes. The best examples of their art have not survived, since all went into the crucible of conquest; but according to the Spaniards who first saw it, Cusco seemed ablaze with worked gold. Some of the buildings were covered with gold plate imitating Inca stone work. The grass-thatched roofs of some of the temples had strands of gold that mimicked the grass; a setting sun would catch the gleam of gold and suggest a golden roof. The fabulous Curi-cancha, the golden enclosure which enjoined the Temple of the Sun in Cusco, had a golden fountain; actual-size representations of maize plants with leaves and ears of gold were "planted'' in an earth made up of clods of gold, and there were twenty life-size golden llamas grazing on golden grass in the golden enclosure.


The Inca Bag


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