What do lava flows in Hawaii, eucalyptus trees in the Andes Mountains of Peru, beehive-shaped ovens in Nevada, and a dog’s ticket to a veterinarian office for an emergency visit all have in common? I can explain.
Among the high peaks of the Andes Mountains, gold-bearing quartz veins in the granitic bedrock have been exposed by erosion from ice, wind and water. Numerous ancient small gold mines are found at altitudes that cluster around an impressively high elevation of 16,000 feet.
Rich deposits of metals, created by the dynamic geologic environment that built the rugged Andes Mountains, became intertwined with Andean cultures in the New World. The Incas and their ancestors created metal products primarily for aesthetic uses and for religious goods. This contrasts with Old World cultures, where the emphasis was on the mechanical properties of metals -- strength, hardness and sharpness—for tools and weapons.
Gold and silver were revered by the Incas and their ancestors - and copper was also widely used, but not as highly regarded. An Inca myth gives insight into the cultural significance of these metals. [...]