The Incas: Gold. Power. God. 3,000 Years of Civilization

May 6 — November 26, 2017


The Incas called it “the sun’s beads”, but the Spanish were only interested in its material value. In Incan and pre-Incan cultures, gold was revered for its cultic significance and was therefore reserved for only the highest rulers and priests. The Spanish conquistadors, by contrast, saw gold purely as a means of getting rich quick. They were lured to the other end of the world by tales of a legendary “El Dorado.” The mythology of Inca gold is rooted in the irreconcilability of these two value systems.


In this exhibition, the Völklinger Hütte World Heritage Site takes up where “IncaGold” (2004/2005) left off, presenting several new exhibits that shed insights into the civilizations of the Incan and pre-Incan periods. Comprising 220 unique exhibits,

“The Incas: Gold Power. God.” explores the fascinating worlds of ancient Peruvian civilizations and their collision with 16th-century European culture. The key exhibits come from the Larco Museum in Lima and Cusco, owner of the world’s largest private collection of ancient Peruvian art. These are magnificent works of art that serve as a major source of information about the world in which they were created. Other unique exhibits have been provided by the Musée des Jacobins in Auch (France), the Weltmuseum Wien in Vienna, and the Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum in Hildesheim. The museums in Vienna and Hildesheim are known all over the world for their collections, while the Musée des Jacobins in Auch is home to one of France’s largest collections of Pre-Columbian art. Musée de l´Armée, Paris, has lent Spanish weapons and horse armor once used by the conquistadors. “The Incas: Gold. Power. God.” in the Völklinger Hütte World Heritage Site boasts exceptional exhibits dating to the Incas and the cultures that preceded them. The form and content of the exhibition will allow visitors to experience these treasures as never before.


The Incas: Gold. Power. God.examines the culture of the Incas, the territories they conquered, and the cultures that preceded them. The Incas regarded their predecessors as teachers. The objects on display include renowned Moche goldwork, masterful Chimú metalwork, and exceptional textiles and ceramics. The Inca Empire encompassed the territories of pre-Incan cultures such as Nasca, Moche, and Chimú and built on the achievements of these cultures. For example, renowned Chimú goldsmiths continued to be leading proponents of the craft during the Incan era. The exhibition in the Völklinger Hütte World Heritage Site will cover 3,000 years of art and culture leading up to the achievements of Inca civilization.  

The Incas presided over the biggest empire of their time. Despite advances in modern technology, scholars have still not deciphered their knotted string records, known as quipus.So the objects on display in this exhibition are not just impressive works of art; they also tell us a great deal about how the Incas and their predecessors lived and about how they saw the world. Very often, these objects serve as primary sources that give us direct knowledge of this world.

They provide insights into ritual duels that ended in the losers death in a sacrificial ceremony; into fertility rituals and the central significance of water; into community festivities; and into the trade routes along which luxury goods from far-flung regions were transported. Themes covered in the exhibition include the Ancient Peruvian underworld; the world of warriors; the representation of sexuality; intoxicants; and the legendary jewelry worn by kings. The objects tell us about a huge empire that encompassed coasts, deserts, mountains, and jungles. And needless to say, the exhibition also examines Incan gold: the reason why the Spaniards made their way to the region.

The exhibition devotes special attention to the Spanish conquest of South America by Francisco Pizarro, exploring the collision between two worlds that could not have been more different. The Incas were the superpower of their time, and yet they were vanquished by 172 Spanish conquistadors, who introduced horses, canons, and diseases into the region. The death of the Incan Atahualpa in 1533 marked the end of the legendary Inca Empire. But the mythology surrounding the Incas lives on today.

 The Völklinger Hütte World Heritage Site is offering an extensive program of activities to complement The Incas: Gold. Power. God.In addition, guided tours for groups can be booked by contacting the visitor service, which has been set up especially for this exhibition (phone: 0049 - (0)6898 9100 100; e-mail:

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