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Central Andes 848

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CENTRAL ANDES 848. A land of ancient empire.—When the conquering Spaniards climbed the Andes, they found the city of Cuzco, the ancient capital of a populous Indian empire that had long been ruled by the Inca kings. In the Inca empire there were splendid roads, running for hundreds of miles across the plateaus and along the sides of the mountains. The industrious people had built large build ings with stone walls of astonishing workman ship. (Fig. 602.) As there were many people to feed, terraced and irrigated farms stretched one above the other to dizzy heights on moun tainsides, and every possible patch of land was cultivated. The empire reached down to the seashore, and the laws protected the guano producing waterfowl that had their colonies on the desert islands near the Pacific coast. (Fig. 560.) The laws of the Incas, if gathered together, would fill many books, for the ruling race was a highly civilized people.

The Spaniards conquered the Incas and robbed them of their wealth. The conquerors carried off bars of gold and silver that were worth seventeen millions of dollars. That was the largest amount of money ever seen in the world up to that time.

More adventurers came from Spain, enslaved the plateau peoples, and made them dig the gold and silver out of their own mines. It was the cruel treatment of the Spanish taskmaster that so reduced the people that there were but five millions in 1920, where there had been fifteen millions in 1530.

849. A wide plateau and four-step f arms . —H ow wide is the plateau between the high ranges of the eastern and western Andes in Peru? On the edges of this plateau the rivers have cut valleys, some of which have wide, flat bottoms with alluvial fans (Fig. 183) reaching out into them. Some farmers have developed three-step, or even four-step farms in this land of plateau, high mountain, and deep valley. "On an alluvial fan in the main valley they raise sugar cane and tropi cal and sub-tropical fruits; on the flat upper slopes they produce corn; in the moister soil near the edge of the woodland are fields of mountain potatoes; and the upper plateau pastures maintain flocks of sheep. In one district this change takes place in a distance that may be covered in five hours. Gener ally it is at least a full and hard day's journey from one end of the series to the other."* 850. High plateau climate and life on the high plateau.—This plateau is not a pleasant place in which to live, because it has such a very high elevation. La Paz is 12,000 feet

above the sea, and Potosi is 13,000 feet. There is less air on this plateau than in our country, for one-third of the earth's air lies below 10,000 feet, and the air above that level is so thin that it is hard to breathe it.

The traveler from Europe or America, who goes to these mountain places, nearly always has soroche, or mountain sickness. His head thumps, he becomes dizzy, and he suffers in many ways. Potosi is so high that two thirds of all the white children born there die within a few hours.

The plateau is very dry, because so little rain falls inside the high walls of the Andes. The air cools off very quickly, because it is dry as well as thin. As on the tops of high mountains, the sun on this plateau burns you by day like tropic heat; by night the high, thin air cools off so quickly that you think you are in the Arctic.

851. The plateau farmers and shepherds. of the plateau is so dry that it pro duces little but scanty pasture; it is so cold that the wind bites you almost to the bone. It is scantily peopled by shepherds, except near mines and irrigated spots. The Indian shepherd lets no grass escape him. An American geographer, Dr. Bowman, says: " It is a constant marvel to one in the moun tains to see to what altitudes the shepherd climbs and what out-of-the-way places he reaches. He is the characteristic element in the Andean scene—bleak slopes in some high valley, a widely scattered flock of llamas, a solitary shepherd whistling and clucking to his vagrant flock, turning them to right or left by throwing stones, and industriously spinning the llama wool into yarn as he trots along, often without food save the leaves of the coca, and without water for a day or more at a time, far from any shelter, alone. He is an excellent guide, fearless and confi dent, with knowledge of every spring and trail and no special concern for ordinary alti tudes below the snow line." 852. Crop zones on mountain central Andes show us how elevation decides the use that man can make of land. Most of the area is so dry that crops can be grown only where some stredm, flowing down from a snowfield, supplies water for irrigation. In most places water is to be had only on alluvial fans. Below 6000 feet elevation, cassava is the chief crop. From 6000 to 10,000 feet is the zone of corn.

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