Gold Inca statue, c 15th-16th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The statue depicts a female with long hair, with her hands resting on her chest. The Incas established an empire stretching from Ecuador to Chile. In the 16th century, the Inca empire was conquered by the Spanish conquistadors, led by Francisco Pizarro. A major factor motivating the Spaniards was stories of vast stores of Inca gold, epitomised by the legend of the city of El Dorado. Few gold Inca artefacts remain today because the Spanish melted down most of the pieces they found to make gold ingots.