Historic Llama, Found in Stone Field Beneath a Lake, Was Possible a Reward to Inca Gods

The mattress of Lake Titicaca, the biggest freshwater lake in South America, is popping out to be a veritable museum of historical choices. 

As soon as sacred to the Incas and earlier than that the Tiwanaku, this physique of water, nestled between Bolivia and Peru, is affected by sunken sacrifices from centuries in the past. 


After years of looking out, archaeologists have now retrieved the primary underwater providing not but broken or looted by opportunists: a field of volcanic rock, submerged round 500 years in the past. 

Upon opening this tightly-sealed sacrifice in entrance of native Indigenous leaders, the analysis group found an historical llama, carved from the shell of a spiny mollusc referred to as a spondylus from Ecuador, and a furled sheet of gold, considered a part of a bracelet.

If historic accounts from the invading Spanish are proper, the field could have as soon as even held the blood of youngsters or animals, though no human stays have been discovered within the lake up to now.

The stone field and its contents. (Teddy Seguin/Université libre de Bruxelles).

“The inland underwater world stays largely unexplored and provides excellent alternatives to grasp prehistoric societies,” says maritime archaeologist Christophe Delaere from the Université libre de Bruxelles in Belgium.

“The underwater heritage of Lake Titicaca nonetheless has many surprises to disclose.”

For years now, scientists have been rigorously cataloguing Lake Titicaca’s stock of sunken sacrifices, and in some areas, they’ve found animal bones, gold medallions, incense burners, ornaments, and different llamas and sacrificial stone bins.


However this new discover was in a wholly completely different a part of the lake, which was beforehand not recognized to be sacred to the Inca.

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Within the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, because the Inca Empire was increasing out from the Andes, it is thought that Lake Titicaca grew to become a culturally and religiously important hub. 

In actual fact, its primary island is claimed to be the birthplace of the primary two Incas and in addition their Solar God – therefore the title, Island of the Solar.

In recent times, a close-by underwater reef, referred to as the Khoa reef, has been discovered affected by a minimum of 28 stone bins in varied circumstances, and but solely a handful nonetheless comprise miniature collectible figurines of gold, silver, or shell.

Judging by the marks on their sides, scientists suppose these sacrificial bins have been doubtless lowered down into the water by the Incas as some form of sacrifice to the gods.

The newly-found stone field has related markings, suggesting it too was lowered into the water, and on the within, its contents resemble different Incan choices.

However this stone field was not discovered close to the Island of the Solar or the Khoa reef. As a substitute, it was uncovered at a distinct reef, referred to as the Okay’akaya, situated virtually straight north of the others.


An intensive survey of the reef revealed the field was completely by itself. And whereas the authors cannot but ensure, they suppose the Okay’akaya field illustrates a spiritual apply much like what was as soon as sunk close to the Island of the Solar.

“One of many objectives of our underwater archaeological survey was to determine the existence of comparable websites and to our shock we discovered a minimum of one,” says Delaere. 

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“It presents not solely one of many uncommon intact discoveries of an Inca underwater providing, but additionally that it was discovered at one other place within the lake, which has an essential implication for understanding the connection between the increasing Inca empire, the native communities who lived within the lake, and Lake Titicaca itself previous to European contact.”

Screen Shot 2020 08 04 at 2.03.35 pmLlama figurine (28mm lengthy) and rolled gold sheet (25mm lengthy). (Teddy Seguin/Université libre de Bruxelles)

Macroscopic evaluation suggests the Okay’akaya field has the same high-quality lower and polish to Khoa bins. And whereas the group remains to be ready for the outcomes of their geochemical evaluation, the volcanic rock used to fabricate the bins, they are saying, seems to be equivalent.

The one different distinction is that the Khoa bins are normally cube-shaped with a cap, whereas the Okay’akaya field is rectangular, with a plug. This is not sufficient to maintain it waterproof, so even when this providing as soon as held blood, that liquid has lengthy since been changed by the lake.


Within the 17th century, an Augustine cleric reported on in depth Incan rituals at Lake Titicaca, the place he says the blood of youngsters and animals was positioned in stone bins and lowered with ropes into the lake from atop a raft, the place it turned the water pink.

“The situation and orientation of the Okay’akaya’s providing appear deliberate,” the authors surmise.

“The Okay’akaya reef is nearly straight north of Khoa, suggesting a robust spatial hyperlink between the 2 websites.”

sunkenstoneboxView of the Okay’akaya reef and place of the providing with respect to Okay’akaya Island. (Christophe Delaere)

The reef additionally faces the 2 tallest peaks within the area, and these have been revered by the Incas as properly. Maybe the field was sunk close to this lake-born summit as a sacrifice for the mountain gods.

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We could by no means know, however the search amongst Lake Titicaca’s reefs proceed…

The examine was printed in Antiquity.


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