Surprise Finding of Ancient Offering at the Bottom of Lake Titicaca

Stone Box Carved Shell Llama

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Stone box with sculpted shell llama and rolled gold foil. Credit: Teddy Sequin

A llama sculpted from a spondylus shell and a round laminated gold foil things were the contents of a sculpted stone box — an offering — discovered at the bottom of Lake Titicaca, according to scientists from Penn State and the Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium. The offering, discovered near an island in the lake, was not situated where others had actually discovered offerings in the past.

“We knew they (Inca) did some form of ritual offerings and that they did them in the lake,” stated Jose Capriles, assistant teacher of sociology, Penn State. “The 16th and 17th century chronicles indicate there were submerged offerings.”

Lake Titicaca lies in the Andes in between Bolivia and Peru. It is the biggest lake in South America and was very important to lots of cultures, consisting of the Tiwanaku and the Inca.

Amateur scuba divers in 1977 discovered other offerings, or artifacts that might be part of providing packages near the Island of the Sun, however these were not undamaged offerings. Professional scuba divers in between 1988 and 1992 examined the location of the Khoa reef and discovered pre-Inca and Inca artifacts consisting of stone boxes with mini figures. Recent excavations reveal that the Khoa reef was an essential ritualistic website for the Inca and previous societies; nevertheless, this brand-new group of artifacts was not discovered on the Khoa reef, however on the K’akaya reef.

Capriles and Christophe Delaere, junior research study fellow, Université libre de Bruxelles, report their findings today (August 4, 2020) in Antiquity.

Lake Titicaca Map

Map of Lake Titicaca revealing islands. Credit: José Capriles, Penn State and Christophe Delaere, Université libre de Bruxelles

“Since 2012, the Université libre de Bruxelles has implemented a research program with the goal of locating and inventorying the underwater heritage of Lake Titicaca,” stated Delaere. “Our team has systematically surveyed around the islands and reefs in the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca.”

The K’akaya Archipelago is west of Challapata Bay in the eastern coast of Lake Titicaca and is a series of a primary island and 3 little ones. K’akaya reef is the last islet of the little chain and is covered in bird droppings.

The scuba divers recovered package undamaged although currents had actually deteriorated one side. The box was firmly sealed, however not watertight. Resting in package, underneath the silt that had actually filtered in, was the spondylus shell llama and the rolled gold foil.

One sign that these boxes consist of artifacts important enough for offerings, next to the gold foil, is the spondylus shell llama. The closest place where the Inca might acquire this spiny oyster shell remained in warm seaside ocean waters off the coast of Ecuador.

Finding this box in a brand-new place recommends to the scientists that Lake Titicaca was a locus of routine and ritualistic activity by the Inca. Similar offerings are discovered in other parts of what was the Inca Empire, some on land and some on water, however the scientists believe that the lake was very important in the debt consolidation of the empire.

According to Capriles, as the Inca radiated out from Cuzco in Peru, Lake Titicaca ended up being a centerpiece. Prior historical proof shows that much of the islands, reefs and island chains consist of ruins of temples and other significant architecture.

“Most of what we know outside of archaeology is from the Spanish,” stated Capriles. “Indications were that Lake Titicaca was a pilgrimage center for the Inca, but also served as a focal point for alliances with other groups.”

Spanish misconceptions about the Inca discarding their gold into Lake Titicaca are obviously false, however the lake holds far more info still to be revealed, stated the scientists.

The artifacts live with the Bolivian town of Escoma, which has jurisdiction over the location in which they were discovered.

“One of the goals of our underwater archaeological survey was to identify the existence of similar sites and to our surprise we found at least one,” stated Delaere. “It provides not just one of the uncommon undamaged discoveries of an Inca undersea offering, however likewise that it was discovered at another location in the lake, which has an essential ramification for comprehending the relationship in between the broadening Inca empire, the regional neighborhoods who resided in the lake, and Lake Titicaca itself prior to European contact.

“The inland underwater world remains largely unexplored and offers outstanding opportunities to understand prehistoric societies,” stated Delaere. “The underwater heritage of Lake Titicaca still has many surprises to reveal.”


Reference: “The context and meaning of an intact Inca underwater offering from Lake Titicaca” by Christophe Delaere and José M. Capriles, 4 August 2020, Antiquity.
DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2020.121

Université libre de Bruxelles and Wiener-Anspach Foundation supported this work.

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