Archaeologists Have Found An Inca Casket With A Statue Of A Llama And Gold Leaf At The Bottom Of Lake Titicaca
American and Belgian anthropologists found a stone box at the bottom of Lake Titicaca. It contained a statuette of a llama carved from a clamshell, as well as a rolled sheet of gold leaf. A description of the find is available in the scientific journal Antiquity.
"We have been exploring the cultural heritage that has been preserved at the bottom of lake Titicaca since 2012. One of our tasks was to find places where the ancient Incas performed underwater sacrifices, such as the Khoa reef off Isla del Sol. And we found another such place," said one of the authors of the study, an anthropologist from the free University of Brussels (Belgium) Christophe Delaire.
Historians believe that the Inca Empire was the largest and most powerful state in pre-Columbian America. It was located in what is now Peru, as well as large parts of Chile and Ecuador. This state was formed around the beginning of the XIII century, and just two hundred years later, its possessions covered a huge area, on which lived 10 million people.
In the Spanish Chronicles, as well as in the memoirs of representatives of modern peoples of South America, descendants of the Incas, two different legends describe how the Inca civilization arose. One of the legends places the birthplace of the first rulers of the Empire on the shores of Lake Titicaca, and the other-a few dozen kilometers south of the former capital of the Empire, Cuzco, on the border of Bolivia and Peru.
Scientists confirmed the first legend in 1977. Then Amateur divers who dived near the island of Isla del Sol in the center of Lake Titicaca found several artifacts of presumably religious nature. In 1988, professional underwater archaeologists began working near the northwestern part of the island, the Khoa reef.
Underwater altar of the Incas
They found not only fragments of Incan artifacts, but also whole objects – stone sacrificial caskets, inside which lay statuettes and other offerings to the gods or spirits of ancestors. Subsequent excavations, already on the territory of the island, showed that it served as an important religious and cultural center for both the Inca state and its predecessors.
However, temples of the Incas and other groups of Indians are found on other Islands scattered around Titicaca. Therefore, scientists have long been trying to find other traces of underwater offerings to the gods, studying the bottom of the lake around these Islands.
Recently, American and Belgian anthropologists made the first such find, studying the bottom of a lake near the K'akaya archipelago, which is located off the Eastern coast of Titicaca. In the vicinity of the smallest of these Islands, K'akaya reef, divers found a large stone casket, tightly closed with a stone lid.
Inside it, Delaire and his colleagues found a miniature statue of a llama, which is carved from the shell of a spiny oyster (Spondylidae), as well as a small scroll of gold leaf. Both were very precious to the Incas since spondylus mollusks can only be found off the coast of the Pacific Ocean in the vicinity of Ecuador, two thousand kilometers from lake Titicaca.
This discovery, according to researchers, confirms that lake Titicaca had a huge cultural and religious significance for the Incas, uniting many disparate peoples who were part of their Empire. Subsequent underwater excavations, the researchers' hope, will help them discover other similar points where intact artifacts from pre-Columbian America are concentrated.