(ORDO NEWS) — American and Belgian anthropologists have found a stone casket at the bottom of Lake Titicaca. It contained a llama figurine carved from a clam shell, as well as a folded sheet of gold leaf. The description of the find was published by the scientific journal Antiquity.
“We have been exploring the cultural heritage that has survived at the bottom of Lake Titicaca since 2012. One of our tasks was to find places where ancient Incas made underwater sacrifices, like 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 Delair.
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, in which 10 million people lived.
In Spanish chronicles, as well as in the memoirs of representatives of the modern peoples of South America, descendants of the Incas, there are two different legends that describe how the Inca civilization arose. One of them places the homeland of the first rulers of the empire on the shores of Lake Titicaca, and the other – a few tens of kilometers south of the former capital of the empire, Cuzco, on the border of Bolivia and Peru.
Scientists confirmed the first legend back in 1977. Then amateur divers who dived near the island of Isla del Sol in the center of Lake Titicaca, found several artifacts of allegedly religious nature. In 1988, professional underwater archaeologists began working off the northwestern part of the island, Khoa Reef.
Inca underwater altar
They found not only fragments of Inca artifacts, but also whole objects – stone sacrificial boxes, inside which were figurines and other offerings to gods or ancestral spirits. 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 across 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 by studying the bottom of a lake off the K’akaya archipelago, which is located off the eastern shores of Titicaca. In the vicinity of the smallest of these islands, the K’akaya Reef, divers found a large stone box, tightly closed by a stone cover.
Inside it, Delare and his colleagues found a miniature llama figurine, carved from the shell of a spiny oyster (Spondylidae), and a small scroll of gold leaf. Both were great jewels for the Incas, since mollusks from the genus Spondylus can be found only off the shores of the Pacific Ocean in the vicinity of Ecuador, two thousand kilometers from Lake Titicaca.
This find, according to researchers, confirms that Lake Titicaca was of great cultural and religious importance for the Incas, uniting many disparate peoples that were part of their empire. Subsequent underwater excavations, the researchers hope, will help them discover other similar points where untouched artifacts of pre-Columbian America are concentrated.
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