UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A llama carved from a spondylus shell and a cylindrical laminated gold foil object were the contents of a carved stone box — an offering — found at the bottom of Lake Titicaca, according to researchers from Penn State and the Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium. The offering, found near an island in the lake, was not located where others had found offerings in the past.
"We knew they (Inca) did some form of ritual offerings and that they did them in the lake," said Jose Capriles, assistant professor of anthropology, Penn State. "The 16th and 17th century chronicles indicate there were submerged offerings."
Lake Titicaca is located in the Andes between Bolivia and Peru. It is the largest lake in South America and was important to many cultures, including the Tiwanaku and the Inca.
Amateur divers in 1977 found other offerings, or artifacts that could be part of offering bundles near the Island of the Sun, but these were not intact offerings. Professional divers between 1988 and 1992 investigated the area of the Khoa reef and found pre-Inca and Inca artifacts including stone boxes with miniature figures. Recent excavations show that the Khoa reef was an important ceremonial site for the Inca and prior societies; however, this new group of artifacts was not found on the Khoa reef, but on the K'akaya reef.
Capriles and Christophe Delaere, junior research fellow, Université libre de Bruxelles, report their findings today (Aug. 4) in Antiquity.
"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," said Delaere. "Our team has systematically surveyed around the islands and reefs in the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca."