An elaborate Inca offering has been discovered in a lake that may once have been used for human sacrifices.
The discovery was made by archaeologists in the Bolivian part of Lake Titicaca. The offering, which was placed in the lake more than 500 years ago, contains a miniature gold bracelet and a llama or alpaca figurine carved from shell.
Experts from Belgium’s Université libre de Bruxelles, Bolivia’s Universidad Mayor de San Andres, Penn State University and the University of Oxford participated in the research, which is published in the journal Antiquity.
“Since the Spanish conquest, it was speculated that the Inca made underwater offerings, but most of those found were empty,” the researchers explained in a statement emailed to Fox News.
The offering inside its box: a miniature gold bracelet and miniature llama or alpaca.
(Credit: T. Seguin, Université libre de Bruxelles/Antiquity)
Lake Titicaca, which is on the border of modern-day Bolivia and Peru, was a sacred place for the Inca. “The contents of the offering are similar to those found at sites of human sacrifice, shedding light on the lake’s place in Inca culture,” the researchers explained in the emailed statement. “The Inca believed they originated from Lake Titicaca and a large ritual complex was built on an island there.”
“This pairing of miniature figurines and gold foil is also found at in the Andes, where they are regularly associated with human sacrifices to appease deities,” the researchers added. “This suggests Lake Titicaca was also revered and may have been the site of similar sacrifices, although no direct evidence of them has been found.”
The offering was found in a different place to earlier finds, according to the archaeologists, which could indicate that more artifacts are hidden in the lake. “The underwater heritage of Lake Titicaca still has many surprises to reveal,” the researchers said in the statement.
The figurine and gold foil from the box. (Credit: Teddy Senguin, Université libre de Bruxelles)
The find has been returned to the local municipality of Escoma, where it was found, they said.
At its height in the 16th century, the Inca Empire spanned modern-day Peru, as well as parts of Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile.
Last year, experts shed new light on how the Inca civilization used “trophy heads” to maintain control over conquered peoples.
In 2018, archaeologists in Peru found what may be the largest mass child sacrifice site in history.
Fox News’ Bradford Betz contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers