Researchers discovered evidence of ritual offerings from the Tiwanaku people to unknown deities near the Island of the Sun in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. The Tiwanaku existed around the Lake Titicaca basin on the border of Peru and Bolivia. The group were among the most powerful and successful of all the tribes in the Andes mountain range until the arrival of the Inca people in around the 12th century AD.
They also suffered massively during the Spanish conquests of the 14th century.
Sacrificed llamas, gold and stone ornaments and ceramic feline incense burners were discovered by researchers at the bottom of the lake.
The team of researchers from the University of Oxford and Penn State University, in Pennsylvania, state the items date back to between 500 and 1,100 AD – some 500 years before the Inca people arrived at Lake Titicaca.
Jose Capriles, assistant professor of anthropology at Penn State, said: “People often associate the Island of the Sun with the Incas because it was an important pilgrimage location for them and because they left behind numerous ceremonial buildings and offerings on and around this island.
“Our research shows that the Tiwanaku people, who developed in Lake Titicaca between 500 and 1,100 AD, were the first people to offer items of value to religious deities in the area.”
Christophe Delaere, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology, added: “The findings, and especially the ceramic puma-shaped incense burners, are significant because they help us gain a broader understanding of the ritual behaviour and religion of the Tiwanaku state — a society that preceded the Incas by several hundred years.”
Researchers said the items were intentionally submerged in the lake.
Prof Capriles explained: “The presence of anchors near the offerings suggests that officiating authorities may have deposited the offerings during rituals held from boats.
The team wrote in the research paper: “More than a mere cult in an extreme location, the ceremonies at Khoa reflect a complex interaction of being situated at the centre of the lake while being carried out by a small elite group.
“They also emphasise the display of powerful forces, as the dissemination of rituals focused on the representation of a rayed-faced deity and smoke-gusting pumas, the sacrifice of juvenile llamas, and the conspicuous disposal of wealth.”