According to a new study, archaeologists have found for the first time ever an underwater offering that was completely intact and made by the Inca people. The offering was submerged into Lake Titicaca in the Andes approximately 500 years ago.
The stone box was rectangular in shape and created from volcanic rock that’s called andesite. It measured 1.2 feet in length by 0.9 feet in width. The box was sealed with a circular plug made from stone, however, water did eventually leak in. Additionally, it more than likely had ropes based on the holes and grooves that were found on the short sides which would have helped the Incans to carefully place the box in the water.
After retrieving the box, the researchers opened it in their field laboratory with several municipal and local indigenous members present. They found a rolled sheet of gold about .98 inches in length that appeared to be a small bracelet similar to those that were worn by Incan noblemen. They also found a mollusk shell 1.1 inches in length that was carved into the shape of a llama or alpaca. It is believed that the bracelet and the shell were offerings of thanks for having lived a privileged life. Pictures of the box and offerings can be seen here.
Lake Titicaca was extremely important to the Incans as they considered it to be the birthplace of the sun in addition to being the location where ceremonies happened at temples and shrines that were constructed on Isla del Sol (also known as the Island of the Sun).
Numerous stone boxes had been previously found on the Khoa reef which is located close to the island’s temple, however, they were mostly all damaged. A team of international archaeologists traveled to the area in 2012 in order to search the waters for more ritualistic items and in 2014 they finally found the first ever undamaged box at the bottom of a reef close to K’ayaka Island which is in the southeastern portion of Lake Titicaca.
While the bracelet and animal-shaped shell could very well have been an offering of thanks, they could have just as easily been connected with human sacrifices to satisfy the gods. According to 17th century records that were written by Alonso Ramos Gavilán who was an Augustinian cleric, “the blood of children and animals was placed in stone boxes and lowered from rafts into the lake with the aid of ropes” and at that point, the blood would have turned the lake red in color. And scientists agree that blood may have been in the box at first, “It is certainly possible that blood was included in the stone boxes, and future residue analyses may verify this possibility,” they said.
The Incans could have used the entire lake for their rituals as well as other locations such as “rivers, springs, lagoons or the Pacific Ocean” the researchers noted. Further dives and research of the area needs to be conducted in order to hopefully find more boxes.