Archaeology news: Sacrificed llamas discovered buried ALIVE in Inca ritual

Llamas were a prize possession to the Inca people, providing food and materials for clothing. But a recent discovery has found Incas were sacrificing their llamas to appease their gods. It was already known that the ancient civilisation of South America sacrificed humans and llamas, but more light is being shed on their ritualistic practices.

Researchers excavating a Peruvian site called Tambo Viejo found five extremely well preserved remains of llamas.

Archaeologists said the animals were not only sacrificed to appease the gods, but also to impress newly conquered, peacefully it should be said, locals.

Dr Lidio Valdez, from the University of Calgary, said: “Historical records indicate animal sacrifices were important to the Inca, who used them as special offerings to supernatural deities.

“This was especially the case of llamas, regarded second only to humans in sacrificial value.”

Radiocarbondating indicated the llamas were buried alive around 500 years ago, before the Spanish conquistadors arrived.

Also found in the area were large ovens and traces of feasts, suggesting the burial of the llamas was part of a larger celebration, according to the research published in the journal Antiquity.

The research also cited previous studies, which found certain llamas were sacrificed to appease certain gods.

For example, brown llamas were sacrificed to the creator God (Viracocha), while white llamas were sacrificed for the Sun gods and mixed coloured llamas to the gods of thunder.

Dr Valdez, who worked with a team from San Cristóbal of Huamanga University, added: “The offerings likely were part of much larger feasts and gatherings, sponsored by the state.

“The state befriended the local people with food and drink, cementing political alliances, whilst placing offerings allowed the Inca to claim the land as theirs.”

Before their burial, the llamas were decorated in valuables, and were placed alongside decorated guinea pigs.

The graves were littered with tropical feathers, all of which was to make higher powers happy.

The study read: “Llamas were the preferred sacrificial animals of the Inca Empire, their ritual value second only to that of human beings.

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“Recent archaeological excavations at the Inca settlement of Tambo Viejo in the Acari Valley on the Peruvian south coast have revealed a number of ritually sacrificed llamas in a unique context.

“This new evidence demonstrates that the establishment of Tambo Viejo as a provincial Inca centre involved the performance of ritual practices that included the dedicatory sacrifice of domesticated animals.

“These rituals materialised Inca imperial ideology and ultimately enabled the legitimisation of Inca presence in a conquered location.

“Through these ceremonies, the Inca created new orders, new understandings and meanings that helped to legitimise and justify their actions to both the conquerors and the conquered.”

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