The Llama Mummies

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryBefore the arrival of the Europeans, the Llama was the only pack animal known in the Americas. Even then, it was only found in the southern and southeastern parts of South America. The Llama was ideal for long distance travel in the mountainous terrain, and the peoples of that part of South America prized the Llama from being a pack animal to being used as currency as well. Recently, archaeologists have discovered that the Incas also sacrificed Llamas for various religious rituals. These animals had been killed, mummified, and buried along with other ceremonial items. According to 16th Century Spanish colonial chronicler Bernabe Cobo, the Incas would sacrifice brown Llamas to the creator god Viracoche, and white Llamas to the sun god. In October, the Incas would sacrifice 100 Llamas to bring rain, and in February would sacrifice 100 Llamas to stop the rains to prevent flooding.

The discovery of the mummified Llamas was just one more example of how much the Incas valued this animal. The Incas used Llamas for a variety of purposes. These included carrying merchandise throughout the Inca Empire, for payment to peoples newly annexed into the Inca Empire, and as sacrifices. The particular Llama mummies were found in the Incan administrative center of Tambo Viejo. These Llama mummies are believed to have been sacrificed over 500 years ago with the peaceful annexation of the area into the Inca Empire. To this day, the llama is of great value to the Quechua—the descendants of the Incas. The Quechua people use Llamas as pack animals, for their rich wool, for meat, and even as pets. In this regards, the Llama is a connecting point between the cultural and religious beliefs of the Quechua to the ancient Inca Empire that once covered as much as one-third of all South America.

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