Sunday, December 12, 2004

University of Helsinki finds traces of ancient civilization at Lake Titicaca

University of Helsinki

News of the week
 Week 44 / 2004: Top finds on Bolivian highlands

Detail of a vesselFinnish scientists discovered the most significant relics of antiquity in recent Bolivian history.

In the excavations on Pariti Island in Lake Titicaca, in the highlands of Bolivia, the historical-archaeological research team of the University of Helsinki discovered a ritual offering site with well-preserved pieces of ceramics. The find adds substantially to what is known about the Tiwanaku culture, which flourished before the Incas and for which the island was probably an important religious site.

“The dig contained approximately 300 kilograms of deliberately broken ritual ceramics, which, according to radiocarbon dating, have been buried sometime between 900–1050 AD,” says Antti Korpisaari, an archaeologist from Renvall Institute. “Some twenty vessels have been preserved intact. The objects can be compared to the best china of a royal household or sacramental communion vessels.”

Many types and ornamental elements of vessels discovered on Pariti were completely new to scientists. People are depicted very realistically on the objects, providing a rare insight into the life of the Tiwanaku elite.

“By comparing small details, such as clothing, headgear, jewellery and even facial characteristics, to other finds from the highland area, we can actually start drawing conclusions about the ethnic identities of the people who lived there at the time. The discovery also provides new information on the relationship between the Inca and Tiwanaku cultures,” Korpisaari says.

The historical-archaeological project Formations and Transformations of Ethnic Identities in the South Central Andes, AD 700–1825 also included an extensive general survey of the Bolivian highlands during the fieldwork season of 2004. This, for example, led to the discovery of the location of ancient Paria, the lost Southern centre of the Inca state.

Read more about the research activities of the project on its website.

Text: Sanna Schildt
Photo: Antti Korpisaari

Translation: Valtasana Oy


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