Archeologist divers uncovered ancient treasures at the bottom of Lake Titicaca in the Andes, where thousands of years of complex human history have been laid to rest in a watery grave. The ancient secrets that were discovered by the team included a beautiful blue gemstone of lapis-lazuli as well as numerous gold artifacts that retain their gilded luster despite years beneath the murky waves.
According to Live Science, researchers consider the site to have been a sacred location where ancient people from the Tiwanaku culture made sacrificial offerings to their deities. A tiny island in the midst of the lake, now long-sunk into the waves themselves, was once the destination of ancient worshipers who would row boats out there to leave the rich artifacts as an offering to their gods.
“I could see why it would be the sacred of sacreds,” a professor of anthropology told Live Science. “You would be the most into the lake and still standing on something, if you could stand on that little [island].”
The underwater trove was a particularly rare find in the midst of Lake Titicaca, as it’s the largest in South America. Straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia, the colossal body of water is over 3,800 meters above sea level and has long been revered as a site of worship by local cultures that have dotted the nearby mountainous landscape for thousands of years.
Underwater excavations have previously been carried out by archeologists at reef sites around the lake, with other cultural remnants of the Tiwanaku people having been previously discovered by visitors on machu picchu tours. The Tiwanaku are believed to have thrived around the area in question between the 5th and 12th centuries AD.
There was more than gold and gemstones waiting beneath the waves, too; ceramic incense burners, which are important cultural remnants surrounding the theology of the ancient people in question, were also found alongside of miniature figures fashioned from oysters. The incense burners were often shaped by artists into the familiar shapes of cats that are still recognizable despite the wear and tear of years underwater.
According to reporting from CNN, the site of lama sacrifices has also been uncovered in Lake Titicaca, with the recent remarkable haul of artifacts giving researchers reasons to believe that more could be awaiting beneath the waves. While other treasures have surfaced from Lake Titicaca before, research team leader Christophe Delaere indicated this was the first discovery of undisturbed offerings to ancient gods.
“This is one of the advantages of the immersed heritage: the lake protects its ancient material culture from time and man,” he told CNN via email.