Cast using the lost wax method, this solid silver figurine of a llama stands on four large hooves, facing forward with alert, upright ears, and bulging eyes, its tail extended out behind.
For a similar example, see: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 1974.271.36.
According to 16th-century Spanish chroniclers (Cieza de León 1959, 190-193; Diez de Betzanos 1996, 46, 132), camelid figurines, such as this example, formed part of an annual ritual performed by the Incas (ca. 1400–1533) throughout the Andes. This ceremony, known as capac hucha, or “royal obligation” in Quechua, reportedly occurred to mark important natural events such as a drought or the accession or death of an Inca ruler. The ritual involved annual celebrations where prophecies were given for the coming year, and sacrificial offerings of llamas, maize, and other goods were undertaken.
The performance commenced in Cuzco, the Inca capital, with the marriage of juveniles selected by Inca nobility. Wearing ritualistic clothing and a range of ornaments, the juveniles were then sent on processions to locations as far north and south as Isla de la Plata in Ecuador and Cerro El Plomo in Chile. They were sacrificed and buried here, accompanied by precious metal and Spondylus shell figurines, ceramic vessels, and other shell and metalwork.
Dimensions: Length: 3.7 cm (1.46 inches)
Condition: Intact and in excellent condition overall
Provenance: Ex. Klassen Collection, acquired from the Estate of Joel Malter in 2011, thereafter private Canadian collection.
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