x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

A History of the World In 100 Objects: Inca gold llama

Every Tuesday we focus on an artifact showing as part of A ­History of the World in 100 Objects, an ­exhibition running until August 1 at Manarat Al ­Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi. This week: Inca gold llama.

Gold llama from A History of the World In 100 Objects at at Manarat Al Saadiyat. Courtesy British Museum
Gold llama from A History of the World In 100 Objects at at Manarat Al Saadiyat. Courtesy British Museum

It might be diminutive in stature, but this llama tells of a large portion of history.

The miniature figurine, wrought from hammered gold, would have been offered as an addition to the human sacrifices that the ancient Inca people were known to have made to their mountain gods.

Dated from Peru around 1500, the 6cm-tall llama gives an insight into the culture of the Inca tribes that lived in the Peruvian Andes and had a vast empire, reaching more than 3,862 kilometres along the length of the mountain range.

The Inca revered gold, believing it to be the sweat of the sun and that it represented the sun’s regenerative powers. All gold belonged to the ruler – the king – who claimed to be descended from the sun god.

Llamas were the Inca’s most important domesticated animal, providing food, clothing and acting as beasts of burden. They were also often sacrificed in large numbers to the gods.

This llama is important because very few Inca gold objects remain. After colonisation, the Spanish melted them all down and used them for their own wealth.

Each Tuesday, Arts&Life will ­focus on one artefact on show as part of A ­History of the World in 100 Objects, an ­exhibition running until August 1 at Manarat Al ­Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi

aseaman@thenational.ae