Beautifully crafted ﬁgurines like the ones displayed here were offered during Inca ritual ceremonies known as capacocha (royal obligation), which involved child sacriﬁce. Young children chosen for their beauty were sacriﬁced on mountaintops across the Inca Empire to ensure the good health and longevity of the Sapa Inca (supreme ruler), among other purposes. Once likely dressed in textiles and feathers, these ﬁgurines were entombed with other miniature objects, such as animals, spondylus, bags of coca leaves, and drinking vessels for use in the afterlife. Llamas were highly valued for their wool and as a source of food, and were frequently associated with Inca rulers. Numerous miniature llamas, such as the one above, were found in burials in the region around Lake Titicaca; others were reportedly found buried in the central plaza of Cuzco.
Image: Long-Haired Llama or Alpaca, Peru, Southern Highlands (reportedly from the island of Titicaca), Inca, mid-15th–early 16th century, Silver, 9 3/8 x 8 1/8 in. (23.8 x 20.6 cm), American Museum of Natural History, Division of Anthropology, New York, B/1619. Photo © American Museum of Natural History Library, New York (B/1619).