ANTHROPOLOGY PAPER

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ANTHROPOLOGY PAPER

Pringle, Heather. 2001. Secrets of the Alpaca Mummies. Discover, June, 60-65.

This article explores the alpaca mummies and the rare, luxurious fabric that can be produced from the alpacas wool and Jane Wheelers study of the alpaca and llamas. The alpaca is a small, slender member of the camel family. The woolen fabric from the alpacas fleece was highly prized. In 1533, Francisco Pizarro laid plunder to Cuzco. He and his soldiers robbed the city of all the gold and silver that was available. The alpacas wool was important to the Inca empire. The alpacas wool had many purposes. It served as currency, gifts, and had sacrificial religious uses. The Inca were cloth makers who used cloth to produce a variety of objects in their society. They used the cloth to produce roofs and bridges. The cloth was also used as an aid in counting.
Jane Wheeler, an American archaeozoologist, discovered the secret hidden within the alpaca mummies over a decade ago. She researched the alpaca mummies and performed DNA and skin tests on the alpaca mummies. It was a startling discovery when she realized how perfectly preserved and intact the mummies were. These alpaca mummies had been buried beneath house floors for nearly 1,000 years. These same animals grazed El Yarals pastures an astounding 500 years before the rise on the Inca empire. The alpacas unusual burial site was due to the sacrificial ritual performed by the inhabitants of El Yaral. It is assumed that the inhabitants of El Yaral sacrificed the animals whose fiber wasnt considered to be of use.

Wheelers analysis of the alpaca mummies also revealed the softness of the alpaca mummies hair. It showed that the uniform fibers of the alpaca mummies were finer than those of the modern alpaca. This meant more money for the better quality of the wool. Further research revealed that inhabitants of El Yaral were utilizing pure breeding practices. Wheelers research is now focused on the DNA of the alpaca mummies and reproducing that quality in the modern alpaca.

This article was very informative and interesting. The major point of interest is the condition of the alpaca mummies that had been buried for long periods of time. Another point of interest is the role that cloth played in the Inca empire. The cloth was coveted by the Incas. The Inca armies would burn the textile warehouses rather than allow their enemy to plunder this coveted good.

The part of the article that revealed the mannerisms of the alpaca was very compelling. The alpaca will spit when angry. That is a very human characteristic for an animal to possess. It is astounding that the alpaca mummies were so perfectly preserved. It is beyond ones understanding why the animals didnt begin to decay in such a long period.

Wheelers research was very thorough and uncovered many new truths about the alpaca mummies. Further research could have focused more on the breeding methods and the miraculous preservation of the alpaca mummies. Another possible focus would have attempted to uncover what the inhabitants used in the burial process. This is vital to understanding the preservation process and could be vital to our modern society.