Recovering the iconography of the one snuff tray ever collected in Tiahuanaco (Bolivia)


The Musée du Quai Branly holds a snuff tray allegedly from Tiahuanaco. It was collected by the geologist Georges Courty during the archaeological excavations conducted on the site by the French Scientific Mission to South America in 1903. The wooden artifact, with inlays of turquoise and metal, is delicately sculpted in low relief, perforated and engraved. Its fragmentary condition has restricted its analysis. A study and conservation plan enabled the recovery of its shape (trapezoidal) and iconographic details. The latter show a supernatural camelid, known as a Wariwilca, standing on a pedestal. The radio-carbon dating of the tray places it at the end of the Middle period (AD 600-1000), which matches the 14C ages obtained for the other five similar specimens excavated in Coyo Oriente, Solcor 3, and Quitor 5, in the San Pedro de Atacama Desert. The Wariwilca figure is also represented on metal votive plaques recovered in Lake Titicaca, as well as on Tiahuanaco ceramic incense burners and stone sculptures. The presence of the tray at Tiahuanaco supports the hypothesis of this type of ritual object being directly imported from the Altiplano center to San Pedro de Atacama, both regions sharing a precise set of ritual practices.

Cite this Record

Recovering the iconography of the one snuff tray ever collected in Tiahuanaco (Bolivia). Helena Horta, Paz Núñez-Regueiro, Clotilde Castelli, Valentina Figueroa, Catherine Lavier. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429054)

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Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15953