A traditional Uros boat

Sons of the Sun? Looking for the Origins of the Uros People


The Uros people live on 42 artificial floating islands on Lake Titicaca. They call themselves "Lupihaques" (Sons of the Sun) and descendants of the ancient Uros, a pre-Incan people. However, there has been a great deal of academic debate on their real origins.

Today, the Uros people are connected with many other Andean people, yet their cultural traditions and genetic ancestry remain separate from the surrounding populations. Nonetheless, their genetic origins remain a source of controversy. Some anthropologists say the Uros descended from the first settlers of the Altiplano (Andean plateau), while others claim the ancient Urus, Uruquilla speakers, as the ancestors of modern Uros people.

Uros residence

Uros residence. (CC BY SA 4.0)

Spencer Wells, Genographic Project director and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, explained: “The timing of human settlement in the Andean Altiplano is one of the great mysteries of our species’ worldwide odyssey — a vast, high-altitude plain that seems utterly inhospitable, yet it has apparently nurtured a complex culture for millennia.”

Despite the stories of ancient ancestors, some people assert that the real Uros people disappeared in the distant past – they say that the people living on the islands today created an ancient heritage just to attract tourists and gain special rights to Lake Titicaca’s natural resources.

Uros people.

Uros people. (CC BY SA 4.0)

The results of genetic research  by the Genographic Project consortium showed that the genetic ancestry of the Uros people pre-dates the arrival of the Spanish and it may in fact come from as far back as 3,700 years ago – during the earliest settlement of the Altiplano in the central Andes. Their DNA was compared to Aymara, Quechua, and Arawak-speaking populations in the western region of South America.

These results can provide some support for the modern Uros people, who have been the victims of racism due to the frequent claims against their ancient past and rights to Lake Titicaca’s resources.

Uros boats and housing.

Uros boats and housing. (Diego Delso/CC BY SA)

Top Image: A traditional Uros boat. Source: Public Domain

By April Holloway

Comments

The Altiplano, or High Plains area of the Andes is, indeed, an inhospitable place for most human beings. At an average elevation of over 12,000 feet above sea level, the air is thin and the air temperatures are cold with wide variances between nighttime and daytime. The Uros people like to say that they have “black blood” due to their resistance to the cold, and do claim to be direct decendants of the ancient Uros.

With the results of testing by the Genographic Project, I see no reason why, with further study, results could not be obtained to either confirm or deny their claims. We have the technology and the ability to use it to possibly establish a link between a modern day group and it’s ancient ancestors.

No matter what the results of further testing may be, we must still deal with the ugly spectre of racism in one of it’s many forms. I am anxious to see the results of  further testing.

R. Lee Bowers

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