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.
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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.
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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. (Diego Delso/CC BY SA)
Top Image: A traditional Uros boat. Source: Public Domain