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Uros Peru

Unravelling the Origins of the Uros People

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The Uros are a pre-Incan people who live on forty-two artificial floating islands in Lake Titicaca Puno, Peru and Bolivia. They call themselves "Lupihaques" (Sons of the Sun) and consider themselves descendants of the ancient Uros, who are the first major ethnic group to have settled in the Andes, but much debate has taken place in academic circles surrounding their origin and lineage.

Despite the fact that the Uros today share many lineages with the surrounding Andean populations, they have maintained their own divergent genetic ancestry, as well as culture and customs. But exactly where these genes originated from has been a matter of controversy.  According to some anthropologists, the Uros are descendants of the first settlers of the Altiplano, the Andean plateau. Those from Peru have long claimed to descend from the ancient Urus (Uruquilla speakers).

“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,” said Spencer Wells, Genographic Project director and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence.

However, some people have alleged that the Uros disappeared a long time ago and that the new islanders have conjured up an ancient heritage in order to attract tourists and receive special recognition and rights to use Titicaca’s natural resources.

The Uros People. Photo source

Genetic research  carried out last year and led by the Genographic Project consortium showed a distinctive ancestry for the Uros populations of Peru and Bolivia that pre-dates the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and may date back to the earliest settlement of the Altiplano, or high plain, of the central Andes some 3,700 years ago. The findings were made by comparing the Uros’ genetic lineages with those of eight Aymara-, nine Quechua- and two Arawak-speaking populations from the western region of South America.

The results may go a long way in helping to curb some of the racism suffered by the Uros, who are frequently accused of inventing ancient lineage in order to prosper from Titicaca’s resources.

By April Holloway

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