Llama & Alpaca History
Incas were the original domesticators of llamas and alpacas. This occurred in the higher Andes Mountains around 4,000 B.C., near lake Titicaca. Throughout the Inca domestication period, llamas and alpacas were controlled by the state authority llama herders. As such, they were property of the government and their breeding habits were monitored to ensure a healthy population. Llamas of the time were quite resourceful, and were able to produce meat, fertilizer, and wool, even though the surroundings and food sources were lacking. In addition, they were prized beasts of burden for physical labor for the Incas. Since they were such contributors to society, alpaca hunting was forbidden.
Llamas and alpacas were used in a variety of ways by the Incas. As a food source, llama meat was often cured and salted, as well as eaten fresh. Many internal organs were also used as medicinals, mainly their digestive tract. Llama fiber was used to produce a coarse fiber for the general population, while the finer alpaca and vicuna fiber was reserved for the upper class. For religious ceremonies, males and non-reproducing females were sacrificed to follow religious beliefs. Their most valued asset, though, was as beasts of burden. Their contribution to local farming maintenance and long distance transport was invaluable, and was in direct correlation to the expansion and sustainability of the Incan tribe and Lake Titicaca.
Llamas and Alpacas were an extremely important aspect of the Incan society, therefore llama herders and breeders were paid well for their services. Their health had to be strictly monitored, for fear spreading disease would destroy the population. Llamas were classified as agricultural resources, and were typically broken down into 3 distinct groups. The first were designated for priests to use in religious ceremonies. The second was disbursed to the general public for community involvement. And the third was granted to the government for their general use.
Disease became the main enemy for the llama and alpaca population as the years passed, mainly contributed by the Spanish conquistadors who entered the scene around the mid 1500's. They continued, though, to be the main transport vehicle well into early this century, when roads and motor propelled vehicles began to replace them.