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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Llama figurine made of gold.

  • Culture/period

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 6.3 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    <b> McEwan 2009, p.72

    Miniature Gold Llama. Inca, Peru, 14th-15th century </b>

    Llamas are a vital source of meat and wool for altiplano communities as well as being pack animals. The size and health of its herds are a direct measure of a community's health and prosperity. Along with miniature human figurines, miniature golden llamas were deposited as offerings to accompany high-altitude human sacrifices to the mountain deities <i>apus</i> to ensure the arrival of the life-giving moisture that replenishes the altiplano grasses and promotes the fertility of the herds.


  • Bibliography

    • MacGregor 2010 73 bibliographic details
    • McEwan 2000 Fig 11.20 (Includes radiograph image) bibliographic details
    • McEwan 2009 p. 72 bibliographic details
  • Exhibition history


    1996, London, Museum of Mankind (Room 1), 'Gilded Image'
    2003 15 Dec-2009 Jun, BM, 'Living and Dying'
    2010-2011, London, BM/BBC, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2014 April-June, Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat, "History of the World" PROMISED

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    21 August 2003

    Reason for treatment

    Permanent Exhibition

    Treatment proposal

    Light clean. Renumber the Llama.


    Dirty and greasy. Light tarnish in some patches.

    Treatment details

    Cleaned to remove dirt and grease with acetone applied on cotton wool swabs. Used detarol (10% in distilled water ) applied on swabs to remove some light tarnish/discolouration. The detarol was rinsed off with distilled water on swabs and dried with a paper tissue and acetone swabs. Renumbered. Applied registration number.

    About these records 

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Africa, Oceania & the Americas

  • Registration number



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: collectiondatabase@britishmuseum.org 

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Object reference number: ESA12178

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