Aymaras, the name of the earliest known inhabitants of the Alpine valleys of S. E. Peru and N. W. Bolivia, whose descendants, save a few in the Peruvian province of Puno, are now to be found only in the Bolivian provinces of La Paz and Oruro. They claim descent from the Collaguas, who at a very remote period migrated from the north, and constituted the sacred isle in Lake Titicaca the centre of their government and religion. Though distinct in language, they physically resemble the Indians of the great Quichuan or Inca fam-; ily, who were indebted to them for a part of their religious rites and the knowledge of the arts. They worked skilfully in gold and silver, tilled the ground, built splendid edifices ornamented with sculpture and painting, and were somewhat versed in astronomy. Their poetry and religion were spiritualistic; their priests were bound to celibacy, and the dead were held in religious veneration. Their skin is of an olive-brown color; their features, though regular, are strongly marked, the cranium capacious, and the general cast of the countenance thoughtful and melancholy. The women are rarely handsome.
The Aymaras have embraced Christianity, and are zealous observers of all the rites of the Roman Catholic faith, in the performance of which, however, they introduce some relics of paganism. Their chief occupation is husbandry. As the Incas grew in power they gradually subdued the Aymaras, and ultimately overran their whole territory. The Aymaras probably number 200,-000 at the present day. In early times they were accustomed to mould the craniums of infants to a conical shape. They worshipped the sun, and believed the present luminary to be the fifth, and that, after a long period of darkness, it emerged from the sacred island in the lake. The monuments of Tiaguanaco, remains of many of which are still standing, indicate a much higher civilization than do those of Palenque. (See Titicaca.) Their tombs, sometimes large square buildings with a single opening through which the body was introduced, contained 12 bodies placed feet to feet around a confined cavity, sitting in their clothes. Some of these tombs are small houses of sunburnt bricks; some are square towers of several stories, containing each a body; but whatever be the size, they are always joined in groups, with the opening facing the east.
Aymaras, and an Ayrnara Tomb.