Model of a Lake Titicaca Reed Boat

People have always settled along bodies of water, especially in humankind’s earliest settlements. As long as they have populated these waterside regions, they have been crossing those waterways to get to the other side. Rafts and small boats were commonly used, and they were invariably manufactured from whatever local materials were available. In South America, the totora reed is especially abundant, and the hollow grass has been used for centuries to build rafts and boats. Lake Titicaca in the South American Andes mountain range on the border between Peru and Bolivia produced one of the earliest civilizations of the Americas, and they developed reed boats for fishing and and transport around the lake. Reed boats are still built at Lake Titicaca today.
This model, probably of a small fishing boat, has tapering ends composed of four single gathers of reed bound with hemp twine. A rectangular sail composed of horizontal reeds is attached to two upright masts at the center of the boat.
This model by an unidentified craftsperson was given to an employee of the Insurance Company of North America in 1946, while he was working in South America.
Currently not on view
Object Name
ship model
date made
ca 1920-1940
Physical Description
reeds (overall material)
hemp (overall material)
overall: 23 in x 30 in x 11 in; 58.42 cm x 76.2 cm x 27.94 cm
hull: 4 in x 30 in x 8 in; 10.16 cm x 76.2 cm x 20.32 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
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Work and Industry: Maritime
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection

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