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
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
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Data Source
National Museum of American History


I have a similar model and it was given to me by my Grandmother. She did a lot of traveling and brought her granddaughter lots of items from the various places she traveled. She gave me a model of the Kon-Tiki in the fifties--Commemorating Thor Heyerdahl Expedition by the same name. Later she gave me the reed boat model--I believe it is the model of the boat used in the RA expedition that Thor Heyerdahl did for similar reasons as his Kon-Tiki expedition. She marked the reed boat" From Late Titicaca". My Grandmother was a Jr. High School teacher and loved the adventure and learning opportunities that travel brought.

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