About 500 years ago, the indigenous Uros (Uru) people of southeastern Peru abandoned life on dry land and created a unique society on Lake Titicaca, using dried totora reeds to create about 50 islands, complete with huts, furniture, canoes, a lookout tower, and even shops for tourists, all made from the sturdy reeds. Back then, the Uros were constantly under attack from Incan tribes, and they thought that living on the lake would provide more safety.
A society built on reeds:
- The islands are 4 to 8 feet (1.2 to 2.4 m) thick, but the top layer can become soft and spongy. As the reeds disintegrate from the bottom of the islands, residents must add more reeds to the surface.
- Large islands house about 10 families. Smaller islands, some only about 100 feet (30.5 m) wide, house only two or three families. They are anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the lakebed.
- The Uros have domesticated wild animals to help produce food. Cormorants are kept tethered so they can catch fish for humans, and ibis are used for eggs and butchered for meat.