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Chachapoyas Mummies of the Amazon region, Peru

The Chachapoyas, also called the Warriors of the Clouds, were an Andean people living in the cloud forests of the Amazonas region of northern Peru from 800 A.D to about 1475 A.D until they were conquered and exterminated by the Incas led by Tupac Yupanqui. The Incas conquered their civilization shortly before the arrival of the Spanish in Peru. When the Spanish arrived in Peru in the XVI century, the Chachapoyas were one of the many nations ruled by the Inca Empire. Their incorporation into the Inca Empire had not been easy, due to their constant resistance to the Inca troops. The name Chachapoya is in fact the name that was given to this culture by the Inca; the name that these people may have actually used to refer to themselves is not known.

The presence of two funeral patterns are also typical from the Chachapoyas culture. One of them is represented by sarcophagi, placed vertically and located in caves that were excavated in the highest place of the precipices. The other funeral pattern was groups of mausoleums; that is to say "mansions for deceased people". They were constructed like tiny houses and were located in caves worked in cliffs.


A 600-year old mummy from the Chachapoyas culture was recently found in the mountains of Kohechan, in the Peruvian northern department of Amazonas. The hidden burial vault in the Amazon, part of a massive cave complex that unwinds 82ft down, contained a dozen mummies, including one of a woman with her hands over her eyes and her face allegedly gripped with horror.

The vault -also used for worship- was discovered by chance in October 2006 by Bernardo Chuquizuta, a potato-farmer working at the edge of northern Peru’s rainforest. He tipped off scientists who uncovered ceramics, textiles and wall paintings.

Hernan Corbera, the leader of the archaeological team that explored the cave, said: ‘This is a discovery of transcendental importance. It is the first time any kind of underground burial site this size has been found belonging to Chachapoyas or other cultures in the region.’.

X-rays showed that their internal organs had been removed. The skin was embalmed through some treatment. Cotton was filled into the facial cavity. The Chachapoyas also chose a site covered by ledge, one of the driest places in the jungles to ensure the preservation

The mummies -together with the ceramics, textiles, and metal artefacts found in the vault- are currently being exhibited (until February 25th 2007) at the Museo de la Nación (Av. Javier Prado Este 2465 - San Borja, Phone 476-9933).
 

Moment 600 years ago that terror came to Mummies of the Amazon

January 10, 2007 Source: ThisIsLondon


Hands over her eyes and her face gripped with terror, the woman's fear of death is all too obvious. The remarkable mummy was found in a hidden burial vault in the Amazon.

It is at least 600 years old and has survived thanks to the embalming skills of her tribe, the Chachapoyas or cloud warriors.

Eleven further mummies were recovered from the massive cave complex 82ft down.

The vault - which was also used for worship - was chanced upon three months ago by a farmer working at the edge of northern Peru's rainforest. He tipped off scientists who uncovered ceramics, textiles and wall paintings.

The Chachapoyas were a tall, fair-haired, light-skinned race that some researchers believe may have come from Europe.

Little is known about them except that they were one of the more advanced ancient civilizations in the area. Adept at fighting, they commanded a large kingdom from the year 800 to 1500 that stretched across the Andes.

It is not known what the Chachapoyas actually called themselves - they are identified by the name given to them by their rivals and eventual conquerors, the Incas. It comes from the Inca's Quechua language and means 'cloud people', because of the high forests in the clouds that the Chachapoyas inhabited.

Virtually all record of the tribe was lost when the Incas were themselves overrun by the Spanish conquistadors who landed in 1512.

They have, however, left behind a spectacular citadel, called Kuelap, 10,000ft up in the Andes. It has more than 400 buildings and defensive towers, many of them with decorated walls, cornices and friezes. Some experts rate Kuelap more highly than the Incan ruins at Machu Picchu.

Hernan Corbera, the leader of the archaeological team that explored the cave, said: 'This is a discovery of transcendental importance. 'It is the first time any kind of underground burial site this size has been found belonging to Chachapoyas or other cultures in the region.' He said walls near the mummies in the limestone cave were covered with paintings of faces and warriorlike figures which may have been drawn to ward off intruders and evil spirits.

'The remote site for this cemetery tells us that the Chachapoyas had enormous respect for their ancestors because they hid them away for protection,' added Mr Corbera.

'Locals call the cave Iyacyecuj, or enchanted water, because of its spiritual importance and its underground rivers.' The archaeologists have not yet established an accurate age for their finds.

Once they have finished exploring and excavating the tomb, Peruvian authorities want to turn it into a museum. The mummies are going on show at the Museum of the Nation in the capital Lima.

 


The fortress of Kuelap consists of massive exterior stone walls containing more than four hundred buildings. The structure, situated on a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley in northern Peru, is roughly 600 meters in length and 110 meters in width. It was likely built to defend against the Huari or other hostile peoples. Archaeological evidence shows that the structure was built around 800 AD and occupied until the Early Colonial period (1532-1570).

 

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Last updated: February 14, 2007