The Chachapoya of the Peruvian highlands were an enigmatic group refered to as 'the cloud people', they appear to have inhabited the region for a
couple of millenia thereabouts, but their origins were probably Andean.
They were noted as being white in appearance, and tall, i'll first give a rundown of the general information on them, and then give a breakdown of my
opinions on how they could relate to the general mystery surrounding Andean culture.
In a remote corner of northern Peru, the ancient Chachapoya once held sway over a vast
territory, today scattered with the distinctive remains of their trademark cliff tombs and
hamlets of circular structures. Feared warriors and famed shamans, the Chachapoya
flourished from around AD 800 until their violent conquest by the Inkas in the 1470s
The Chachapoya occupied a vast swath of the northern Peruvian Andes, embraced by
the Marañón to the west and the Huallaga to the east. Garcilaso noted that
Chachapoyas “is more than fifty leagues [250 kilometers] long and twenty [100
The evidence suggests that at times the ancient Chachapoya interacted with cultures
living to the east, west and north of the Marañón, while at other times they flourished in
relative isolation. Although the Chachapoya played a part in the greater Andean
cultural sphere, their art and architecture convey a bold and independent spirit that sets
them apart from their neighbors.
excavations at Gran Pajatén indicate that people began settling this
part of the cloud forest at the onset of what archaeologists call the Early Intermediate
Period, around AD 200, reinforcing the notion that the Chachapoya cultural tradition
evolved locally. Early pottery excavated in Manachaqui Cave points to links with
peoples to the east and to the north as early as 1500 BC, and ceramics dating to 900-400
BC resemble the pottery of southern Ecuador
Among the scattered colonial descriptions of Chachapoyas, almost all the
chroniclers commented on the beauty and white skin of the women. Even Father
Calancha succumbed to their beauty, noting, “These are the whitest and most graceful
Indians in all the Indies, and the women are the most beautiful.” Cieza, a usually
levelheaded observer, mentions the whiteness of Chachapoya women’s skin three times
in his brief description of Chachapoyas. “These Chachapoyas Indians are the whitest
and most attractive I have seen anywhere I have been in the Indies, and their women
were so beautiful that many of them were chosen to be the wives of the Inkas and the
vestals of the temples.”
Studies of pre-Inka Chachapoya skeletal remains from Salsipuedes and other burial
sites indicate that the Chachapoya were of Andean stock but, on average, taller than
their contemporaries in other parts of ancient Peru (1.59 meters for men and 1.46 meters
for women). Analysis of the skeletal remains from Los Pinchudos confirms the trend.
The Chachapoya buried their dead in a variety of structures, ranging from funerary capsules known as purunmachus to above ground stone tombs
called chullpas. Some chullpas are set in rows, like those at Laguna de los Cóndores, while others are single constructions poised in hard to reach
In some cases, such as Laguna de los Cóndores and Laguna Huayabamba, the tombs overlook lakes that ancient people probably venerated as
pacariscas, or places of origin. The tombs also overlooked the communities of the living. In this fashion, the dead not only looked out over the
birthplace of their ancestors, but watched over their descendants as well. Offerings of food and evidence that mummies were covered in new burial
wrappings indicate that people visited the tombs, a widespread ancient Andean practice
Purunmachus stand on ledges protected from the weather either on their own, in small clusters ranging from four to eight or even in groups of 15 to
Their religious iconography of the condor and curious 'birth Goddess' is an extensive subject in itself and one that i can't cover here but will
probably do so later in particular details.
What i want to concentrate on here is the representation of the burial idols, in conjunction with the facial characteristics of this ethnic group, as
what led me to take an interest was a search for a culture that corresponded to certain carvings from Puma Punku showing striking features and a
particular form of head dress.
Below is an Incan sculpture of a warrior wearing Chachapoya style headgear, in all probability a representation of a Chachapoya, this differs notably
from general Incan portraiture
As i said, i was looking for a match to the types seen below that are from Puma Punku, despite being no longer in situ having been reused elsewhere in
post colonial towns. The importance of these pieces is that they demonstrate what the builders of Puma Punku looked like, or at least their Gods
after their own image as is generally the case.
The quality of the carving and surrounding stone is such that they are consistent with the quality of Puma Punku, unlike similar styled heads from
Tiwanaku which whilst derivative are of poor quality.
This then suggests a match to me between the headgear and facial characteristics of the Chachapoya and those carvings which best indicate the
appearance of those who constructed Puma Punku, and yet the general architectural style of the Chachapoya and the quality of their stone working does
not suggest any match, so i wouldn't suggest they constructed Puma Punku.
A solution to this conundrum may perhaps involve a parent culture of Chachapoya having constructed Puma Punku, perhaps their Gods, involving a
scenario were they left their former Andean homeland millenia ago, with origins closely linked to earlier developments.
The large idol at Tiwanaku shows consistency in style and quality with the best of Puma Punku and again must relate to the God of its creators, this
again can be seen to share the general features and headgear of the Chachapoya, in a heavily stylized geometric form.
I would conclude then that there is an indirect relationship between the Chachapoya and Gods of Puma Punku.
The best documentary on these people is in German, but has captions.
edit on 21-1-2013 by Kantzveldt because: (no reason given)
Awesome thread. You, Slayer, Hanslune, Extralien, and a few others, keep me on the edge of my seat with this kind of stuff.
These were a curious people, and seemed out of place in their surroundings, given their description. White skinned? Blonde hair? This seems to lend
some creedence to the "White, bearded gods" of the Maya and others. It makes me wonder how far their ancestry went back in the general area.
A very interesting hypothesis and possible connection with Puma Punku to be pondered. S&F.
Just this weekend I found a found a reference to these people in a genetics discussion.
I'll try to track it down.
My feeling is they could be the south American descendant of the Clovis culture, as there are references to certain tribes from the south east US,
that were characterized as being of lighter complextion and taller than their neighbors. There is a local tribe that is markedly different than their
neighbors, they are taller and lighter complected than their neighbors, and they have an ancestral connection to the Clovis culture.
I have also found andean myth that may be about these people, ill try to find that reference as well.
S & F
edit on 21-1-2013 by punkinworks10 because: (no reason given)
Thanks, i'd be very interested in seeing any research on the genetics involved, this site has a few images of supposed descendants, most look
generally Andean, but there is a blonde haired girl, i don't know how common this trait still is.
Yes it could lend some support to the bearded Gods scenario. Their architecture and general cultural style does seem out of place, i'm sure they've
been claimed by the Mormons as evidence for their fairy tales, but i think the answer will be somewhat different.
I searched long and hard for a tribe that matched the facial characteristics and headwear of the Puma Punku carvings, and the style of their menhir
idols, and this culture ticks all the boxes with no other coming close.
edit on 21-1-2013 by Kantzveldt because: (no reason given)
i watched a documentary on the cloud people just last week on BBC FOUR here in the UK
it was called Lost Kingdoms Of South America
a very good doco and i reccomend to anyone who can access BBC IPLAYER, and anyone who can find the full episode on youtube
i did look but only found a trailer
Correct me if I am wrong but don't all humans share pretty much most of these types of visible traits like eye color etc, but the factor is that it
is usually recessive in specific populations or alternatively, dominant in others?
*In reference to the blonde haired Andean child photographed.
Yes it could be her Father in terms of likeness. An important point regarding these people is that their main cultic emphasis is on the archetypal
ancestor iconography and their remarkable ancestral burial practises.
This association with the all important archetypal ancestor appears to have led them into not accepting any form of secular or spiritual hierarchy or
even Pantheon of Deities, in that as descendants of this ancestor they should accept no ruler...this of course set them on a collision course with the
Empire of the Inca.
Thus rather than seeing an idealized statue of the archetype as a God, they more probably saw him as an ancestor of the family, this directly
influencing how they saw themselves..
No i don't think certain traits are commonly shared, though it is considered such mutations could arise independantly. In those terms it is
considered genes for say blonde hair could have developed in more places than one and thus populations be found which haven't inherited it from a
But apart from the blonde hair facial features can be found in the region which are unlike the general Andean, and then there is the greater height
edit on 21-1-2013 by Kantzveldt because: (no reason given)
This isn't the study I found earlier, but it talks a little about them.
Archaeological and ethnohistorical documents suggest that the Chachapoya region was inhabited bya numberof distinct sociopolitical groups that
only united in theface of their common enemy, the Inka. The purposeof this research is to quantify theamount of internal geneticdifferentiation and
levels of extraregional geneflow during theLateChachapoya period, in order to obtain a betterunderstanding of the genetic relationship between
thesepresumed ethnicgroups. Craniometricdata werecollected fromthree Late Chachapoya samples (Laguna Huayabamba, Kuelap, and Laguna delos Cóndores),
in order to understand thegeneticrelationships between the groups and facilitate our understanding of Late Chachapoya population structure. Genetic
differentiation among theseseries ranged from0.047 (heritability = 1.0) to 0.090 (heritability =0.55). TheRelethford-Blangero residuals indicatethat
the Laguna Huayabamba and Laguna de los Cóndores populations were receiving greaterthan average external geneflow, whileKuelap was receiving less
than averageexternal gene flow. Thecorrespondence between biological and archaeological data in theinvestigation of prehistoricethnic identityis
Dataprovided are for informational purposesonly.Although carefullycollected,
Text Chachapoya architecture was engineered for its cloud-forest climate: “terraces” and cornices to channel water away from building
foundations, steep thatch roofs to allow rain to run off. East of the Utcubamba River and south of Gran Vilaya, the stone buildings have intricate
designs in zigzag and rhomboid shapes. Yálape, Kuélap and La Congona are examples of this.
The Chachapoya mummified their dearly departed. Using mummies, scientists have discovered the genetic markers that make the Chachapoya, described by
the Spaniards as being white-skinned and distinct. Findings show the modern rural population is about 65% Chachapoya. Thirty descendent communities
have been identified in Peru and Bolivia, thus proving the Inca massively relocated this "rebellious" nation. The greatest depletion of their
populations, however, came with the Spaniards' diseases: within 200 years, over 90% of Chachapoya were decimated.
Thanks for those, i''ve had a brief look around and those statistic based studies were all i came across also in terms of what is freely
There are also dental studies having been undertaken, these indicate that they were of standard Andean type, and owe nothing to Eurasians. This
confirms my intuition that their traits resembling European arose independently in the Andean region, in conjunction with my hypothesis that this
relates in some way to an ancestral archetype associated with Puma Punku...which only serves to provide more questions than answers.
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