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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 locations.
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 20.
The spirits of the giants shall be like clouds, which shall oppress, corrupt, fall, content, and bruise upon earth.
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 discussed.
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.