Chachapoyas Sarcophagi

Archaeologists may have found children’s cemetery belonging to ‘Warriors of the Clouds’

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Last week we reported on the unique culture of the Chachapoyan people, a society of Andean people living in the cloud forests of the Amazonas region of present day Peru, otherwise known as the ‘Warriors of the Clouds’.  The Chachapoyans are known for their incredible sarcophagi , known as purunmachu.  The sarcophagi were made of clay and carefully decorated and painted with faces and bodies before being lined up precariously on cliff edges, like sentinels guarding the dead.

Now archaeologists have made a rare discovery of 35 more sarcophagi belonging to the Warriors of the Clouds . However, uniquely, these sarcophagi are only about 70 centimetres tall which leads researchers to believe that they hold the remains of children and that this collection of purunmachu was a cemetery that was exclusively for those who died young.

The purunmachu were first discovered in 1928 when a powerful earthquake shook the hills surrounding the Utcubamba valley in Peru, revealing a seven foot tall clay statue, which came crashing down from the cliffside. Researchers were stunned to find that the figure was in fact a sarcophagus, and inside it were the remains of an individual carefully wrapped in cloth. Since then, hundreds more have been found, however, it was not thought that any more sarcophagi remained, especially untouched and intact.

But in July of this year, archaeologists working in the Amazonas region spotted the collection of purunmachu with a long zoom lens camera. Researchers have now been able to reach the site to confirm the finding, however the sarcophagi have not yet been opened or analysed. In addition to the small size of the sarcophagi, another unique feature is that they were found facing west, which is not typical for the Chachapoyas cemeteries.

“Because of the magnitude of the find, we’re dealing with a discovery that is unique in the world,” said Manuel Cabañas López of the regional Ministry of Exterior Commerce and Tourism.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the Warriors of the Clouds began settling the region at least as early as 200 AD, but the Incas conquered their civilization shortly before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. Their incorporation into the Inca Empire led to the complete decimation of their culture and traditions, and less than a century after the arrival of the Spanish, they had been effectively wiped out. The purunmachu sarcophagi remain as a memory and legacy of this once flourishing culture of the Andes.

By John Black

Comments

Don't you think they sort of look similar to the moai of rapanui?

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