Unique Chachapoyas Sarcophagi Discovered in Amazonas

Archaeologists are looking at the possible need for a new museum in the Amazonas region, following the discovery of 35 sarcophagi belonging to the Chachapoyas culture, according to daily Peru.21.

The discovery was made in July, with the help of a high-powered camera lens, and confirmed in September when archaeologists hiked into the area.  The access to Cerro El Tigre, near San Jeronimo, where the sarcophagi were found, is a steep two-hour walk and would not be easily accessible to visitors.

Archaeologists believe that the sarcophagi –  painted clay coffins placed upright above ground  – were placed in a cemetery for children because the figures measure some 70 centimeters tall.

“For their size, this discovery is unique in the world and should be protected and integrated into the tourist circuit,” said Manuel Cabañas Lopez, the regional director of Tourism and International Trade.

Cabañas Lopez said a total of 325 sarcophagi have been discovered in Amazonas.

The best known Chachapoyas sarcophagi are at Carajia, in the Utcubamba Valley, where eight mummies measuring 2.5 meters tall are perched on a cliff ledge, protected by an overhang.

In 1997,  a museum was built in Leymebamba by Centro Mallqui to preserve and provide research facilities for 200 mummies salvaged from the Lake of the Condors, where sarcophagi were being looted by visitors.

Sonia Guillen, who led the Centro Mallqui and has extensive knowledge of the Chachapoyas culture, visited the new sarcophagi discovery recently, now as Museums Director of the Ministry of Culture.

The Chachapoya were a strongly independent civilization that lived in the Andean cloud forests from about AD 800, building hilltop complexes such as the Kuelap fortress and the large cities of circular buildings of Gran Pajaten and Gran Vilaya. They resisted conquest for many years by the Incas, who referred to the Chachapoyas as the “cloud people” and held the Chachapoyas weaving techniques in high regard.

Unlike the Inca complexes in Peru’s southern highlands, many of the Chachapoyas ruins in Peru’s north have been underexplored or yet to be rediscovered.

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