The Chachapoya based their economy on the household production
of pottery and textiles for local exchange, and relied on agriculture,
herding, hunting and gathering for their sustenance. Many settlements
were located strategically, providing ready access to a variety
of ecosystems. They sculpted mountain slopes into broad earthen
terraces and transformed low-lying areas into systems of ridged
fields with elaborate drainage systems. Remains of terrace systems
still sculpt sectors of the middle Utcubamba valley, probably devoted
to warm valley crops such as cotton, aji and coca. In higher areas,
people cultivated a variety of tubers —potatoes, mashwa, oca
and olluco—and grains —quinoa, kiwicha and chocho—
at altitudes ranging from 3200 to 3800 m.
People also hunted for deer, using antlers to decorate tombs and
houses and to fashion headdresses and decorate leather drums, such
as one found in a looted tomb in the Huabayacu drainage, today displayed
in the Chachapoyas office of the National Institute of Culture.
According to Cieza, “in olden times…they had large flocks
of llamas,” and no doubt alpacas as well, but today the camelids
have been replaced by sheep.
From left to right: Chachapoya-style
pottery; Remains of canalized river, near Leymebamba (Adriana von