The Economy

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to Cieza, “in olden times…they had large flocks of llamas,” and no doubt alpacas as well, but today the camelids have been replaced by sheep.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 Hagen)

More Information:
The Chachapoya Religion Language
Economy Residential Architecture Funerary Architecture
Art Style Kuelap