Funerary Architecture

Chachapoya funerary architecture is as elaborate as its residential counterpart. Sadly, few burial sites, despite their seemingly inaccessible locations, have survived the turmoil of centuries of looting and vandalism. 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 the Laguna de los Cóndores, while others are single constructions poised in hard to reach locations. Many chullpas are plastered and painted in white, red and yellow pigments and embellished with friezes and deer antlers or, in one case, wooden figures attached to the roof with an elaborate wooden chain link and tenon. Pictographs often adorn the cliffs surrounding burial sites, acting as beacons for looters.

People deliberately chose burial sites protected from rainfall. On the rainier slopes of the montane forest they sought cool, dry ledges that received only a few hours of sun every day, enhancing preservation. In some cases, such as the Laguna de los Cóndores, 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.

From left to right: Cliff tombs at La Petaca (Adriana von Hagen); Frieze on chullpa at Los Pinchudos, Rio Abiseo National Park (Ricardo Morales); Carved wooden figure, Los Pinchudos (Ricardo Morales)

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