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
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)