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Northern Peru Archaeology

The archaeology of Northern Peru is at least as interesting as archaeology in the Cusco area of southern Peru

Peru is a huge country, full of ancient empires, with the rise and fall of spectacular kingdoms throughout the ages.  The Incas were the last era before Columbus, so their gold and empire was recorded and made famous to Europeans.  Today 99% of Peru’s tourists go ONLY to the half of Peru south of Lima.  Peru’s north half is about half the size of Western Europe, and void of crowds, yet it contains the most ruins and the highest level of Americas’ past civilizations.

Chachapoya culture and archaeology, the Kuelap fortress, sarcophagus, mummies, ruins

Now directly inland and high on the Andes Amazon slopes, the Chachapoyans built fortified walled citadels and round stone houses on almost every peak.  Kuelap, the largest citadel discovered to date, is the largest building structure in the Americas and is calculated to have three times more material than Egypt’s largest pyramid. Ranging up to 20 meters high, Kuelap has over 400 stone buildings in the top 3 levels.

One unique custom throught the zone (the current department of Amazonas), was the burial practice of encapsulating the dead in a clay funeral statue or sarcophagus in inaccessible niches high on cliffs. These stare out over the valley with a fierce decorative head above the corpse below in a fetal positioned.

Another method was burial in highly decorated mausoleum buildings also high on cliffs. Then in the Inca Era, the elite were mummified and placed there in a very damp cloud forest environment, that mummies of Egypt might not have endured.


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