Located in an inaccessible position at an altitude of 2,000 meters, the ancient Chachapoya coffins dating back to the 15th century still have their own mysteries. A rare historical site belonging to the Chachapoya people is located between the steep gorges of the Andes and immense tropical forests in the Amazonas (Peru). Around the beginning of the 16th century when the Spanish arrived here, the Chachapoya tribe was almost completely conquered by the mighty Inca Empire. They are forced to live according to the customs and cultural traditions of the Inca.
According to many documents, the Chachapoya people are of Inca or Spanish origin. The amount of information about this mysterious tribe is very little. They are only known as the Chachapoya used by the Incas and the nickname “Cloud Warrior” emphasizes their friendly personality. Even after being conquered, groups of Chachapoya rebels fought for years.
Karajia is one of the archaeological sites that still keep traces of Chachapoya’s lost civilization. About 60 km from the city of Chachapoyas, this place has 7 coffins located on a steep cliff, more than 2,000 m from the ground. Burial sarcophagi of the Chachapoya tribe (known as “Purunmachos”) here were announced in the world in 1984, following the discovery of archaeologist Federico Kauffmann.
The coffin is in the shape of a large capsule, looks like the outline of a human body, 2.5 m high and is built of a mixture of clay, straw and gravel scattered on a wooden structure. Each sarcophagus contains a mummy. According to the researchers, mummies of important people were buried in these coffins. The deceased human body was placed in the fetal position, then wrapped in a cocoon with a wild cane stem and tied with a rope. This structure is further covered with clay and thick straw as the binder.
By radioactive carbon dating, the coffins of Karajia date back to the 15th century, just before the Inca conquest. Carefully placed in a nearly inaccessible position halfway up the cliff, these Purunmachos sarcophagi managed to escape the destruction of the invaders.
Each sarcophagus is painted white and decorated in yellow and red, helping to identify some details on the body. Some have horn caps, simulating deer antlers, while others have a mosaic of human skulls, arguably the proud feat of the “cloud warrior”.
The Purunmachos of Karajia are not the only coffins in the Chachapoyas area. On the western bank of the Utcubamba River, various coffins of different sizes were identified. However, access to these monuments is difficult, and only a few archaeologists and film crew have been able to get close.