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Chachapoya

12 August - 15th November 2006

The secret of the cloud people. The Chachapoya in the peruvian cloud forest. Special exhibition of the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology.

The Chachapoya was an ethnic group which immigrated into northern Peru from the Amazon in about A.D. 900. It became extinct in the 16th Century. For many centuries, their culture had been forgotten.

In 1997 a necropolis was discovered at the Laguna de los Còndores. The bodies of the dead were laid to rest in niches hewn out high up in the cliffs. The sensational report about the more than 200 bundled mummies which had been found attracted world interest. Thes mummies indicate that, in the culture of the Chachapoya, the living and the dead existed as equal partners.

In the exhibition, more than 100 archeological finds, including twelve human mummies, two animal mummies, textiles, clay, wood, metals and Khipu knotted strings, tell us about the history and reconstruct the life of the legendary Chachapoya.

Chachapoya apparently derives from "sacha puya", a Spanish corruption of a name in Incan language which means "cloud people". The Chachapoyan civilisation flourished for over 1,000 years in this densely-forested, cold, wet mountainous area of the Upper Amazon in what is now northern Peru. The Incas set their sights on the Chachapoyan lands which they wished to annex to their empire. When peaceful attempts failed, around 500 years ago the Incas took the territory by force.

Today, little remains but the ruins of their ancient settlements and their numerous tombs in which they buried their mummified dead in two-and-a-half metre-high niches in the cliffs, from where they could look down into the canyon below.
Until recently little was known about this mysterious lost civilisation until the discovery of an unmolested Chachapoya burial site in a dry microclimate at an elevation of 5000 metres where the mummified remains of these "Warriors of the Cloudes" were superbly preserved. It is a fascinating and compelling tale.