Chavin de Huantar temple complex
Chavin de Huantar temple complex

The Chachapoyas: The Cloud Warriors

The premiere scene from the legendary film Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones searches the booby-trapped ruins of a Chachapoyan temple for a golden idol. While this is a Hollywood classic scene, the history behind the mysterious Chachapoyan civilization is just as fascinating.

The Chachapoyas were a pre-Columbian community living in the Andean cloud forests of the Amazonas Region of present-day Peru. Their name itself, given to them by the Inca Empire, comes from the Amerindian language, Quechua. It is a combination of two words: sach'a, meaning ‘tree/forest’, and phuyu, meaning ‘cloud’. This is perhaps why they are referred to as the warriors of the Cloud Forests. While the Inca Empire did eventually conquer their civilization shortly before the 16th century Spanish conquest, their conquest had been difficult to secure due to the staunch Chachapoyan resistance to Inca troops. While most of what we know comes to us from either Inca or Spanish sources, we do know that the Chachapoyas were known as fierce warriors and were incredible architects. Developing their civilization along the slopes of the Andes mountains was, perhaps, the catalyst for their building and architectural skills that included carving settlements out of the extremely dense mountain forests situated between the Marañón and Huallaga rivers.

Further, from archaeological excavation of Chachapoyan sites and temples, much like the one featured in Raiders of the Lost Ark, we can glean details about their customs, beliefs, and general lifestyles. For instance, an underground burial site found deep inside a cave in 2006 contained five Chachapoya mummies. Two of the mummies were completely intact with skin and hair, thus allowing modern-day archaeologists to verify physical characteristics of the heights and skin types of the Cloud People.Also, due to the finds accidental discovered in a Chachapoyan settlement, we know that this community  In modern day Peru, the communities there continue to embrace the heritage of their ancestors and those who descend from the Chachapoyas are sure to distinguish themselves from other indigenous populations within the country.

There is so much more that we have yet to learn about this fascinating ancient civilization, and Archaeological Tours is excited to embark on our Peruvian adventures in 2020! Let us guide you through the Andes and prepare to be amazed at what wonders you will see!


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The Chachapoyas: The Cloud Warriors was published on August 5 2019