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Chachapoyas of Peru • History

by mythic44

The Chachapoyas, also called the Cloud People, were an Andean people living in the cloud forests of the Amazonas region of present-day Peru

The Incas conquered their civilization shortly before the arrival of the Spanish in Peru in the 16th century. The Chachapoyas were one of the many nations ruled by the Inca Empire. Much of what we do know about the Chachapoyas culture is based on archaeological evidence from ruins, pottery, tombs and other artifacts. The city of Chachapoyas, Capital of the department of Amazonas is one of Peru’s oldest cities and one of the few that still maintains its noble air and Spanish influence.

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It was founded on September 5, 1538 by the Spanish conquistador Alonso de Alvarado “and his twenty”. A land of orchids, sugar cane and coffee, cock fights and exquisite food. Its name comes from the native word Chachapoyacuno, which means “forest or mountain of mist”. The large colonial mansions in the city, with their tiled roofs, ample patios and unique balconies; surrounded by orchards and gardens, provide evidence of the Spanish presence. In the cities surrounding areas and in nearby provinces, there are many important archeological monuments built by the Sachapuyo (or chachapoyas). This civilization’s imposing citadels were built on the summits of the mountains in order to make maximum use of the land for cultivation.

The Chachapoyas culture is thought to have developed around AD 750–800. The major urban centers, such as Kuélap and Gran Pajáten, may have developed as a defensive measure against the Huari, a Middle Horizon culture that covered much of the coast and highlands. The Chachapoyas people built the great fortress of Kuélap, with more than four hundred interior buildings and massive exterior stone walls reaching upwards of 60 feet in height, possibly to defend against the Huari around 800 AD. Referred to as the ‘Machu Picchu of the north,’ Kuélap receives few visitors due to its remote location.

Kuelap is a colossal structure containing millions of cubic feet of stone and presumed to have taken 200 years to construct. Its strategic location between the Marañon and Utcubamba Rivers, both tributaries of the mighty Amazon, has contributed to the fact that it still stands today. At 9,843 feet above sea level, it can be reached by car, horseback or a three to four hour hike. The main group of buildings are circular with one main access corridor, designed for maximum security and defense. Inside the huge outer walls there are over 400 buildings in total, some of which are small round stone houses with some of the larger ones measuring up to 1,969 feet long and 66 feet high. Many defensive towers were strategically placed around the complex to protect the exterior and interior of the citadel from ancient invaders. Archaeological sites in the region include the settlement of Gran Pajáten, Gran Saposoa, the Atumpucro complex, and the burial sites at Revash and Laguna de los Condores (Lake of the Condors), among many others.

Cajamarca is a city of colonial charm, rolling Andean countryside, and home to the important archaeological sites of Ventanillas of Otuzco and Cumbemayo. It is a place of great historical significance – in this city Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro captured, imprisoned, ransomed, and executed Inca Emperor Atahualpa, unleashing the destruction of Inca civilization. Travelers may stroll in the town square – site of the first and decisive battle between the Spanish and the Inca – and visit the ransom rooms that were filled with gold and silver by legions of loyal Inca subjects in the attempt to buy the freedom of their doomed regent.

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The Chachapoyas of Peru   •   Locations & Activities

City of Chachapoyas


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