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Burial Cave in Peru Holds Ancient Warriors' Secrets

October 07, 2006|From Reuters

LIMA, Peru — Archeologists have uncovered a 600-year-old underground cemetery belonging to a Peruvian warrior culture, an official said this week.

After a tip from a farmer in Peru's northern Amazon jungle, archeologists from Peru's National Culture Institute last week found the 820-foot-deep cave used for burial and worship by the Chachapoyas people.

Archeologists have found five mummies, two of which are intact with skin and hair, as well as ceramics, textiles and wall paintings, said the expedition's leader, Herman Corbera.

"This is a discovery of transcendental importance. We have found these five mummies but I believe there could be many more," said Corbera, the culture institute's regional director. "We think this is the first time any kind of underground burial site this size has been found belonging to Chachapoyas or other cultures in the region."

The Chachapoyas, a white-skinned tribe known as the "Cloud People" by the Incas because of the cloud forests they inhabited in northern Peru, ruled the area from around 800 to about 1475, when they were conquered. Their strong resistance to the Incas, whose empire ranged from northern Ecuador to southern Chile from the 1400s until the Spanish conquest of the 1530s, earned them a reputation as great warriors.

They are best-known today by tourists for their stone citadel Kuelap, near the modern town of Chachapoyas. In 1996, archeologists found six ancient burial houses containing several mummies thought to belong to the Chachapoyas.

Corbera said that the cave is called Iyacyecuj, or Enchanted Water, in the Quechua language, because of its spiritual importance and underground rivers. He said the walls in the limestone cave were painted with faces and warrior-like figures.

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