Chachapoyas – Kuelap

On my second day in Chachapoyas, I decided to do their best known attraction, known as the fortress of Kuelap. Although nobody really knows whether it was a fortress or not.

The entire region is part of the cloud forest, in which the Chachapoya, a tribe about which little is yet known, once lived until the Inca came to make them part of their empire. Kuelap is their biggest known site and although the best promoted and restaured one. It has been called “the new Machu Picchu” and indeed the site is at least as big and may have been similarily important at the time. It is, however, definitely lacking in funding, restauration and promotion compared to Machu Picchu. The “missing” tourists however, do make the visit a nicer one.

The city is seperated into three levels. The highest level, as usual, is the one containing temples and a grave yard. After burying their dead, the Chachapoya had the custom of unearthing them again and moving their bones into walls close to the temples, probably so that they could be closer to the gods. In the second or intermediate level, they showed us normal houses (all with an in-built guinea pig cage, the “tunnel” visible in the picture on the right) and the houses of the priests, which are decorated with iconized eyes of the corresponding animal-deity they were worshipping. Of the lowest level only the outer walls remained, but it is assumed that it contained houses as well. The site could house some 3000 people in roughly 500 round houses. One of which has been completely rebuilt, to give you an idea how it looked back in the time.

The chachapoyas, just as inca and most other tribes I got to know believed in a trinity of animals: A bird, a feline and an animal living on the ground. These three animals vary in importance and type in every tribe, while they only play a minor role for the incas, for exmaple, they were the most important gods for the chachapoyas. Their thrinity was the condor, the puma and the snake the first represents the sky or the upper world where the gods lived, the second our world or the world of the living and the last represents the earth or the under world, where the dead people went.
The snake eye is the one in the paragraph above. The eye of the condor, repeating the trinity-theme is on the right. The puma-eye, with the vertical pupil, is the one on the right.


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