Unreachable and perfectly aligned, like birds watching from the top of a cliff, you will find the purunmachos or "old men" (According to F. Kauffmann Doig in his book Los Chachapoya: Builders of Kuelap and Pajatén), monumental anthropomorphic sarcophagi associated with the Chachapoyan culture. With more than a thousand years, these one-person capsules keep mummies with their grave goods inside. And they are there, on top of the mountain, facing the sun, protecting the living from above, as evidence of the great respect this culture has for its deceased.
However, seeing them from afar, we cannot help but wonder, and how did they get there?
Our country has great mysteries and wonders to discover. The Chachapoyas culture, a civilization that lived in the Amazonian Andes between the years 900 and 1,470 AD, houses one of them: the Sarcogaphs of Karajía.
For this culture of Ancient Peru, the cult of the dead was of great importance, especially those of higher rank. Its leaders should have an eternal rest, without any disturbance, which is why its inhabitants created the Karajía Sarcophagi, the same ones that are more than 500 years old and are located in the district of Luya, city of Chachapoyas, department of Amazonas. .
The Karajía Sarcophagi, tombs in the shape of a human figure, are a funerary tradition. They are located in high-altitude rocks, 2,400 meters of vertical rock face and are more than 2 and a half meters high. These burials were located in places that were difficult to access, such as caves, cliffs, and steep slopes. The goal was that the sarcophagi are never visited and the mummified bodies can rest in peace for all eternity.
These striking burials were discovered in 1985 by the Peruvian archaeologist Federico Kauffmann Doig in the Karajía ravine. The seven sarcophagi discovered were designed to bury the mummified bodies individually, in a fetal position, wrapped in cotton cloaks and facing forwards. It is important to mention that there was an eighth sarcophagus, however, it was destroyed by nature, falling off the cliff as a result of the earthquake that affected the area in 1928.
The Chachapoyas had the tradition of protecting their dead from the passage of time, which is why the sarcophagi are located in abrupt places and on the edge of precipices. Thanks to their location in the Karajía ravine, there is no risk of vegetation growing or humidity concentrating around them. The also called "Purunmachos" for their anthropomorphic shape, are made mainly of clay, ichu, straw and joined by mud mortar. They were also decorated by layers of smoky white and ocher red face and body paint.
The Chachapoyas were a pre-Inca culture of the Andean Late Intermediate. They were located east of the Marañón River, in the Andean jungle of northern Peru. The Chachapoyas were made up of various ethnic groups, descendants of immigrants from the Andes and who assimilated Amazonian features.
Their society was theocratic, and their territory was divided into small lordships. Its economy was based on agriculture, the same that was divided between grazing, hunting and subsistence gathering. They also created fabrics and their own ceramics.
You must reach the community of Cruzpata, located 51 kilometers northeast of Chachapoyas (approximately 2 hours by car). From Cruzpata, in the district of Luya, you must ride a horse for 15 minutes and walk for 10 minutes to appreciate the amazing Sarcophagi of Karajía. Visiting hours are Monday to Sunday from 08:00 am to 17:00 pm.
This tourist spot is compared to the moáis on Easter Island in Chile, since these statues are similar in structure and shape.
In order to appreciate this set of sarcophagi that reach 2.50 meters high, you must go to the province of Luya, in Amazonas. The pre-Hispanic tombs, belonging to the Chachapoyas culture, are more than 1,000 years old, and have been able to be preserved over time as they are located on a cliff that is difficult to access. The walk to the base of this mountain will take an average of 40 minutes.
The price of the tour to the sarcophagi starts at S/80 per person (includes transportation, guide, entrance fees, lunch, and boots). Tour operators in the city of Chachapoyas organize a full day that allows you to see, in addition to the sarcophagi, the Quiocta cavern, where you can appreciate human skulls and bones, as well as formations of stalactites and stalagmites.
It is recommended to leave from the city of Chachapoyas in the morning (8 a.m.) to be able to complete the visits to the two tourist attractions without problems. Keep in mind that the car trip to the Karajía area is almost two hours.
In addition, it is key that you wear waterproof clothing and comfortable walking shoes. Other elements that you cannot miss are sunglasses, sunscreen, repellent and a hat.
In the morning, you will be able to learn about the history of this group of six tombs that were placed in rows in the mountains of Luya province. Its manufacture consists of clay, dry straw, reeds, sticks, vegetable ropes and stones. Each one has a ceremonial skull and highlights a decoration with geometric motifs.
Complete the tour, entering the Quiocta cavern, which is 580 meters deep. Undoubtedly, an ideal walk for adventure lovers.