Chachapoya people, known as "cloud warriors" (because they lived in the cloud forests of the Peruvian Andes), were an enigmatic ethnic group in the pre-European Latin America, described as tall, fair-skinned, and their beautiful women were desired by the neighboring Incas.
Their civilization bloomed between 800 and 1475, when they built mountaintop citadels, such as Kuelpa and Vira Vira, and archaeologists found well-preserved mummies in tombs at the Lake of the Condors.
They were conquered by the Incas just a little bit before the discovery of America by Columbus and they allied with the Spanish conquistadors, who put an end to the Inca Empire, after 1532, but fell victim to diseases brought from Europe and disappeared.
Recently, an amazing archaeological site was discovered in Peru's mountains and it may be holding clues about this lost civilization. The structures found at the site were "strikingly anomalous" because of their size, shape and remote location in the dense forest full of wildlife, according to Keith Muscutt, 60, (photo) a Chachapoya researcher with the University of California at Santa Cruz.
The site was unfortified, being a possible ceremonial site, located in an area previously believed on the periphery of the Chachapoya domain in the upper Amazon region. "What it is showing is that we don't really know what their territory was," he said.
The location of the ruins was regarded as a buffer zone between the highland Chachapoya and the tribes of the Amazon basin. "It is certainly not a fortress, so either the Chachapoya's territory extended further east, or they relied more on cooperation than conflict with their neighbors," said Muscutt.
These ruins were named Huaca la Penitenciaria (Penitentiary Ruin) and are made of a large ceremonial platform, a plaza and several rectangular and circular buildings and are heavily overgrown.
The location was found by the Anazco family of Peruvian explorers in the mountains between the Rio Verde and Rio Huabayacu in the Department of San Martin, 560 miles (900 kilometers) north of the capital Lima.
Muscutt pointed that an ornamental frieze and dry masonry on the site clearly indicate a Chachapoya location. "Also, all the walls have a slight bulge to them like the side of a barrel, which I think is a fault in their engineering that they adopted and made a feature - an aesthetic choice resulted from engineering accident," Muscutt said.
The place seems to be deserted for at least 400 years. "It is a very interesting archaeological time capsule," he said.
Photo credit: Keith Muscutt