Karajia Sarcophagi: Guardians of the Heights
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Karajia Sarcophagi: Guardians of the Heights

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Karajia Sarcophagi: Guardians of the Heights

Our country has great mysteries and wonders to discover. The Chachapoyas culture, a civilization that lived in the Amazonian Andes between 900 and 1,470 AD, houses one of them: the Sarcophagi of Karajía.


For this culture of Ancient Peru, the cult of the dead was of great importance, especially those of higher hierarchy. Its leaders had to have an eternal rest, without any disturbance, which is why its inhabitants created the Sarcophagi of Karajía, 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 Sarcophagi of Karajía, tombs in the shape of a human figure, are a funerary tradition. They are located on high-altitude rocks, 2,400 meters of vertical rock face and are more than 2.5 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 blankets and facing forward. 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 steep places and on the edge of precipices. Thanks to their location in the Karajía ravine, there is no risk of vegetation growing or moisture concentrating around them. Also called "Purunmachos" for their anthropomorphic shape, they are made mainly of clay, ichu, straw and joined by mud mortar. They were also decorated with layers of smokey white and ocher red facial and body paint.


Chachapoyas Culture


About the Chachapoyas Culture

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 mountain range and who assimilated Amazonian traits.


Their society was theocratic, and their territory was divided into small lordships. Its economy was based on agriculture, which was divided between grazing, hunting and subsistence gathering. They also created their own textiles and ceramics.


The Sarcophagi of Karajía see us from the mountain


It is a set of sarcophagi or tombs of the Chachapoyas culture, located in the Luya district of the Department of Amazonas. These five two and a half meter tall human figure colossi were made from clay, dry straw, reeds, sticks, vegetable ropes and stones. Also known as Purunmachus, a Quechua word that means “ancient man”, and along the cliff there are an average of fourteen more.


Each features a ceremonial skull and features geometric patterned decoration. In addition, they present other particularities, such as the fact that they are located on a 200-meter-high mountain wall that is difficult to access, and the beautiful sculpture and painting work, with a level of detail that has caused exclamations of astonishment among experts.


All these facts make them unique in their genre, in addition to all the questions generated by how such a detailed work was done and placed in a site of such difficult access; which is also a great advantage that has kept them away from predators and poachers. It is believed that in the 1928 earthquake one of them fell off the cliff, leaving an opening that allows the rest to enter where mummies have been found sitting on skins, wrapped in mortuary cloth, as well as other objects such as ceramics and offerings, with their objects. , which after carbon 14 tests showed that they come from 1460 AD


To visit them, it is recommended to take a tour from Chachapoyas, the guide, in addition to knowing the route well, will explain all the details of its history.


Chachapoya Sarcophagi


How to get to the Sarcophagi of Karajía?

To be able 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 1000 years old, and have been 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 of Karajía starts at S/80 per person (includes transportation, guide, tickets, lunch and boots). The tour operators of the city of Chachapoyas organize a full day that allows you to see, in addition to the sarcophagi, the Quiocta cavern, where you can see human skulls and bones, as well as stalactite and stalagmite formations.


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 drive to the Karajía area takes almost two hours.


In addition, it is essential that you wear waterproof clothing and comfortable walking shoes. Other items that you cannot pass up 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 the Luya province. Its manufacture consists of clay, dry straw, reeds, sticks, vegetable ropes and stones. Each features a ceremonial skull and features geometric patterned decoration.


Complete the tour, entering the Quiocta cavern, which is 580 meters deep. Undoubtedly, an ideal ride for adventure lovers.


Additional information about the Karajía Sarcophagi:

Did you know that in the second of the Numismatic Series “Wealth and Pride of Peru”, the Central Reserve Bank of Peru put into circulation one-sun coins alluding to Sarcophagi of Karajía. These coins are legal tender and will circulate simultaneously with the traditional coins of a Nuevo Sol and the one alluding to the “Tumi de Oro”, which constituted the first issue of this Numismatic Series.


On the coin you can see one of the Sarcophagi, which represents the image of the original. Likewise, it is well known that this relic was made up of a capsule basically made of clay of up to 2.50 meters and of human appearance and corresponds to a funerary pattern present only in the Chachapoyas culture, which had its seat and development in the Andes, Northern Amazonians.


Karajia Peru


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Many are the routes that take you to Machu Picchu, but none is like the Inca Trail Tours, the most famous pedestrian path in the Americas. After flying from the capital of Perú, Lima, you will arrive in Cusco to walk for four days along a path through forests and dense fog, millenary stone steps and discovering the ruins of ancient fortifications and Inca cities, and all the time enjoying majestic views. 

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