Twelve Cañaris tombs discovered in Lambayeque

October 23rd, 2009

Félix López Reyes has spent a large part of his life guarding the 35 hectares that he owns half way up El Gallo in the mountainous border region between Lambayeque and Piura, 2500 metres above sea level and 8 hours walk from El Sauce in the district of Cañaris in the province of Ferreñafe. However, it wasn’t until very recently that he realised that on his property was something more valuable to guard than his coffee beans and cows. Here a discovery has been made that may help us learn more about the Cañaris people.

The Cañaris were a culture that originated near Cuenca, in what is today no longer part of Peru but is now Ecuador. Not much is known about them except that their capital city Cañaris, now Ingapirca, is still found on a hill outside El Tambo, and that they were fierce warriors that the Incas fought hard to conquer.

Entrance to the tomb

Entrance to the tomb

Having extended their rule this far south long before the Inca expansion, they left behind many traces of their existence. The latest of these is a set of 12 tombs that have just recently been discovered. Although as of yet we don’t know what exactly will be found inside, an archaeologist from the Universidad Católica Santo Toribio de Mogrovejo, Julio Fernandez Alvarado, explains that they are very important because they show stark differences from those of coastal cultures and are of a people we still know very little about.

Julio Fernandez headed a team that undertook an expedition to the area, making the discovery. They had heard reports of grave robbers desecrating tombs in the area that is very hard to reach and control. The gruelling trip that took place only two weeks  ago was worth it in the end.

In the most inaccessible part of El Gallo was found an archaeological complex, a site the Cañaris would have chosen for its strategic importance and because it is a source of a small stream. It is here too that they have found the twelve tombs perfectly intact and one that has been raided. Destroyed by the robbers were a number of ceramic items that have been left discarded on the floor, giving a clue as to what should exist in the other twelve.

Just one of the important archaeological discoveries made in Peru each week.

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