Tomb of high ranking ruler found at Kuélap

October 31st, 2010

In an imposing building located in the highest reaches of the Chachapoyan citadel of Kuélap, a team of archaeologists have uncovered one of the most important tombs yet found.

Chachapoyan TombAlmost three months ago researchers led by Alfredo Naváez discovered a tomb containing the remains of six people during routine excavations. It was found in the area of the city named Pueblo Alto, a southern residential sector.

Continuing work in the same place over the coming months, the team was able to register almost 100 offerings, from spondylus shells to ceramics to many items of precious metals and stones.

Chachapoyan TombBeneath these objects the team noticed four irregular stones marking three large slabs of stone that were clearly used to seal some form of main tomb. Stunned at the unexpected find, it was obvious they had stumbled upon something of great importance.

This past Thursday after pressing ahead with the opening of the tomb, the researchers are certain they have discovered the final resting of the most important Chachapoyas ruler yet found from any point in their 500 year history.

The inside of the funerary chamber is divided in two parts. In one half were found the remains of a person in a foetal position. In the other were the remains of a llama, more spondylus shells and three ceramic objects – among them two vases with Inca motifs and colors.


The tomb is the only one of its kind found belonging to the Chachapoyas culture, it is even unusual in that it is the same shape as a modern coffin.

The coffin was built with 11 flat stones of similar dimensions and smaller ones, together with mud mortar.

According to Narváez, they are as yet unable to establish a specific level of rank or function of this person, but it appears to have been an important governor of Chachapoyan society during the period of Inca domination.

In an interview with El Comercio, Narváez states: “The tomb has offerings that were brought all the way from Cusco, but the person is not necessarily from there, rather an important local during the Inca occupation that was of high rank. He’s a Chachapoyan.”

The discovering is of unique importance because it is the first of a new kind of burial type that is quite unlike the traditional Chachapoyan burials, which generally consist of remains placed in sarcophagi placed up high on cliffs and ridges.

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