On May 7th I visited the Chachapoyas archaeological site of Revash and visited the small but amazing museum in Leymebamba, Peru. Revash’s mausoleums are architectonical rests located in the Amazonas region of Peru. The mausoleums of Revash, located outside of the small community (100 persons?) of San Bartolo were studied by the archaeologists Henry and Paule Reichlen. The three groupings are located in a straight line along the narrow hall that was shaped by the cavity excavated in the rocky wall of the imposing canyon. They remain almost intact except for the mummies located inside, which were destroyed by rodents and pillaged long ago. The mausoleums resemble small housings and miniature “villages,” similar to the cliff-houses of Colorado. Judging by the osseous remains still present in the tombs, Revash’s mausoleums were not used for individual burials. The walls of the mausoleums include art made from incisions. They are constituted by “T” shaped representations, crosses, and rectangles. Revash’s funeral houses have moldings around the tops of the walls, which are painted with figures, such as felines, South American camelids, people, and two-color circles. The symbols are similar in form and execution to those used on the coast in the architecture of the Virú. Their symbolic content is still unknown although the cruciform motives are identical to those of the side walls on the church in La Jalca, which, according to the local tradition, were raised by the mythical Juan Oso, or “small bear”. The mausoleums of Revash do not represent Inca cultural influences, but they do surface relatively late in Peruvian archeological history. In 1950, Paule and Henry Reichlen estimated that they might date to the 14th century and that they were connected with the funeral architecture known as chullpa, which was common in Peru during the Tiahuanaco-Huari period (around 1000 years ago).
After the tour, our small group of four (Revash receives about 10 visitors a day, with the new construction of an airport in Chachapoyas, I expect these numbers to skyrocket in the future) had a wonderful lunch in the community center, cooked by a group of the town’s women. It was good to see the money from the ticket sales to visit the site and the lunch go directly to the community.
After our lunch in San Bartolo. We visited the museum in Leymebamba. What a small but amazing place! They had textiles, pottery, quipus (knot strings), musical instruments, an assortment of bones, and what really blew my mind- 219 mummies in a climate-controlled room! Some of the mummies were in textile bags with faces sewn on, some were children and babies, and there was one dog- all were in a fetal position.
The Chachapoyas used containers made of wooden slats to transport the remains to the burial sites. On the skulls and bones there was evidence of trepanning (surgical holes in the skulls, vertebrae with TB scarring, osteomyelitis, and healed fractures.
Most of the human remains and artifacts were from excavations conducted by Sonia Guillen, Adriana van Hagen, Peter Lurche, and Monica Panaifo during the late 1990’s in the Laguna de los Condores near Leymebamba. These remains represent the Late Chachapoya Period, dating to the late 1400’s, right around the time of the Inka (BTW- The museum used the Quechua spelling- “Inka”) incursion into the Chachapoyas territory. The researchers recovered 2,300 artifacts and the 219 mummies already mentioned. The
remains were stored in the museum which was opened to the public in the year 2000.
This was an amazing day and a fitting end to my exploration of Chachapoyas. I am already forming my research goals for returning to this area. Thank you Peru!