Kuélap’s monumental citadel with its walls up to 20m high rises on a natural rocky cliff above the Utcubamba valley.
Within the mighty outer walls, which enclose an area of 580 x 110m, the remains of 420 mostly round buildings have been found, arranged on three levels. Of these buildings, which all had the same size, only the foundations have survived, and only ornamentation suggests that members of a certain social class lived on each level.
The fortress is bordered to the north and south by two watchtowers. Only three entrances lead into the interior, which taper so far that only one person can pass through.
One of the most enigmatic buildings in the complex is the building called Tintero (inkwell) because of its conical shape. The interpretations of its former function range from torture chamber to observatory. Seeds, animal and human bones, obsidian and ceramic vessels were found in a bottle-shaped pit inside the building, which indicate the ceremonial significance of the building.
Kuélap was probably built around 600 AD in order to offer the Chachapoyas a retreat, e.g. from the Huari (Wari), who conquered and ruled almost all of today’s Peru militarily between 500 and 900 AD. The Huari also created a complex infrastructure of roads, which were incorporated centuries later by the Incas and have since been regarded as Inca roads. A traffic route of a different kind is the new cable car, which leads from the village Nuevo Tingo over a distance of 4000m up to Kuélap within 20 minutes. At the beginning of 2017, it started its test operation and has been in regular operation since mid-February 2017.
Considering the lack of funds for the conservation and further archaeological research of the numerous cultural treasures of the region, the question remains whether the more than 21 million dollars spent on the project would not have been better invested elsewhere.
Kuélap can be visited as a day trip from Chachapoyas.
Douglas Eugene “Gene” Savoy, who was born in 1927 and died in Reno in 2007 and was once given the nickname “The real Indiana Jones” by the People Magazine, was a dazzling figure even by American standards. As a discoverer, hobby researcher and preacher of a free church, he early developed a passion for the pre-Hispanic cultures of Mexico and South America, and over the decades claimed the discovery of more than 40 archaeological sites, most of them in Peru. Although his colleagues considered him a dangerous charlatan, the Peruvian state awarded him a medal of honor for bringing the regions of Northern Peru to international attention.