Friday, May 18, 2018

Were There Ancient Hebrew Burials in Peru? – Part I

Some of the ancient burials in Andean Peru, like those previously discussed in ancient Israel, were not in the ground, but in stone structures, carved rooms in caves, niches in catacombs and sepulchers. To see the connection between this Hebrew/Jewish method of burial in Lehi’s time in the Americas, we only need to look to Andean Peru, where the ancient dead were placed in above ground stone towers called Chullpas.
    These chullpa towers (Burial or funerary Towers) had chambers built inside that housed the remains of complete family groups, and were originally known as “uta amaya,” or “houses of the soul.” Their origin goes back to before the Tiwanaku (Tihuanaco) period to during the last century B.C. around Lake Titicaca, with the insides built to hold entire groups of people—with modern DNA showing the males were always related, leading to the knowledge that these were extended lineage kinfolk of a family.
A series of chullpas built along a slope on a mesa southwest of Lake Titicaca

These tower sepulchers are found in various sizes and quality of construction, with some put together poorly with rough field stones just piled on top of each other, while others were better constructed with cut field stones so they slotted together well. Still others were constructed with adobe cement on the outside of rough stones and were well sealed, while some were constructed of massive stone blocks cut and fitted together tongue-and-groove style without mortar, so tightly arranged that an alpaca hair could not be inserted between the stone, much like the construction at Sacsayhuaman in Cuzco.
    Most were circular in shape, while others were square or rectangular, sometimes each shape distinct to an area, but occasionally all three found built in the same funerary area. Some of the towers were small with ill-fitting river stones, but others were tall and tapering and built with massive curved stones, In all the chullpas yet investigated, mummified bodies were found, and most of the towers in the Kalaslaya ceremonial center of the Pucará culture, which reached its peak between 250 B.C. and 380 A.D., the large fortified burial towers overlooked the landscape.
While most chullpas are either (top) round, or (bottom) square, and built in separate centers, those found around Cutimbo near Puno, were built by the predecessors of the Aymara Lupaca (Lupaqa) Culture

These Chullpa Towers, or Burial Towers, were found in more than 100 grouping areas across the Altiplano in Peru and Bolivia. Many were highly adorned or decorated with carvings, such as those found at Cóndor Amaya near Patacamaya where 21 adobe towers were painted in yellow and red colors.
Some towers were built with colored stone, or painted mud covering for adornment

While most of these chullpa burial towers were between nine and fifteen feet in height, the tallest stood over 38 feet high, though the vast majority have suffered great damage from looters and those who used the stones to build houses elsewhere.
    The chullpas at Sillustani, just north of Puno and about a dozen miles west of Lake Titicaca on a finger of land jutting into Umayo Lagoon, are probably the most prominent and best preserved sites left standing, but others have been located—at Molloko near Acora, Peru, south of Puno; on the mesa at Cutimbo (Kutimpu), east of Acora, where the funerary towers face to the East, as well as at Ancash, north of Lima, and Tinyash near Huaraz southeast of Chombote , also Honocpampa and Chinchawas in central eastern Peru, also in Caillama, Arica, Parinacota, Ninamarca, Mauk’allaqta, Tambo Nuevo in northeast Ecuador, and also some sites in northern Chile.
Both round and square chullpas built at Cutimbo, near Puno, Peru, by the Aymara Lupaca (Lupaqa) Culture or its predecessors

Most towers had multiple burials, suggesting family or even extended family groupings. In addition, each tower had a small opening, which always faced east (the rising sun), and the more elite were often buried with a treasure trove of belongings. It is interesting that most of the burial towers had a lizard carved into the stone, which was a symbol of life because they could regrow their tails (resurrect).
    The better chullpas were built of faced stone without mortar, much like the construction found around Cuzco and in the Sacred Valley, though lesser constructions are also found, perhaps of the poorer class, where smaller, rougher, local stone was used and stacked with clay mortar.
Two unfinished towers have been found, one with a ramp still in place, which was used  to move blocks up to the higher levels, and the other with cut stones ready to place on a very large dome
The engineering involved in the construction of these chullpas was far more complex than it appears and certainly more so than anything the Incas or later cultures ever built. To get the large blocks higher up on the tower, long ramps were built where the blocks could be moved upward and set in place. There also appear to have been two different types of chullpas—one of superior quality, height and construction, and others of far lesser quality and no doubt involving far less time and cost to build with natural field stone. The best made chullpas were composed of two separate layers of stone, each being of different composition and from separate quarries. Those at Sillustani were predominantly red sandstone. The outer layer was of non-local basalt from a specific location many miles away, and the inner dome area was made of dense andesite, and cemented together with a white clay material. No matter the construction method, the overall appearance of these chullpas show that the people who built them did so with reverence for the dead who would be interred within them.
The poorer made chullpas were mostly field stone simply stacked upon each other without mortar, cutting or fitting

The less finely made and smaller of the chullpas were often hastily built by simply stacking small stones upon one another, and had no such organized compositional structure. These were made of field stone and broken pieces of red sandstone, basalt and andesite, with red adobe material, which was the soil of the area, used as filler and binding agent.
(See the next post “Were There Ancient Hebrew Burials in Peru – Part II,” for more about the method of burial by the ancient Peruvians and how they match the burial methods of the Hebrews)

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