Sarcofagi of Carajía
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Although the model of burying using coffins of anthropomorphous shape and sarcofagi, was already mentioned in the Mercurio Peruano (1791) as part of the cultural area of Chachapoyas, and it deserved the attention of Louis Langlois (1939) and of the archaeologists Henry and Paule Reichlen (1950), this Chachapoyas's peculiarity of burying their illustrious deceased was almost completely forgotten. The Antisuyo Expedition/84 located, at Carajía, the most amazing group of sarcofagi known till then, thanks to references provided by Carlos Torres Mas and Marino Torrejón. It was remaining completely unpublished and still untouched.
The Sarcofagi of Carajía are unique in their genre for their colossal size, up to 2.50 m high, for their careful making, and, for the fact, that they were remained practically intact because of their location atop a ravine of difficult access.
Thanks to the support given by members of the Club Andino Peruano, the archaeologists were able to climb 24 m of rocky vertical wall and gain access to the cave where the sarcofagi are located. This place is located to more than 200 m from the bottom of the gorge. The Sarcofagi of Carajía is consist of a group of seven sarcofagi. The eighth one collapsed probably during the earthquake of 1928, disappearing in the abyss. Since the sarcofagi are sideways next to each other, the one which collapsed opened some holes in the contiguous sides of the next.
This fact allowed scientists to investigate in detail the content of this sarcofagi and to determine the content of the remaining ones. In this way, the remaining ones did not have to be forced and they remain intact. Inside the open sarcofagus, a mummy was found. It sat on an animal skin and was wrapped in mortuary cloths. Ceramics and diverse objects were accompanying the deceased as gifts. The date obtained by radiocarbon was 1460 AC +60. Rodents and birds of prey had disturbed the burial, after the holes had appeared in the sarcophagus. The sarcofagus was emptied by scientists to preserve the mummy and its belongings.
The sarcofagi are shaped into big anthropomorphous capsules, made of clay and mixed with sticks and stones. Only the head and part of the chest are compact. Both body and head are decorated by red painting of two tones, applied over a white base.
It is believed that the sarcofagi are evocations of the typical form of funeral bundle found in the coast and in the mountain range, corresponding to the period of the Tiahuanaco-Huari. In effect, the anthropomorphous form has been only given in the outlines of the human body, without the forms corresponding to the extremities taking shape. It is necessary to notice that the head of the sarcophagus has received sculptural treatment, and the face is the result of copying in clay funeral masks that were originally done in a wooden table, cut away in a half moon shape to represent the jaw.
The projecting jaw that the sarcofagi present has to be made by having reproduced in clay the flat funeral masks worked in the base of a wooden table. Apparently the faces of the monoliths of Recuay, the cuchimilcos of Chancay and even that represented in the Tumi of Lambayeque, were made in the same way.
Another several groups of sarcofagi present in the surroundings and in the region have been, as those of Tingorbamba and Chipuric, prolixly documented by the Antisuyo Expeditions.