The Chachapoya and the Inca

As I played through Shadow of the Tomb Raider there were several items that I could not ignore. Each time I saw them it cemented the idea that much research was grounded in this game and I needed to write about them. These elements are woven deep into the fabric of this game.  Every time I entered most places throughout the Paititi region and the Tombs and Crypts it was always there. I am speaking of the abundance of Mummy bundles and sarcophagi. These are echoing the Chachapoya people of Peru and the Inca. I will explore the culture of these people and what happened to them and what these items meant to them.  It is also a great look into Inca culture and I adore the way the game reflects them in the way it plays up important elements in their society. To better understand them lets look at segments from their ancient world.

Special Note: All of the images unless taken from my own PS4 screenshots are from the video below and another page that is cited below in other things about the Chachapoya. A lot of the information other than from the Bibliography below also came from the video below. You can find it on YouTube HERE with Archaeologist Dr Jago Cooper if you are wondering about it.  

Mummification Methods

Bio-anthropologist Dr Sonia Guillen is Peru’s leading expert on mummies had this to say about the subject:  “These mummies are very significant, because they are the first to show us how the Incas prepared their dead in the royal way. They cured the skin to preserve it and made it into leather and they extracted the organs through the anus.”

After all of that they wrapped the bodies (mummies) in woven materials and surrounded the mummy with many artifacts, pots, feathers and an interesting Inca means of communication known as

Quipu: they are a series of knots on long strings. They were once thought of a form of counting or mathematics of the ancient civilization. However, now it is thought to be a way of storytelling, a type of communication in the form of language.

Unfortunately, the Spanish destroyed thousands of quipus. They believe that only 600 are left and housed in museums. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, you may recognize that name for the “Quipu challenge” alone. The image in the “Quipu challenge” link to the left came from this page

These are quipu knots that are thought to hold ancient traditional stories. Screenshot taken by Okh Eshivar 2018
12:17:54 AM      2018-10-26

La Petaca (cliff tombs)

Click all photos for a larger image. 

The La Petaca (cliff tombs) in Peru part of the Chachapoya culture. Screenshot taken by: Okh Eshivar 2018

At least a thousand years ago, the Chachapoya people of Peru buried their dead in cliff tombs and the one we see here is called La Petaca.  These are highly difficult to reach and you will need climbing gear and expertise to do so for some are close to 10,000 feet up the side of a mountain straight up vertical. These are on the eastern slops of the Andes. Inside these beautiful tombs you will find mummies and pictographs. They buried families together much in the way we do today.

The interesting thing about the cliff tombs when you are there scaling narrow connecting walkways hundreds of feet up in the clouds is the passion these ancient people had for their dead and the connection to the past that they obviously cherished. It takes a lot of courage to scale any mountain face, let alone work diligently over a thousand years ago on creating such amazing tombs.


Screenshot taken by Okh Eshivar 2018

Another fascinating part of Chachapoya culture is their sarcophagi. In “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” you will see them here and there as well as mummies and cliff tombs (look at the comparison area on bottom of this article) I was pleased to see these incorporated into the story and scenery for the game. Much research was done when you see items like these scattered about. Anyway, inside these statue-like structures are mummies.
screenshot taken by Okh Eshivar 2018
This screenshot is the view from the inside of one of the Sarcophagi
A screenshot of a solitary Sarcophagus standing guard by a cliff tomb


Laguna de los Condores

Another high latitude Andes Tomb group is in a place called “Laguna de los Condores” Lake of Condors This beautiful remote lake is host to the ancient tombs and hadn’t been discovered for over 500 years. This is also known as the Chachapoyas region, and is one of Peru’s most significant Inca sites in 1997 due to the discovery of several hundred mummies in tombs that were carved into the mountain face hundreds of feet up.

When archaeologists discovered these rare finds, they took them to the Leymebamba Museum to be conserved and away from looters. There are thought to be close to 20 other tombs scattered throughout the jungle mountains in this region, however, due to the high price of excavating, it has not been done yet.

The discovery of the mummies is significant because they are the few places that the Conquistadores didn’t desecrate looking for treasure. These mummies have taught archaeologists a great deal about how the Inca prepared them.

The mummies found at Laguna del los Condores site more than likely were people high in their society. They were buried in an elaborate manner which could indicate such a person. They mummified their Royals and other high society people to keep them incorporated into their culture and community.

Guillen said. “The Inca mummy participated in meetings, still held property and made decisions.”

The Inca respected their high society people and felt they were still a part of the community as well as alive.

Gullian went on to say:

“When the Incas conquered this area, they replaced the funerary pattern. They emptied the mausoleums [of the pre-Inca Chachapoya dead] and conquered their spirit by conquering their sacred places.”

When the Inca conquered the Chachapoya they threw out the way those people would bury their dead and replaced it with their ways thus the Chachapoya in many ways were absorbed into the Inca cultural traditions.


Watch the Video Documentry about the Chachapoya with archaeologist Dr. Jago Cooper All of the below screenshots were taken from this video with Dr. Jago Cooper

A traditionally round Chachapoya home.
Screenshot from video
The main entrance to Kuelap.
The over 65′ high wall of Kuelap

Kuelap stood as the religious and political center for the Chachapoya people. The hub of their universe.

About 50 miles north of Lake of the Condores is Kuelap.Also known as the “Machu Picchu” of northern Peru.  However, it is twice the size of Machu Picchu and 1000 years older. It resides high on a mountain top and are the ruins of the Chachapoya. Its over sixty-foot-high walls reach to the clouds and house some amazing architecture over a scope of 15 acres. As you walk through the main entrance with its triangle stone archway you will find it narrows to allow one person at a time through. This made invasion of the high settlement extremely difficult. The Chachapoya thrived in this mountain-top city with several thousand inhabitants for hundreds of years until its downfall by the Inca.

Each block it is believed to weigh about 3 tons which is amazing concedering where they were building this walled city. Some of the walls have zigzag friezes on them and a popular zigzag shape denotes a snake. There are more than 400 buildings in Kuelap.

There is one main temple structure called Templo Mayor that is in the shape of an inverted cone. According to the reports of the remains found at the site, some believe that the temple was an observatory.

Templo Mayor in Kuepla screenshot taken by Okh Eshivar 2018

El Torreon

Another interesting observance about Kuelap is the high town area of the city. It has a high tower (El Torreon) it is speculated that this tower served as defense in order to see the enemy in the distance. One of the reasons for this idea came from the remains of stone weapons discovered at the site of the structure.

Game comparisons

The following images are from real life and the game.

From Shadow of the Tomb Raider a picture of a mummy in the Inca tradition seen throughout Paititi. Screenshot taken by Okh Eshivar 2018 from my Ps4
An actual Inca traditional mummy as seen in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Screenshot taken by Okh Eshivar 2018
Sarcophagi in La Petaca, Peru. Screenshot taken by Okh Eshivar
The image from the game shows not only the upper sarcophagus, but the other cliff tombs in the face of cliff side below. My personal PS4 screenshot
Lara looking at it all from a distance. My personal PS4 screenshot

Thank you for viewing this article. I shall be adding more to this article later.  PERU

Look for my original section about the Music of Peru on the page-link below where each of these YouTube musical compositions are located in my gallery and you can click through to the original piece on youtube. Thank you. 🙂

Remember to Explore the World!




Bradt, H., & Jarvis, K. (n.d.). Trekking in Peru: 50 Best Walks and Hikes. Bradt Travel Guides. Retrieved 10 24, 2018, from

Epstein, L. (2014). A Spatial Analysis of Chachapoya Mortuary Practices at La Petaca, Chachapoyas, Peru. Retrieved 10 23, 2018, from

Guengerich, A. (2015). Chachapoya domestic architecture: identity and interaction within, across, and beyond regional boundaries. Retrieved 10 23, 2018, from

Guillen, S., Medina, G., & Rodríguez, A. (2015). REDIFINING THE CHACHAPOYA TERRITORY. Retrieved 10 23, 2018, from

Kuelap Archaeological Complex – UNESCO World Heritage Centre. (n.d.). Retrieved 10 24, 2018, from

Schjellerup, I. (2015). Landscapes under Chachapoya and Inca presence in the Chachapoya region. Retrieved 10 23, 2018, from

(Guillen, Medina, & Rodríguez, 2015) (Guengerich, 2015) (Epstein, 2014)

(Bradt & Jarvis) (Kuelap Archaeological Complex – UNESCO World Heritage Centre, n.d.)