The Secrets of the Giant Skull Mummies

The Secrets of the Giant Skull Mummies

The Secrets of the Giant Skull Mummies

On a ledge of this gorge in Karajia in Peru are seven huge mummy containers made of clay, on which human skulls are enthroned.

In Peru’s Utcubamba Valley, giant mummies stare 200 meters into the abyss. They are considered the heirs of the “cloud people” from the 15th century – and harbor bloody secrets…

They are silent witnesses to a culture long since destroyed. The huge mummy sarcophagi in the Utcubamba Valley, the Sarcófagos de Karajia, around 50 kilometers northeast of the city of Chachapoyas in northern Peru. For centuries, the “Ancient Wise Men,” as the locals called them, puzzled scientists.

What’s Inside the Karajia Mummies?

Who created the seven imposing figures with their strangely shaped faces, on which real human skulls are enthroned? What is hidden inside? How did their builders manage to build the more than eight-foot-tall figures on the practically unreachable rock ledge in the gorge, more than 200 meters above the bottom of the almost vertical abyss? What purpose do they fulfil?

Only in the middle of the 19th century did an expedition succeed in exploring the difficult-to-reach figures in Karajia. Modern measuring techniques have now shown that the huge figures made of clay, straw and stones were created in the 15th century – as sarcophagi for mummies. The researchers found their remains inside the giants, wrapped in animal skins. The scientists identified them as a legacy of the Chachapoya, a prehistoric Andean people.

Peru, mummy
This mummy, on display at the Musée de l’homme in Paris in 2007 , is also a relic of the lost kingdom of Chachapoya

Vanished “Cloud People”

The culture of the Chachapoya is as fascinating as it is mysterious and unjustly practically unknown in this country. The people received their name, which means “cloud people” in the Quechua language, from the Incas. Around the same time that the giant skull mummies were being formed in the Utcubamba Valley, the “cloud people” were being conquered by the Incas. A large number of them were deported.

In the course of the conquest by the Incas and also simply through the ravages of time, the ancient culture of the “cloud people” crumbled to powder. Only a few relics have survived – including the skull mummies in the Utcubamba Valley. They are considered unique not only because of their size, but also because they are so well preserved.

How could they build up there?

Although researchers assume that there was an eighth mummy container that was torn down in an earthquake in 1928, so the group is not complete. The adjacent figure was also damaged in the process – archaeologists were able to remove the mummy remains inside through the resulting holes, examine them and safely conserve them for posterity.

To this day, experts are puzzled as to how the Chachapoya were able to build their huge tombs on the practically inaccessible spot on the gorge wall. According to various theories, they reached the site via rock ledges that no longer exist today. Whether they disappeared after an earthquake or were deliberately destroyed by the Chachapoya after the sarcophagi were built is a matter of debate. The “cloud people” took this secret with them to their graves.