Mortuary variability and chronology of the cliff tombs of La Petaca

Author(s): Armando Anzellini; J. Marla Toyne

Year: 2015


The Chachapoya of the eastern Peruvian highlands utilized various methods for disposing of their dead, but almost all involve highly visible spaces. While some regional variation is found among what are typically considered Chachapoya mortuary spaces, there is evidence for social cohesion within each site. While few mortuary complexes of the Chachapoya have been excavated, La Petaca provides the opportunity to scientifically study intrasite variation. On only half of the mortuary complex’s massive vertical wall be documented 112 constructions including tombs, platforms and walkways, as well as several caves, niches and rock shelters, all of which contained mortuary remains. By using techniques of vertical archaeology, we collected cultural, skeletal and organic samples for analysis and radiocarbon dating. Unfortunately, many of the contexts had been damaged by looting and natural taphonomic processes. There was some variability in construction methods, materials, architectural design, and location across the site, yet generally common features suggest 1) mortuary style was adapted to the precarious location, 2) there was little change over time, 3)few builders were involved, or 4) they reflect a single cultural tradition. Overall, these new, firsthand data yield valuable information on the importance of mortuary spaces and the regional complexity of the Chachapoya.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

Mortuary variability and chronology of the cliff tombs of La Petaca. Armando Anzellini, J. Marla Toyne. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395963)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;