The Chullpas of the Ancient Aymara

30 Jul, 2019 | Rachel Durnford

Culture, Indigeneity and History & Politics

Photos: Rachel Durnford

These ancient funerary structures highlight the importance of conservation 

The recent restoration of the chullpas at the Condor Amaya national monument, located in the Aroma province 80 miles south of La Paz, by the Bolivian Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the Swiss government, has renewed interest in the pre-Columbian funerary towers. Chullpas, a rich source of cultural and archaeological information, started to appear in 1200 AD, during the collapse of the Tiwanaku civilization. Although chullpas were mainly constructed by the Aymara people for burials, they were sometimes used by other ethnic groups that were part of the Inca empire (of which the Aymara were one among many). The materials used to construct chullpas vary from place to place, with some Aymara chullpas in the southern altiplano region built from stone and mud. 

Carlos Lémuz Aguirre, a member of the Anthropological Society of La Paz, says that ‘the funerary towers were not made for a single individual, but mark a common ancestry – a tomb house for a group of people that were related to common ancestors or the same community.’ This is culturally different from Tiwanakan funeral ceremonies, in which the deceased were interred underground. 

Chullpas provide insight into pre-Columbian altiplano mourning rituals. Burial ceremonies lasted anywhere from three to 15 days, during which time the deceased would be honored with food, drink and music. Sometimes the dead would be removed from the towers for rituals to be performed each November. 

There is mystery surrounding the construction of these funerary towers, with no definitive answer as to the technologies used that enabled the chullpas to endure through the centuries.

Image title

There is mystery surrounding the construction of these funerary towers, with no definitive answer as to the technologies used that enabled the chullpas to endure through the centuries. At a site in the Achocalla municipality southwest La Paz, the chullpas were made with equal parts stone and adobe, but other chullpas were constructed using a range of different processes and different mixes of materials. In the Japan Times, the Greek archaeologist Irene Delaveris speculated that chullpa-makers of the past could have used llama collagen or a local plant to harden the construction materials and enable the chullpas to withstand the centuries, but there are no confirmed theories. There are also as-yet-not-understood regional differences in the sizes and shapes of chullpas, with some being rectangular and others circular. 

Historically, there has been misappropriation of South American artefacts, especially in the 20th century when the market for looted antiquities increased sharply. The Bolivian government passed conservation laws in 1906 that claimed ownership of artefacts and restricting digging and exporting without a government permit. Because of the past wholesale looting of its historical patrimony, the Bolivian government is understandably hesitant to allow foreign collaboration on archaeological efforts, but Lémuz points out that conservation needs multidisciplinary teams, making international collaboration especially important considering the lack of archaeologists in the country. ‘Here there is no money for culture and research, so there are no specialised conservationists,’ he says. ‘We do not believe that the restorations that have been made so far are the most appropriate.’ The chullpas at Condor Amaya were in need of restoration because of the erosion of their bases by wind and rain, which weakened the structures. However, their complex construction, and the techniques used to set their adobe bases before the structures were assembled – as well as the type of agglutination used to do so – are still a mystery, and still pose a challenge to archaeologists and conservationists.

Lémuz says there is a shortcoming in the anthropological understanding of pre-Columbian civilisations in Bolivia. He says that the Bolivian Ministry of Culture ‘spends 30 to 40 percent of its budget on communications, talking about the importance of cultural heritage and conservation, and much on tourism, but only 3 percent on actual conservation work.’ Also, Lémuz adds, ‘There is a theme of predatory tourism – sometimes people remove artefacts, dismantle everything and sell them, and even though it is prohibited by law, there is no one to enforce it.’ 

With the risk the elements pose to the preservation of the cultural heritage at sites such as Condor Amaya, Tiwanaku and El Fuerte near Samaipata – three archaeologically important areas identified by experts as likely to deteriorate – and the lack of protection they are afforded from harmful tourism, the greatest challenge for archaeologists may not be only discovering the ancient technologies that allowed their survival, but simply ensuring they continue to do so.

Image title


paginas web bogota
03 Dec, 2019 | 04:28
I have to get across my passion for your kind-heartedness in support of persons that really want assistance with this particular niche. Your special dedication to passing the solution all around appeared to be exceedingly beneficial and have all the time enabled some individuals much like me to achieve their goals. Your new invaluable facts entails a lot a person like me and much more to my colleagues. Thank you; from each one of us.
mariachis en bogota
03 Dec, 2019 | 04:27
you might have a great blog right here! would you wish to make some invite posts on my blog?
free games online
13 Nov, 2019 | 00:17
A very impressive article, I regularly visit your blog to read free time. It has both helped me relax and have more knowledge.
mutilate a doll 2
07 Nov, 2019 | 00:38
I really enjoyed reading your articles. It looks like you've spent a lot of time and effort on your blog. I have bookmarked it and will visit your blog regularly.
04 Nov, 2019 | 09:25
Really nice and interesting post. I was looking for this kind of information and enjoyed reading this one.
Clash Royale Hacks
22 Oct, 2019 | 07:38
Hello I am so delighted I located your blog, I really located you by mistake, while I was watching on google for something else, Anyways I am here now and could just like to say thank for a tremendous post and a all round entertaining website. Please do keep up the great work.
Very good suggestions, I just added this to my RSS feed. What would you suggest in regards to your post that you made a few days ago?
Sometimes it is on top of that an awesome posting i actually actually favored checking out. It is really no ! on a daily basis i actually develop the odds to evaluate a little something.
VIP Financing Solutions Reviews
22 Sep, 2019 | 15:34
Hello. I wanted to ask one thing…is this a wordpress web site as we are planning to be shifting over to WP. Furthermore did you make this template yourself? Thanks.
Quickly this particular site may undoubtedly gain popularity in between just about all running a blog as well as site-building people, because of its painstaking articles or maybe evaluations.
zombies osrs
03 Sep, 2019 | 23:31
It's my pleasure to find this amazing website who provides mostly unseen information about every single topic which is i really like it.
28 Aug, 2019 | 14:28
I really appreciate your effort by sharing this article with us, big help to my research! Thanks
About forex fury
23 Aug, 2019 | 05:00
Forex Fury is an automated solution developed by the same team who introduced the popular Forex Steam robot. When the developers say that they’ll do whatever it takes for forex investors to succeed, obviously they aren’t deluding. Notably, the Forex Fury robot has also been listed as the number one automated solution back in 2017 and 2018.
best free VPNs
22 Aug, 2019 | 02:31
Cheapestspeeches and toasts, as well as toasts. probably are created building your own at the party and will be most likely to turn into witty, humorous so new even. best man toast
Quickly this particular web address may irrefutably wind up renowned between each and every composing lots of people, due to persistent content articles as well as evaluations as well as rankings.
pay for college papers
20 Aug, 2019 | 15:51
This is a typical test case design which is made or implemented before the actual is brought infront. During our student days, before making a data base, several ER diagrams had to be made in order to get the right one.
I really like all of the articles, I truly loved, I'd like more info relating to this, simply because it's very good., Many thanks with regard to discussing.
13 Aug, 2019 | 17:00
I really don’t accept as true with this blog post. Nevertheless, I did looked in Yahoo and I have found out that you’re correct and I was thinking in the improper way. Carry on publishing good quality material like this.
local carpet cleaning
13 Aug, 2019 | 13:23
I love the infrastracture. Everything is appealing to the eyes. I will surely visit the place again.
things to do
13 Aug, 2019 | 04:19
Great post, please keep on sharing amazing article like this! It makes me happy reading your post.
geometry dash
11 Aug, 2019 | 21:49
Thank you for your post, I look for such article along time, today I find it finally. this post gives me lots of advise it is very useful for me.
basketball legends
09 Aug, 2019 | 04:27
‘We do not believe that the restorations that have been made so far are the most appropriate.’
06 Aug, 2019 | 04:09
02 Aug, 2019 | 06:41
I am still learning of your stuff, and i am attempting to achieve my objectives. I completely adore reading through all that is written in your website. Maintain the actual ideas arriving for long term ! Thanks !
german translation
01 Aug, 2019 | 06:18
ideal translation - 5 star. I am an indigenous French speaker but couldn't turn my documents myself while they needed to be technically certified. Simply speaking - Ideal translation accepted by the home office and friendly, qualified customer service. Recommended company.
Tim Дмитров
30 Jul, 2019 | 16:27
TIM Сантехника. Доставка по РФ Компания TIM работает на рынке инженерного сантехнического оборудования в РФ уже более 10 лет За это время зарекомендовала себя как надежный и динамично развивающийся комплексный поставщик оборудования для инженерных систем: водотеплоснабжения, отопления и др.оборудования Насосы дренажные TIM Бытовая канализационные станции TIM Насосы циркуляционные TIM Насосы для повышения давления серии AM-WP15GR-15 A TIM Фильтр промывной TIM, с редуктором Редуктора давления TIM Коллекторы для систем теплого пола, с шаровым краном Комплектующие для коллекторов Фильтра грубой очистки прямые, косые Комплектующие для отопления Насосно-смесительные узлы для отопления и теплого пола и тд. TIM Сантехника Дмитров. Доставка по РФ

Make a comment