Danish Archaeologists on Expedition in the Amazon Jungle

Expedition in the Amazon Jungle

The Inca culture is today the most famous South American culture, and their empire was the largest empire in the New World. However, the Incas also absorbed a lot of less famous cultures in their empire, which are nowhere near as well studied. One of these cultures is the Chachapoyas culture. Compared to other geographical areas in Peru, surveys in the Chachapoyas region are very sparse. Archaeological excavations have largely not been carried out in the region due to very difficult terrain. For the past two summers, however, a team of Danish and Peruvian archaeologists have been on expeditions into the Peruvian part of the Amazon jungle to the prehistoric city of ruins, Posic

The Chachapoyas culture

The Chachapoyas culture basically consists of independent unnamed tribes. From the 9th century onwards, they began to develop a political system consisting of hierarchically ordered chiefdoms, which controlled key strategic positions. Their recognition as one of South America's early state formations is largely due to Dr. Inge Schjellerup's pioneering research in the field. Schjellerup's work made an important contribution to the establishment of the archaeological and ethnographic burden of proof that led to the wider recognition of Chachapoyas as a culture. It is thus not surprising that the remarkable discovery of Posic back in 2008 can also be attributed to Schjellerup. However, following an Amazon expedition to Posic in 2016, she passed on the archaeological responsibility in recognition of Posic's unique cultural-historical significance.

Huaca Yacu

In the field season of 2018 and 2019 many unique finds and discoveries were made. During excavations, more than 2,000 pieces of pottery were found, as well as the only specimen of sharpened stone tools from the area. In addition, almost 100 new structures were registered (residential houses, warehouses, terraces, large stone structures, masonry courses, path systems, etc.). One of the more notable structures is a so-called Huaca or shrine. The structure is a huge wall preserved at a height of 3-4 meters which in a semicircle encircles a natural spring. The project therefore named the area Huaca Yacu (from Quechua: Holy water). There is no doubt that the place is loaded with ritual value, and during the cleansing of the wall we also found several elitist ceramic fragments. These may symbolize a deposit to the shrine. The pottery probably contained food or drink, e.g. coca leaves or chicha (corn beer).

Wadskjær Forlag The forgotten Amazon Danske arkæologer i Amazonas junglen

Rock Carvings in the Amazon Jungle

Besides the Huaca there are an incredible number of megalithic structures and megaliths with petroglyphs. Posic is second to none in this field. These elements are likely to be attributed to rainforest tribes, which, according to the Spaniards, worshiped various jaguar-shaped zodiac signs. It is therefore not inconceivable that the petroglyphs with the many cup marks and incised furrows symbolize astronomical observations made in special ceremonies. 

Posic A

Posic consists of several different complexes, of which Posic A and Posic B are the Inca and Chachapoya settlements, respectively. Posic A was probably a regional Inca administration center with the characteristic standard architecture known from almost all Inca sites in the region. These include i.a. one Kancha (a construction of rectangular roofed houses that open inwards towards a common activity area / courtyard), one Kallanka (a large hall), one bath, several terraces, one Usnu (ceremonial platform) and two Intihuatanas (sunstone - it is extremely unusual for more than one to be present). The great administrative center of Posic was located at the border between the Incas and what they probably considered tribal communities. Such a strong presence of the Incas in an otherwise marginal area can only be seen as an expression of a strong economic interest. Here was an opportunity to get valuable jaguar skins, parrot feathers, honey, coca leaves, quality cotton, gold and salt.

Posic B

Posic B was a Chachpoyas settlement consisting of several of the characteristic round houses and terraces. At the time of the visit in 2018, the architecture at Posic B was largely no longer preserved. The new owners of the land had destroyed almost all the ruins to make room for their fields. This is, of course, incredibly tragic, and it is therefore extremely important that similar complexes be investigated before it is too late. 

Perspectives on the Amazon Expedition

We are currently in the process of preparing the next field expedition for 2022. This will examine an endangered pyramid located on a sugar cane field, if the project can raise the necessary funds. The most recent seasons were funded by the Velux Foundation, Queen Margrethe II’s Archaeological Foundation, Louis-Hansen Foundation, Elisabeth Munksgaard Foundation, Archaeologist Lene Blindbæk, Bonanza Tours Peru, Brorsons travel grant and Geoteam A / S. In addition, the Fiedler Scholarship as well as the Torben and Alice Frimodt Foundation have helped the voluntary Danish archeology students to cover their expenses.

It has been proven that work in high altitudes in isolated and so-called primitive rainforest areas is not impossible. Due to the few and relatively small studies in the area, archaeological research and excavation activity is incredibly important to illuminate the Inca culture's activity and community in their borderlands as well as their interactions with the local population. Even more important is to shed light on how societies were shaped before the intervention of the imperialist Incas, the origins of the Amazon people, and their development.

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