An ancient lost city has been discovered in the remote Amazonian rainforest of north-east Peru, archaeologists have announced.
The fortified citadel appears to be from the pre-Inca era and may be linked to the country’s legendary ‘Cloud People’.
The main encampment comprises circular stone houses overgrown by lush jungle over an area of 12 acres, said archaeologist Benedict Goicochea Perez.
The citadel sits atop a chasm that the former inhabitants may have used as a lookout to spy on approaching enemies, she added.
Rock paintings cover some of the fortifications, and next to the dwellings are large platforms believed to have been used to grind seeds and wild plants for food and medicine, he continued.
It is tucked away in the remote Jamalca district of Utcubamba province, part of the northern Amazonas department, said Jamalca Mayor Ricardo Cabrera Bravo, who had joined the expedition.
The area, about 497 miles northeast of Lima, is famed for its vast, isolated natural beauty, surrounded by verdant foliage and soaring waterfalls, said Cabrera Bravo.
The citadel likely belonged to the Chachapoyas civilization – an ancient people whose glory days over a thousand years ago pre-date the hegemony of the powerful Incas.
The Chachapoyas culture (known as the Cloud Forest people) also built the imposing Kuelap fortress atop a mountain in Utcubamba, which can only be compared in scale to the Inca’s Machu Picchu retreat, built hundreds of years later.
The Chachapoyas, also called the Warriors of the Clouds, were an Andean people living in the cloud forests of the Amazonian region of present-day Peru.
The Incas conquered their civilization shortly before the arrival of the Spanish in Peru.
When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, the Chachapoyas were one of the many nations ruled by the Inca Empire.
Their incorporation was not easy, due to their constant resistance to the Inca troops.
Since the Incas and the Spanish conquistadors were the principal sources of information on the Chachapoyas, unbiased first-hand knowledge of the people remains scarce.
Writings by the major chroniclers of the time, were based on fragmentary second-hand accounts.
Much of what is known about the Chachapoyas culture is based on archaeological evidence from ruins, pottery, tombs and other artifacts.
The chronicler Pedro Cieza de LeÃ³n offers some picturesque notes about the Chachapoyas.
He writes: ‘They are the whitest and most handsome of all the people that I have seen in Indies, and their wives were so beautiful that because of their gentleness, many of them deserved to be the Incas’ wives and to also be taken to the Sun Temple.
‘The women and their husbands always dressed in woolen clothes and in their heads they wear their llautos, which are a sign they wear to be known everywhere.’
The name Chachapoya is the name that was given to this culture by the Inca; the name that these people may have actually used to refer to themselves is not known.
The Chachapoyas’ territory was located in the northern regions of the Andes in present-day Peru.
It encompassed the triangular region formed by the confluence of the rivers MaraÃ±Ã³n and Utcubamba in the zone of Bagua, up to the basin of the Abiseo river, where the ruins of PajÃ¡ten are located.
This territory also included land to the south up to the Chontayacu river, exceeding the limits of the current department of Amazonas towards the south. But the centre of the Chachapoyas culture was the basin of the Utcubamba river.
Due to the great size of the MaraÃ±Ã³n river and the surrounding mountainous terrain, the region was relatively isolated from the coast and other areas of Peru, although there is archaeological evidence of some interaction between the Chachapoyas and other cultures.
The contemporary Peruvian city of Chachapoyas derives its name from the word for this ancient culture as does the defined architectural style.