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Pre-Inca funeral towers in Bolivia rebuilt


On the slopes of the hills that border Lake Titicaca, in the Bolivian Andes, there are some 300 chullpas or pre-Inca burial towers, destroyed by the passage of time or by looting, which have begun to be rebuilt by the locals.

Pre-Inca funeral towers in Bolivia rebuilt
Picture showing restored pre-Inca funerary towers known as chullpas, erected at the Qala Uta archaeological site near
Quehuaya, on the slopes of the hills bordering Lake Titicaca in the Bolivian Andes some 70 km west of La Paz, taken
 during the presentation of six restored towers, on June 14, 2018. With financial support from Switzerland and in
coordination with the Culture Ministry, locals have reconstructed six of the 300 chullpas which have been torn
down by time or looting in the area [Credit: Aizar Raldes/AFP]
The 'chullpas' are stone and clay towers built during the Aymara rule between the years 1000 and 1400, after the collapse of the Tiwanaku culture and before the Inca Empire was conquered.

Near the town of Quehuaya, more than 70 kilometers west of La Paz, is the archaeological site of Qala Uta ('Stone House' in Aymara), where traces of these constructions used to bury the nobles, priests or shamans, the military and the wealthy in baskets have been found.

Pre-Inca funeral towers in Bolivia rebuilt
Picture of a restored pre-Inca funerary tower known as chullpa, erected at the Qala Uta archaeological site near
Quehuaya, on the slopes of the hills bordering Lake Titicaca in the Bolivian Andes some 70 km west of La Paz,
taken during the presentation of six restored towers, on June 14, 2018. With financial support from
Switzerland and in coordination with the Culture Ministry, locals have reconstructed six of the 300
chullpas which have been torn down by time or looting in the area [Credit: Aizar Raldes/AFP]
Their bodies were placed next to ceramic pieces, such as cups and bowls, as well as gold and silver objects.

The funeral towers have similar dimensions: a two-storey rectangular structure, 2 metres wide and up to 3.5 metres high, with two inner chambers. Two to four dead were placed in each chamber and were always built within walking distance of the family home.

Pre-Inca funeral towers in Bolivia rebuilt
Picture showing restored pre-Inca funerary towers known as chullpas, erected at the Qala Uta archaeological site near
Quehuaya, on the slopes of the hills bordering Lake Titicaca in the Bolivian Andes some 70 km west of La Paz, taken
during the presentation of six restored towers, on June 14, 2018. With financial support from Switzerland and in
coordination with the Culture Ministry, locals have reconstructed six of the 300 chullpas which have been
torn down by time or looting in the area [Credit: Aizar Raldes/AFP]
In the area there was a populous citadel of the Aymara kingdom of Pacaje, which cultivated beans, potatoes and quinoa. Its present inhabitants, also Aymara, have lost the ancestral custom of building these towers and today bury their dead in coffins in public cemeteries.

"This is a citadel with almost 300 structures, or chullpares, built between private houses and other buildings, made entirely of stone, from the foundations to the roof," explains Isaac Callizaya, the local municipality's tourism manager.

Pre-Inca funeral towers in Bolivia rebuilt
Picture of a restored pre-Inca funerary tower known as chullpa, erected at the Qala Uta archaeological site near
Quehuaya, on the slopes of the hills bordering Lake Titicaca in the Bolivian Andes some 70 km west of La Paz,
 taken during the presentation of six restored towers, on June 14, 2018. With financial support from
Switzerland and in coordination with the Culture Ministry, locals have reconstructed six of the 300
chullpas which have been torn down by time or looting in the area [Credit: Aizar Raldes/AFP]
In Quehuaya, chullpas have been found in an area of ​​two square kilometres, which makes the place one of the largest chullpares in Bolivia. The three hundred funerary towers are demolished and only small quadrangular stone walls are visible.

Oscar Limachi, one of those involved in the restoration work, explains that 'the weather and the rain' have caused its destruction. Although it was declared an archaeological site in the 1930s, it has not received the necessary care.

Pre-Inca funeral towers in Bolivia rebuilt
A man looks at two restored pre-Inca funerary towers known as chullpas, erected at the Qala Uta archaeological site
near Quehuaya, on the slopes of the hills bordering Lake Titicaca in the Bolivian Andes some 70 km west of La Paz,
during the presentation of six restored towers, on June 14, 2018. With financial support from Switzerland
 and in coordination with the Culture Ministry, locals have reconstructed six of the 300 chullpas
which have been torn down by time or looting in the area [Credit: Aizar Raldes/AFP]
The director of the National Unit of Archaeology, José Luis Paz, adds that there has also been looting of valuable pieces that the mourners had placed next to their dead.

With the purpose of recovering theit collective memory, studying the habits of life of the Pacaje kingdom and turning the place into a tourist site, six chullpas have been rebuilt with financial support from Switzerland, which contributed some 50,000 dollars, in coordination with the Ministry of Culture from Bolivia.

Pre-Inca funeral towers in Bolivia rebuilt
Picture of two restored pre-Inca funerary towers known as chullpas, erected at the Qala Uta archaeological site near
Quehuaya, on the slopes of the hills bordering Lake Titicaca in the Bolivian Andes some 70 km west of La Paz,
taken during the presentation of six restored towers, on June 14, 2018. With financial support from Switzerland
and in coordination with the Culture Ministry, locals have reconstructed six of the 300 chullpas
which have been torn down by time or looting in the area [Credit: Aizar Raldes/AFP]
The Bolivian government plans to rebuild more funerary towers and has promised economic resources.

Limachi relates that he, his parents and his grandparents always saw the funeral towers with respect, and even fear, because it was a sacred place.

'Our ancestors live here,' he says, evoking the Aymara's belief that the spirits of their dead do not abandon them.

Pre-Inca funeral towers in Bolivia rebuilt
Men stand near a restored pre-Inca funerary tower known as chullpa, at the Qala Uta archaeological site near
 Quehuaya, on the slopes of the hills bordering Lake Titicaca in the Bolivian Andes some 70 km west of La Paz,
during the presentation of six restored towers, on June 14, 2018. With financial support from Switzerland
and in coordination with the Culture Ministry, locals have reconstructed six of the 300 chullpas
which have been torn down by time or looting in the area [Credit: Aizar Raldes/AFP]
'We have never been able to dig, because it attacks us psychologically, it affects the spirit of the person,' he explains.

Before beginning the reconstruction, in 2017, religious ceremonies were held with 'yatiris' (Andean priests) to ask permission to the spirits that roam the place.

'Without ceremonies we can get sick,' Limachi said.

Source: AFP [June 21, 2018]

TANN

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