The Chachapoyas culture is a group of people that inhabited the Andes and cloud forests of the modern Amazonas region of Peru. Not much is known about them for certain, except for what was found in ruins in the area.
From what we do know of them, they inhabited the region for a couple of hundred years and were one of the many nations conquered by the Inca Empire. We also know that they lasted all the way through the Spanish invasion and up to the 18th century. By that time, they had been entirely devastated by plagues and Spanish rule.
The History of the Chachapoyas
The Incas gave the name to this culture, so it's very likely that this wasn't the name they had for themselves. The word Chachapoyas comes from the Quechua language. It could mean cloud forest, or more probably ‘the qulla people who live in the woods.' Qulla is the name the Incas gave to the kingdom they conquered in the modern Puno department of Peru. Whatever the case may be, we mostly know them today as the ‘Warriors of the Clouds.'
It is believed that the Chachapoyas culture began between 750-800 AD, but there is proof that their territory was settled some 500 or more years earlier.
The territory of the Chachapoyas was located on the eastern slopes of the Andes, or in the north of modern Peru. Essentially, their territory was bordered by the confluence of the Maranon and Utcubamba rivers and the basin of the Abiseo river. The basin of the Utcubamba river was their center.
Chachapoyas interacted with other cultures. That interaction was very limited, due to the natural boundaries of the mountainous terrain and the enormous size of the Maranon River.
Even though we know little of them, they were certainly a relatively advanced nation like their neighbors. We can judge that from their settlements of Kuelap and Gran Pajaten. Kuelap was a massive fortress of 80 stone constructions that is often referred to as the Machu Picchu of the north, and it can still be seen today. Even though it’s a massive fortress, archeologists have estimated that we have only uncovered a mere 5% of Chachapoyas sites.
The Downfall of an Intriguing and Obscure Nation
As we’ve stated, the Chachapoyas were one of the many peoples conquered by the mighty Inca Empire. From the chronicles of several Spaniards, it is seen that the Chachapoyas anticipated the invasion of the Incas and prepared heavily for it over the course of two years. However, they weren't able to withstand their might and were eventually conquered.
The Incas decimated their population, killing all of the governors, ministers, most of the soldiers, and taking the rest of the people into slavery. Thankfully, the Chachapoyas managed to survive as a people and achieve a peace agreement, which ensured their survival, but they were fully incorporated into the Inca Empire.
The Incas forcibly resettled them throughout their empire to ensure they didn't start any rebellions in the future. When the Spanish came, the Chachapoyas largely sided with them, but that didn’t help them much in the long run, as their population dwindled over the 200 years of Spanish rule.